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Projects for the Summer 2021 Community-Academic Scholars Initiative

As a reminder, you will choose the three projects that most interest you and briefly explain how your coursework, professional skills and lived experiences will enhance your contribution to each project. Spend some time reading through the project descriptions and the scholar’s role to find projects that most appeal to you and on which you think you can make a positive impact.

When you are ready, you can review eligibility and program requirements and begin the application. You may also want to check out the info session recording for application insights and tips. Please direct any questions you may have to Kelsey Hassevoort (, and be sure to submit your application no later than 11:59 p.m. on Sunday, February 14.

Click on the title of each project to review full project details. 

blog posts

  • Identifying the Changing Responsibilities and Support Needs of Aging Caregivers of Veterans with Traumatic Brain Injury

    Faculty mentor: Prof. Sandraluz Lara-Cinisomo; Community partner: Chez Veterans Center; Summary: The proposed study will include web-based group interviews with older spousal/partner caregivers of veterans with mild, moderate and severe TBI to 1) understand changes in responsibilities and capabilities of older caregivers of veterans with traumatic brain injury and 2) identify support and services older caregivers of veterans with traumatic brain injury need over time for sustained wellbeing while aging.

  • Improving Health and Access for Disadvantaged Communities to Champaign County Forest Preserves

    Faculty mentor: Prof. Warren Lavey; Community partner: Champaign County Forest Preserve District (or the nonprofit Forest Preserve Friends Foundation); Summary: This goal of this project is to develop recommendations for improving the health of disadvantaged people in the county through greater access to CCFPD’s natural and other resources. The Community-Academic Scholar will investigate how improved transportation, greater/more targeted marketing of services, greater outreach, or other options might help the CCFPD serve the physical and mental health needs of this population.

  • Benefits of social engagement using video technology for older adults with and without mild cognitive impairment

    Faculty mentor: Prof. Raksha Mudar; Community partner: CJE SeniorLife; Summary: This project will test the benefits of technology-based social engagement using a video-technology platform called OneClick in older adults with and without mild cognitive impairment. This project includes a randomized controlled trial (RCT) and a program evaluation in a community-based setting carried out in collaboration with Home and Community-Based Organizations (HCBOs).

  • Addressing Social Inequity in Early Intervention Services for Young Children with Disabilities

    Faculty mentor: Prof. Meghan Burke; Community partner: Family Matters Parent Training and Information Center; Summary: In this project, the Community-Academic Scholar will work with the Early Intervention Clearinghouse, Family Matters, and Dr. Burke to conduct qualitative and quantitative research about the technology loan program to determine if the program closes inequities in the delivery of early-interventions services via telehealth.

  • Leveraging on SEL to Promote Equity and Excellence: A Needs Assessment Study with Mahomet-Seymour Youths and Families

    Faculty mentor: Prof. Kevin Tan; Community partner: Mahomet Area Youth Club; Mahomet-Seymour School District; Roots to Branches; Summary: The purpose of this project is to conduct a needs assessment study focusing on social-emotional learning (SEL) with the Mahomet-Seymour youths and families. This study will focus on the SEL needs of youths and families of the low-resource and BIPOC communities as it relates to promoting equity and excellence. It aims to uncover service gaps that can be addressed by MAYC and the school district. This project will strengthen our university’s partnership with MAYC and the district for the betterment of the Mahomet-Seymour communities.

  • LGBTQ Community in Champaign County: Connectedness, Engagement, and Health

    Faculty mentor: Prof. Courtney Cuthbertson; Community partner: Uniting Pride of Champaign County; Summary: In partnership with Uniting Pride, this research project aims to gain a better understanding of the unique aspects, concerns, and priorities of LGBTQ community in Champaign County in order to find programming and communication strategies that will help Uniting Pride to be more inclusive across the LGBTQ population in Champaign County, and contribute to LGBTQ health.

  • MOVE MS and Beyond: Fostering physical activity through community programs

    Faculty mentor: Prof. Laura Rice; Community partner: Urbana Park District; Summary: The present study aims to design, develop, implement and sustain a Multiple Sclerosis-specific physical activity program. This project builds on the ongoing implementation of the community program MOVE MS in central Illinois. The project will address challenges identified during program implementation.

