Introducing the 2022 Community-Academic Scholars

4/13/2022 8:30:00 AM Hannah Wirth

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 2022 Community-Academic Scholars! The 14 scholars in this cohort represent 13 majors and minors in five colleges, encompassing a diverse array of fields of study, from health sciences to political science to landscape architecture. 

This cohort of scholars was selected from a competitive pool of applicants possessing the skills needed to work on their selected projects, 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 work in labs across campus, volunteer in the community, and serve in leadership roles in their student organizations.

The scholars will bring their experiences to the Summer 2022 projects with academic mentors and community partners to address diverse community needs, including rural healthcare, poverty and social inequality, nutrition, educational quality, disability awareness, social-emotional learning, technology and aging, racial disparities, Veterans' issues, postpartum pain, and social-cultural connectedness among Black youth. 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 2022 Community-Academic Scholars 

Maria BecceraMaria Becerra (she/her) is a senior double majoring in psychology and Spanish and minoring in social work with plans to become a social worker within Latino/a/x communities. Maria has served as a Spanish interpreter at Avicenna Community Health Center, volunteered at the Refugee Center in Champaign, and conducted research under Prof. Idalia Nuñez Cortez. Maria will work with Prof. Grace L. Park, Dr. Margarita Teran Garcia, and Avicenna to implement Illinois Extension’s cultural humility and bias training to be more tailored to the current needs of the student-run clinic population and volunteer staff. Learn more about the project.

Kaiya BernardKaiya Bernard (she/her) is a senior studying kinesiology with plans to pursue a career as a medical doctor. At Illinois, she has served as an undergraduate researcher for the Mobility and Fall Prevention Lab with Prof. Manuel Hernandez, is currently a recruitment coordinator for the Chronic Kidney Disease and Proteinuria Research study with the Carle Illinois College of Medicine, and manages three RSOs on campus. Kaiya will work with Prof. Warren Lavey and Champaign Park District (CPD) staff to develop and conduct a survey for effective community outreach to obtain guidance for CPD’s facilities and programs and improve the experiences of underserved groups. Learn more about the project.

Alison BrandvoldAlison (Ali) Brandvold (she/her) is a junior majoring in interdisciplinary health sciences with a concentration in health and aging. She plans to become a physician assistant specializing in community health or OB/GYN. Ali is a triage volunteer and community outreach coordinator with Champaign County Christian Health Center (CCCHC), which serves uninsured and underinsured patients in the CU community. At Illinois, she serves on the executive boards of the Pre-Physician Assistant RSO and Mixed Student Union. Ali will work with Prof. Manabu Nakamura and Champaign County Christian Health Center to assess patient health disparities that can be alleviated by the online, weight loss EMPOWER program and develop a plan to overcome logistic hurdles to start intervention. Learn more about the project.

Gabby CalderonGabrielle (Gabby) Calderon (she/they) is a junior majoring in clinical-community psychology and pursuing a minor in social work with plans to become an adolescent psychologist and community organizer focused on minority psychopathology in children and teens. At Illinois, she started an RSO, Minorities for Mutual Aid, which promotes and engages in mutual aid projects within the community, and is currently an undergraduate researcher in Prof. Helen Neville’s lab. Gabby will work with Prof. Shardé Smith and DREAAM House to analyze existing evaluation data, refine the ASPIRE program based on pilot data in collaboration with community stakeholders, and implement an improved culturally-responsive program for Black youth. Learn more about the project.

Chance FlemmingChance Flemming (he/him) is a senior majoring in social work and minoring in disability studies and political science with plans to obtain a Master’s in Public Policy. His career interests are policy-oriented and focused on advocating and writing policies that uplift Black populations as well as individuals with disabilities. At Illinois, Chance serves as a mentor coordinator in the School of Social Work, a research assistant in Prof. Rachel Garthe's Violence Prevention Research Lab, outreach coordinator for the Illinois Student Government (ISG), and upcoming Senator for ISG in the 2022-2023 academic year. Chance will work with Prof. Laura Rice, Urbana Park District, Champaign Park District, and The Center for Integrated Wellness to implement a disability training program to provide education to fitness staff members working at the community partner's fitness facilities. Learn more about the project.

Rose GrimmRose Grimm (she/her) is a senior majoring in community health. Rose will work with Prof. Eva Pomerantz, DREAAM House, and Urbana Neighborhood Connections Center to 1) integrate a curriculum review and professional development model for program instructors and mentors to better facilitate the development of STEM mindsets, motivation, and achievement among students to sustain the pursuit of STEM careers and 2) enhance Chicago Pre-College Science and Engineering's (ChiS&E) family component to empower families to support and advocate for their children. Learn more about the project.

