Introducing the 2021 Community-Academic Scholars

4/12/2021 8:18:15 AM

The Interdisciplinary Health Sciences Institute, in partnership with the Center for Social and Behavioral Science and with support from the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion, is proud to introduce our 2021 Community-Academic Scholars – our largest and most diverse cohort yet! The 16 scholars in this cohort represent 16 majors in seven colleges, including our first students from the College of Media and The Grainger College of Engineering.

This cohort of scholars was selected from a pool of nearly 100 applicants for possessing the skills needed to work on the project, their personal connections to and passion for the issues their projects address, and for the many ways they have already made an impact on campus and in the community. Several students are James and Chancellor’s scholars who have worked in labs across campus. Many scholars also volunteer in the community, organize events and programming to promote a greater understanding of social justice issues, and serve in leadership roles in their student organizations.

The scholars will bring their experiences to the work they are doing this summer with faculty mentors and community partners to address a range of topics, including the impacts of COVID-19 on Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC), poverty and social inequality, nutrition, physical activity, social-emotional learning, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) health, technology and aging, health disparities, Veterans’ issues, and the role that forest preserves play in community and individual health. We are excited to see how they use their talents and experiences to make an impact on these issues. Sign up to receive program updates and learn more.

Meet the 2021 Community-Academic Scholars 

Graciella AbbeyGraciella Abbey (she/her) is a sophomore James Scholar pursuing a degree in media and cinema studies. At Illinois, Graciella edits video and creates content for the Daily Illini, plans programming for the Women’s Resources Center, and mentors with the Illini Mentor Program. She hopes to use media as a medium for storytelling for all people. Graciella will work with Professor Ruby Mendenhall, and Unity in Action Magazine on the Nobel Project, a unique ecosystem that will nurture future computer scientists in industry and the academy. 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. Learn more about the project

Paola AhumadaPaola Ahumada (she/her) is a junior majoring in molecular and cellular biology (MCB) and minoring in chemistry and Spanish. She is working toward a career as a medical doctor. As an undergraduate, Paola has volunteered in the community with Driven to Reach Excellence and Academic Achievement for Males (DREAAM) and the Champaign County Christian Health Center. She is currently working in Professor Sandraluz Lara-Cinisomo’s lab. As a Community-Academic Scholar, Paola will continue to work with Professor Lara-Cinisomo and the Caregiver Advisory for Research Engagement (CARE) Team at Chez Veterans Center to understand the changing needs of older caregivers to identify interventions and services to reduce the long-term negative effects of caregiving. Learn more about the project

Emily Albert-StauningEmily Albert-Stauning (she/her) is a junior Chancellor’s Scholar and James Scholar studying psychology (neuroscience) and theater. Emily has served as an undergraduate researcher in several labs on campus, including the labs of Professor Eva Pomerantz and Professor Daniel Morrow. Emily is a songwriter and a We CU Community Engaged Scholar. She plans to become a clinical pediatric neuropsychologist focusing on pediatric neuroscience and fine arts palliative care research. This summer, Emily will work with Professor Laura Rice and the Urbana Park District to design, develop, implement, and sustain a Multiple Sclerosis-specific physical activity program. Learn more about the project

Hannah CarawayHannah Caraway (she/her) is a sophomore Chancellor’s Scholar and James Scholar in the integrative biology honors program, with a minor in chemistry. During her time at Illinois, Hannah has been an active member of the American Medical Student Association Pre-Med UIUC chapter, served as an undergraduate researcher in Professor Gee W. Lau’s lab, and volunteered at Carle Hospital. She plans to pursue a career in the medical field to address health disparities. As a Community-Academic Scholar, Hannah will work with Professor Warren Lavey and the Champaign County Forest Preserve District to develop recommendations for improving the health of disadvantaged people in the county through greater access to CCFPD’s natural and other resources. Learn more about the project

Michelle Lee GarciaMichelle Garcia (she/her) is a sophomore James Scholar studying human development and family studies with a minor in social work. Michelle serves as a mentor with La Casa Cultural Latina and as a co-cultural awareness chair for Gamma Phi Omega International Sorority Inc., where she has helped to organize events educating the community on the criminalization of people with mental illnesses and on the hardships Undocumented/DACAmented people face, including the campus Undocumented Student Ally Training. Michelle plans to pursue a career in advocacy and community organizing. This summer, she will work with fellow scholar Jacqueline Nunez, Professor Meghan BurkeFamily Matters Parent Training and Information Center, and the Early Intervention Clearinghouse 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. Learn more about the project

Husna HussainiHusna Hussaini (she/her) is a freshman studying sociology and pursuing a Spanish minor. Husna has worked as an undergraduate researcher in the labs of Professor M. Yanina Pepino and Professor Jessie Chin. She plans to study medicine and become a physician that contributes to healthcare technology that can transform access to care and facilitate greater health outcomes. As a Community-Academic Scholar, Husna will work with Professor Wendy A. Rogers and CRIS Healthy Aging Center to introduce older adults to Amazon Echo devices using a systematic method to foster technology adoption, allowing social engagement and reducing isolation. Learn more about the project

Izabelle JaquetIzabelle Jaquet (she/her) is a junior studying fish, wildlife, and conservation biology. Izabelle is involved with the Undergraduate Research Apprenticeship Program and the Illinois Natural History Survey. She is an intern in Professor Max Allen’s lab. Izabelle plans to become an urban ecologist. As a Community-Academic Scholar, Izabelle will work with Professor Suiwen (Sharon) Zou and the Champaign County Forest Preserve District to examine CCFPD's 2020 referendum campaign to identify elements of the campaign that secured support from voters. Learn more about the project

