Research Fellows Program

CHRS Research Fellows

The CHRS Research Fellows Program is a competitive program for American University faculty members working in the area of Health, Risk and Society, across all Schools, who are interested in securing external funding to support their research.

An externally funded research grant is the ultimate goal of the program. A secondary aim is the creation of faculty cohorts providing opportunities for collaboration, peer mentorship and support.

We are grateful to the Office of the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and to the Office of the Provost for their support of this program.

The first round of Research Fellows Program ended in September 2021. The Fellows and their many accomplishments are highlighted below:

Fellows were selected based on their capacity to achieve external research funding in the area of Health, Risk and Society and to conduct impactful research in this domain.  Fellows received pilot funds, student research assistance, external and internal mentorship, a strategically timed course buyout as well as CHRS leadership guidance to ensure that resources successfully translated into funded grants. 

For questions about the Fellows Program or the Center, please email Kim Blankenship (blankens@american.edu), CHRS Acting Director.  

Lauren Carruth Associate Professor, School of International Service Professor Carruth published a book with Cornell University Press entitled Love and Liberation: Humanitarian Work in Ethiopia’s Somali Region. Since 2020, she has published several peer-reviewed articles, including in BMJ Global HealthWorld DevelopmentSocial Science and MedicineGlobal Public Health, and American Anthropologist. In 2019, with a $41,000 grant from the United Nations International Organization for Migration, Carruth conducted multi-sited ethnographic research along Ethiopian women’s clandestine migration routes to the Middle East with her collaborator, Professor Lahra Smith, from Georgetown University. In addition to providing a report to the IOM to argue for improved humanitarian services and protection for migrants, they published an article forthcoming in December 2021 in the Journal of Modern African Studies examining the political, structural, and gender-based forms of violence that motivate and characterize women’s irregular migrations, as well as the impossibility and undesirability of asylum for many women and political minorities. Carruth is also leading the qualitative research component of a multi-year NSF/NIH grant, “Ecology of MERS-CoV in camels, humans, and wildlife in Ethiopia” ($2,487,071 total and $134,212 for AU subaward).

 

Elizabeth Cotter Assistant Professor, Health Studies, College of Arts and Sciences In the summer of 2020, Liz was awarded a K23 grant from the National Institutes of Health of more than $700,000. This five-year project is focused on developing and pilot testing a culturally sensitive mindful parenting intervention for mothers of children at risk for obesity. She has also been working on several publications in the areas of: 1) obesity stigma, 2) disordered eating in young men, and 3) mindfulness-based approaches to improving health behaviors. While a CHRS Fellow she has published articles in the International Journal of Eating DisordersEating Behaviors, Pilot and Feasibility StudiesMindfulness, and Obesity. She has also presented at The Obesity Society’s Virtual ObesityWeek.

 

Taryn Morrissey Associate Professor, Public Administration and Policy, School of Public Affairs With support of the CHRS Fellowship, Taryn has engaged in a number of research and grant-writing projects, forging new collaborations and expanding existing ones. She prepared a proposal for an R03 from NICHD to examine Early Head Start’s effects on child health. While it was not funded, she plans to revise and submit it elsewhere. In 2019-2020 she completed the final of three years as a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Interdisciplinary Research Leader (IRL) working in collaboration with Nina Yamanis, who is also a CHRS Fellow. Together with community partner, Catalina Sol, Executive Director at La Clinica del Pueblo, a community health center in DC, they have examined resilience among the center’s largely Latinx immigrant client population. The IRL program is a mid-career fellowship that provides extensive training in research methods, translating research to policy, and other leadership skills, as well as supports a community-based research effort. Taryn and Nina published an article in Behavioral Medicine based on the project and co-taught two graduate seminars in community-based research and immigrant health. Taryn, Nina, and Molly Dondero, another CHRS Fellow, submitted an R01 proposal to the NIH in August 2021 to build on this work.

During the 2020-2021 period, Taryn received two new grants from RWJF. One is a collaborative effort with Colleen Heflin at Syracuse University using administrative data from Virginia to analyze families’ economic instability and patterns by gender, race, and ethnicity, a collaboration which continues in 2021-2022 with a supplemental grant award. The second, with Scott Allard at the University of Washington, supports research to examine early care and education access in rural communities as they relate to geographic disparities in children’s kindergarten readiness. Taryn and her collaborators have a paper forthcoming in a special issue of RSF: The Russell Sage Foundation Journal of the Social Sciences, have published research briefs on underparticipation and equity in the child care subsidy systemand are preparing papers based on these projects, as well as new grant applications to extend their work. 

Most of Taryn’s spring 2020 sabbatical was spent as a visiting scholar at Victoria University, in Wellington, New Zealand, and then as a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress (CAP), first in residence, and then remotely after mid-March. The early childhood division at CAP conducts rigorous, policy-relevant research on young children and families, particularly on early care and education and experiences of adversity. She co-authored several policy reports with collaborators there, including on the pandemic’s effects on childrenworking mothers, and the child care sector. Also in 2020, she was awarded the Morten Bender Prize at AU. In early 2021, she published a second edition of her co-authored book Cradle to Kindergarten: A new plan to combat inequality. 