Matthew JenkinsMatthew Jenkins (he/they) is a sophomore majoring in landscape architecture and minoring in sociology. At Illinois, he is working on an independent study focusing on vertical gardens and will use those findings to help design and construct the Illinois’ solar decathlon building this year. Matthew will work with Prof. Sharon Suiwen Zou and the Illinois Extension Community and Economic Development Unit to identify opportunities in Illinois communities that seek to develop rural tourism and understand tourists' motivations and constraints to engaging in rural tourism in Illinois. Learn more about the project.

Maha KolotaMaha Kalota (she/her) is a senior studying political science and English with plans to study law upon graduation. As a student at Illinois, she has been a member of the Illinois Trial Team and Illini CHAARG, an intern for State Representative Carol Ammons’ office, a research assistant under Prof. Ben Miller in the Department of Political Science, and is currently an Illinois Writers Workshop consultant. Maha will work with Prof. Jon Hale and DREAAM House to develop and implement a comprehensive evaluation model that assesses indicators related to literacy attainment, student motivation, student perceptions of literacy, teacher effectiveness, and parent and community engagement, which will then be developed for use in the DREAAM program. Learn more about the project.

Kayla LambertKayla Lambert (she/her) is a pre-med senior pursuing African American studies and aspires to become a physician, specifically caring for uninsured and/or underrepresented populations. As a student at Illinois, she has been a member of the Illini Medical Screening Society, Shelley Ambassador Program, and the American Medical Women’s Association. Kayla will work with Prof. Ruby Mendenhall and Girls Like Me to create a published picture book and community exhibit about Black girls’, mothers’, and other mothers’ mental health (coping mechanisms) and celebrate the beauty and daily lives of Black women and girls. Learn more about the project.

Anjali PatelAnjali Patel (she/her) is a junior majoring in interdisciplinary health sciences and minoring in Spanish and psychology with plans to become a physician advocating for patients and working to reduce health disparities. She is a Certified Nursing Assistant, a volunteer at the Food Assistance and Well-Being Program, and an undergraduate researcher in the Laboratory for Emotion and Stress Management at Illinois. Anjali will work with Prof. Sandraluz Lara-Cinisomo and the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District (C-UPHD) to explore women's experiences caring for their infants while enduring postpartum pain and depressed mood to expand current literature, influence the directions of future research, and help inform community-based interventions in Champaign County. Learn more about the project.

Eve RubovitzEve Rubovits (she/her) is a sophomore majoring in community health and minoring in social work. She has worked as a research assistant with Prof. Kevin Tan for the last year on several of his ongoing projects. Eve will continue to work with Prof. Tan and Hope Center in Danville to understand the use of PhotoVoice to promote transformative social-emotional learning (TSEL) principles and bring adults and young people together to understand issues faced by the community. Learn more about the project

Rachel SunRachel Sun (she/her) is a sophomore majoring in clinical-community psychology and statistics and plans to practice clinical psychology with an emphasis on adolescent trauma, risk, and resiliency. At Illinois, she has been a research assistant in the labs of Profs. Joseph Cohen, Kara Federmeier, and Eva Pomerantz, and currently volunteers at the National Runaway Safeline. Rachel will work with Prof. Rachel A. Hoopsick and the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District (C-UPHD) to administer surveys examining the experiences, needs, and syringe services program (SSP)-related preferences of people who are currently participating in the C-UPHD Syringe Exchange Program to inform the work of the C-UPHD and positively affect the community. Learn more about the project.

Tyler SwansonTyler Swanson (he/him) is a junior James Scholar majoring in environmental economics and policy and minoring in sustainability and urban planning. He has served as an intern in the Springfield office of Senator Tammy Duckworth, a code enforcement intern with the City of Rockford, and a research assistant with the Bock Agricultural Law & Policy Program in the College of ACES. Tyler will work with Prof. Chung-Yi Chiu and Illinois Joining Forces to conduct interviews with rural Veterans, military members and their families (RVM), and wellness service providers, and develop evaluations and educational materials aimed to diagnose and optimize their mutual interaction and partnership. Learn more about the project.

Vinh VoVinh Vo (he/him) is a junior studying interdisciplinary health sciences with a concentration in health behavior change and plans to become a dentist providing dental care to low-income communities. He is a member in the lab of Prof. Sheena Martenies, a volunteer in Youth Pediatrics at Carle Hospital, and an active member of Student Aging Researchers in Training (START). Vinh will work with Prof. Raksha Mudar and CJE SeniorLife to assess the benefits of social engagement using OneClick on overall health and quality of life for older adults and collaborate with Home and Community-Based Organizations to prepare for community-based implementation. Learn more about the project