Caterina KimCaterina Kim (she/her) is a junior James scholar majoring in sociocultural and linguistic anthropology and minoring in food and environmental systems. Caterina has worked as an undergraduate researcher in the labs of Professor Mark Hauber and Professor Melissa Pflugh Prescott. She plans to attend graduate school to study sociocultural anthropology with a focus on food studies, minority ethnic studies, and sustainability. As Community-Academic Scholar, Caterina will work with fellow scholar Emily Pasetes, Professor Courtney Cuthbertson, and Uniting Pride of Champaign County to gain a better understanding of the unique aspects, concerns, and priorities of the LGBTQ community in Champaign County. The goal of this project is 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. Learn more about the project

Rebecca LathamRebecca Latham (she/her) is a junior James Scholar studying animal sciences. At Illinois, Rebecca has served as an undergraduate researcher in the labs of Professor Kelly S. Swanson and Professor Cory Suski. She has also worked with the Champaign Area Trap/Spay/Neuter and Adoption Program, providing medical care to cats in the organization’s care. Rebecca plans to become a veterinarian, focusing on shelter medicine. This summer, she will work with Professor Amy Fischer and the Companion Animal Resource and Education (CARE) Center to clarify and strengthen the network of agencies providing pet retention services to keep more families together. Learn more about the project

Allison NofzigerAllison Nofziger (she/her) is a sophomore majoring in political science and minoring in social work and philosophy. Since transferring to Illinois, she has worked with the Education Justice Project and Kappa Alpha Pi Pre-Law Fraternity. Allison has also been involved for the past two years with the Mahomet Area Youth Club, one of the community partners involved with her Community-Academic Scholars project. She plans to attend law school and pursue a career in civil rights. This summer, Allison will work with Professor Kevin Tan, the Mahomet Area Youth Club, Mahomet-Seymour Community Schools, and Roots to Branches to conduct a needs assessment study focusing on the social-emotional learning needs of youths and families in low-resource and BIPOC communities as it relates to promoting equity and excellence. Learn more about the project

Jacqueline NunezJacqueline Nunez (she/her) is a junior studying speech and hearing science and disability studies. During her time at Illinois, Jacqueline has worked with the American Sign Language Club and the Illinois Academic Enrichment and Leadership Program (I-LEAP). She plans to become a speech-language pathologist. As a Community-Academic Scholar, Jacqueline will work with fellow scholar Michelle Garcia, Professor Meghan Burke, Family Matters Parent Training and Information Center, and the Early Intervention Clearinghouse 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. Learn more about the project.

Emily PasetesEmily Pasetes (she/they) is a junior Chancellor’s Scholar and Engineering James Scholar studying philosophy & engineering physics. Emily plays mellophone for the Marching Illini. She has also served as a teaching assistant in the Department of Physics and as a tutor in the Center for Academic Resources in Engineering. Emily plans to study clinical psychology to become a therapist. This summer, she will work with fellow scholar Caterina Kim, Professor Courtney Cuthbertson, and Uniting Pride of Champaign County to gain a better understanding of the unique aspects, concerns, and priorities of the LGBTQ community in Champaign County 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. Learn more about the project

Sophia Maino SatoSophia Sato (she/her) is a junior pursuing a degree in anthropology with a concentration in human evolutionary biology. While at Illinois, Sophia has served as a volunteer at Carle Hospital and has worked as a personal care assistant. She plans to pursue a career in medicine. As a Community-Academic Scholar, Sophia will work with Professor Chung-Yi Chiu and Illinois Joining Forces to examine the barriers to healthcare utilization that rural veterans may encounter while searching for and accessing needed services. Learn more about the project

Muskaan Sawhney

Muskaan Sawhney (she/her) is a junior in the MCB Honors Program with minors in chemistry and psychology. Since coming to Illinois, Muskaan has served as a tutor in the Office of Minority Student Affairs, as an undergraduate researcher in Professor Hannah Holscher’s lab, and as an executive manager for Illinois Enactus. She plans to pursue a career in medicine and to advocate for a greater emphasis on preventive care through the integration of genetics and technology. This summer, Muskaan will work with Professor Manabu Nakamura and Avicenna Community Health Center 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. Learn more about the project.

Royal ShresthaRoyal Shrestha (he/him) is a sophomore in the MCB Honors Program minoring in chemistry and computer science. As an Illinois student, he has been involved in the community volunteering for several organizations, including DREAAM. Royal has conducted research as part of the International Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) team and as an undergraduate research assistant in the Qiao Lab. He plans to pursue a career in clinical research. As a Community-Academic Scholar, Royal will work with Professor Melissa Goodnight and Professor Cherie Avent, and the Champaign Urbana Public Health District to address racial health disparities in African American faith-based communities in Champaign and Urbana to explore the impact COVID-19 has had on wellbeing and education. Learn more about the project

Sharbel YakoSharbel Yako (he/him) is a sophomore majoring in MCB and minoring in chemistry and Arabic studies, with plans to become a medical doctor. While at Illinois, Sharbel has co-founded Mentors in Medicine, a student organization that mentors first-year premed students. He works as an undergraduate research assistant in Professor Raksha Mudar’s lab. This summer, Sharbel will continue his work with Professor Mudar and CJE Senior Life to test the benefits of technology-based social engagement using a video-technology platform called OneClick in older adults with and without mild cognitive impairment. Learn more about the project.