  • STEM IL Nobel Project DREAM and Wealth Incubators

    Faculty mentor: Prof. Ruby Mendenhall; Community partner: Unity in Action Magazine; Summary: The Nobel project will use a radical model of intergenerational outreach and education to create DREAM and wealth incubators where all members of the community see, understand, and feel that they can contribute to computer science and health innovation. The Community-Academic Scholar will help to produce a documentary about the project and will engage in qualitative research to understand how the program fosters a computer science and medicine identify among participants, how the program creates access to these fields, and in what ways the entire community is engaged in supporting their youth to pursue careers in computer science.

  • Using Digital Home Assistant Technologies and Instructional Support to Promote Social Engagement and Independence for Older Adults

    Faculty mentor: Prof. Wendy A. Rogers; Community partner: CRIS Healthy Aging Center; Summary: This continuing project will expose older adults to these Amazon Echo devices using a systematic method to foster technology adoption allowing social engagement and reducing isolation. This project will build upon the work completed by the 2020 Community-Academic Scholar and serve as a demonstration project for the use of these devices among older adults to positively impact social engagement as well as general wellbeing.

  • Voting for Local Parks, Recreation and Conservation: An Investigation of the Elements of the Champaign County Forest Preserve Tax Referendum

    Faculty mentor: Prof. Sharon Suiwen Zou; Community partner: Champaign County Forest Preserve District; Summary: The purpose of this project is to examine CCFPD's 2020 referendum campaign to identify elements of the campaign that secure support from voters. Specifically, the project aims to understand what factors or types/elements of messages contribute to the campaign's success. The study will conduct in-depth interviews with the campaign committees, CCFPD staff, interest groups involved in the campaign, and Champaign County residents, supplemented by a content analysis of campaign materials/social media posts. Insights gained through this project can be invaluable for similar ballot initiatives for park conservation and outdoor recreation.

  • Sustainable weight loss study being conducted at a local, community, nonprofit health care center involving online education, mobile application diet tracking, and individual counseling

    Faculty mentor: Prof. Manabu Nakamura; Community partner: Avicenna Community Health Center (ACHC); Summary: The EMPOWER project aims to deliver a sustainable, cost-effective, and community-based dietary-focused weight loss management program to local, low income patients who are overweight or obese. The Community-Academic Scholar will assist in participant screening, consent, and enrollment; data collection and analysis via surveys; direct communication with the patient population; and patient progress evaluation.

  • Optimal Mechanisms of Service Delivery and Utilization for Service Suppliers and Rural-Veteran Consumers

    Faculty mentor: Prof. Chung-Yi Chiu; Community partner: Illinois Joining Forces; Summary: The goal of this project is to help reduce the existing barriers to healthcare utilization among rural veterans. To achieve this goal, we investigate experiences and challenges in different types of rural veteran healthcare consumers when they search and access their needed services. We will also examine various characteristics of individual providers and organizations that serve rural veterans to understand their needs and challenges in engaging their veteran clients.

  • Addressing COVID-19 Health and Educational Disparities in Champaign and Urbana using Culturally Responsive and Sustaining Engagement

    Faculty mentors: Prof. Melissa Goodnight and Prof. Cherie Avent; Community partner: Champaign Urbana Public Health Department (CUPHD); Summary: This project addresses COVID-19 racial health disparities in Champaign and Urbana in African American faith-based communities and explores its impact on wellbeing and education. The research team will approach this work from a culturally sustaining and culturally responsive framework for research and evaluation. They will facilitate data collection through engagement with local African American churches organizing around COVID-19 prevention.

  • Keeping Families Together: Pet Retention

    Faculty mentor: Prof. Amy Fischer; Community partner: CARE (Companion Animal Resource and Education) Center; Summary: The goal of this project is to clarify and strengthen the network of agencies providing pet retention services, in order to keep more families together. The first objective is to better understand specific needs of pet-owning families who are struggling financially. The second objective is to increase communication and build a coalition among relevant stakeholders, so that all have comprehensive knowledge of the collective services available in Champaign County. This will put everyone in a better position to help clients and will also reduce redundancy and build efficiency.