Finally, her expertise on early childhood policy has led to further engagement in policy and public discourse. In February 2020, she was an invited witness at the Hearing on Solving America’s Child Care Crisis: Supporting Parents, Children, and the Economy organized by the Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education, Education and Labor Committee, U.S. House of Representatives; she published a chapter on the topic in the Washington Center for Equitable Growth’s Vision 2020 book and guide for policy. She has also participated in briefings on the Hill and for the media. Since 2019, she has published 11 op-eds, participated in multiple panels, and been interviewed for and quoted in several media sources including on President Biden’s child care plan and the effects on the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic downturn on children, families, and the child care sector. In 2021-2022, she is serving as a consultant at the Office of Child Care at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

 

Nina Yamanis Associate Professor, School of International Service. The CHRS Fellowship allowed Nina to continue her research on HIV prevention in Tanzania and Latino immigrant health in Washington, DC, as well as to expand her work, with support from new grants, to COVID-19-related projects. Nina’s research in Tanzania examines how social networks are associated with HIV-related behaviors among young people and leveraged for HIV prevention interventions. From 2017-2020, she was Principal Investigator on an R21 grant from NIMH entitled “A Pilot Social Network Intervention to Reduce HIV and IPV among Adolescent Girls” (R21 MH114570). In January 2020, she submitted an R34 grant to NIH to follow on her work with adolescent girls, but it was not funded; she plans to resubmit the grant in 2022. With colleagues, she published findings from their NIH-funded randomized controlled trial in Tanzania in PLOS One and Journal of Public Health. In January 2021, Nina was invited to present findings from this trial using stochastic actor oriented network models at the Statistical and Applied Mathematical Sciences Institute sponsored by University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Duke University. In February 2020, she presented her research at the NIH Fogarty Institute's Adolescent HIV Prevention and Treatment Implementation Science Alliance meeting in Cape Town, South Africa. Along with colleagues at the Muhimbili University of Health and Allied Sciences, she received a new small grant from the AHISA network to assess how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected HIV risk and livelihood activities for an urban cohort of out-of-school adolescent girls. Nina engaged AU students in this project through an SIS Master’s level practicum in which students analyzed and virtually collected data with her partners in Tanzania.

CHRS support allowed Nina to extend her research in Tanzania to COVID-19 policy response. Tanzania had a denialist, autocratic president until February 2021, when he died, likely from COVID-19. Nina and a new set of colleagues collected original data from street-level bureaucrats to understand how politics and decentralization affected Tanzania’s COVID-19 response. In 2021, their research was published as a chapter in the University of Michigan press book Coronavirus Politics and in the Journal of Health, Politics, Policy and Law. She and her co-authors have recently completed data collection for a new project on COVID-19 vaccination and hesitancy in Tanzania, and aim to submit a grant to build on their findings. At AU, Nina has helped respond to the COVID-19 crisis by giving several invited talks on COVID-19 and creating four new global health and pandemic courses for undergraduate and Master's students in SPA and SIS.

With support from CHRS, Nina continued her work on Latino immigrant health. For the past ten years, Nina has helmed an academic-community partnership with La Clínica del Pueblo, a community health center in Washington, DC, to explore various facets of Latino immigrant health. From 2017-2020, Nina received funding for this work together with Taryn Morrissey, another CHRS Fellow, and Catalina Sol, the Executive Director of La Clínica del Pueblo by the Interdisciplinary Research Leaders program, a selective leadership and research program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF). In 2020, they received a new RWJF grant, administered by AU, to explore the effects of the pandemic on Latino immigrants’ livelihoods and health. Nina’s research on Latino immigrant health resulted in 3 published papers in 2020-21: 1) a first-authored article in Behavioral Medicine describing community resilience among Latino immigrants in DC; 2) a first-authored article published in Advances in Medical Sociology, funded by the NIH Center for AIDS Research Adelante grant on which Nina was a PI, demonstrating that fear of deportation negatively affects healthcare access for immigrant Latino gay men; and 3) a review of the health of undocumented Latino immigrants in Annual Reviews of Public Health in which she and her co-authors review the literature on undocumented immigrant health and make recommendations for engaging this population in future research. In summer 2021, Nina lead the submission of an R01 grant to NIH entitled “Exploring the Role of Immigration Legal Status as a Form of Structural Racism”. Molly Dondero and Taryn Morrissey, CHRS Fellows, worked closely with Nina on the proposal and are Co-Investigators, and La Clínica del Pueblo is the community partner. 

Nina’s leadership in HIV prevention research was rewarded in 2021, when she was named Associate Director of the Social and Behavioral Sciences Core of the District of Columbia’s Center for AIDS Research, an NIH-funded Center. Finally, in 2021, Nina won AU’s Morton Bender Prize, a university-wide annual award given to an outstanding associate professor to support their promotion to full professor.