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Center for Social Change:
Social Change Fellows & Grants

Walden University's Center for Social Change is a connective hub that promotes, facilitates, and supports collaborative alliances, action research, and projects that lead to purposeful action for sustainable positive social change.

Meet the Social Change Fellows

Meet the Social Change Fellows

Research and Applications for Social Change Grants are awarded annually to Walden doctoral students,  alumni, faculty, and staff, as well as external researchers, whose proposals reflect the university’s mission to foster social change through research and the education of scholar-practitioners.

Recipients automatically become Walden University Social Change Fellows. They are scholars, administrators, authors, artists, nurses, social workers, teachers, engineers, lawyers, historians, scientists and community leaders, ready to share their knowledge and skills for the greater global good. They continue to learn and grow as they give.

Applications for the 2023 Research & Applications for Social Change Grant are now open. Apply today:

Walden University Faculty & Staff

Walden University Students

Walden University Alumni and External Applicants 

2023 Social Change Fellows: Faculty and Staff Recipients

Bulgarian Democracy through the Lens of the Polarities of Democracy Framework 

Morris Bidjerano, PhD, Office of Research & Doctoral Services 

Morris Bidjerano

William Benet, PhD, CHSPP/Public Policy & Administration 

William Benet

The purpose of the project is to increase the awareness of select target audiences in Bulgaria regarding how the Polarities of Democracy approach to achieving positive social change can be applied to strengthen and stabilize the development of democracy in Bulgaria. The project will be implemented in collaboration with a local Bulgarian non-profit organization, Values, Virtues, Integrity (VVI) Foundation, which specializes in the design and implementation of educational programs for the youth, focused on social, cultural, ecological, and diversity and inclusion issues. The main goal of the project involves developing a pilot training course and related instructional curriculum materials for Bulgarian students and social change activists. Additional planned activities in support of achieving this goal include hosting and organizing a seminar in Washington, DC on the Polarities of Democracy framework for two Bulgarian VVI Foundation representatives, presenting to the Bulgarian visitors a series of workshops on the Polarity Assessment Process and its application in various organizational, political, social, and community settings, delivering a seminar on the Polarities of Democracy theory at the Political Science and Public Administration Departments of Sofia University, and giving a presentation at a seminar on democratic values in Sofia, Bulgaria. The project will be designed as an applied cultural, educational, and political know-how exchange program with the VVI Foundation. It will draw on Bill Benet’s decades-long development of the Polarities of Democracy theory and his continual applied work with the non-profit Polarities of Democracy Institute and the Walden faculty, alumni, and students Polarities of Democracy Learning Community.

2023 Social Change Fellows: Student Recipients

The Concept of Leadership at the Face of Climatological Crisis: A Comparative Case Study of Puerto Rico Higher Education

Aniello Alberti, CEHS/Education/EdD

Aniello AlbertiGlobal warming is increasingly propelling critical hydrological events like hurricanes, and leaders in higher education should strengthen social justice to execute crisis plans effectively. Therefore, the purpose of this doctoral study will be to explore crisis leadership in the execution of action plan strategies in Puerto Rico higher education from the experiences of critical administrators in two academic units of post-secondary education, leading to the aftereffects of a climatological crisis caused by Hurricane Maria in 2017. Insights of this study will provide administrators in higher education in Puerto Rico and similar contexts with a broader knowledge of the required leadership in the execution of plans due to climatological crises.

The overall objectives of this dissertation will be to help higher education leaders better understand strategies and leadership styles for restoring their institutions' regular operation after climatological crises.  A qualitative method based on a comparative case study will be conducted. This study's qualitative approach will provide an in-depth analysis of multi-layered issues constructed through the interactions of higher education leaders in a precise climatological emergency. Interviews will be conducted with participants and data will be decoded using advanced software to find patterns and recurring themes related to leadership in the execution of climatological crises.

Strategies to Improve Employee Motivation in Addiction Treatment

Dawn Belamarich, CMHP/Business Administration/DBA

Employee turnover negatively affects businesses by increasing operational and hiring costs and limiting organizational growth and profits. As Olubiyi et al. (2019) stated, these costs can be as high as $10,000 per hourly employee and twice as high as the replaced employee’s annual salary. Retention strategies, and the associated costs, are at the forefront of most business leaders’ agendas, with business leaders prioritizing the value of employees in growing their business and supporting competitive advantage (Yildiz et al., 2020). In social service organizations, the inability to motivate and retain key personnel can not only influence the business bottom line but may have a negative influence on the client experience, which is an alliance that adds value through a supportive therapeutic alliance and rapport with staff members (Astvik et al., 2020). The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration reports that staff turnover in addiction treatment ranges from 15% to 50%, leaving addiction treatment leaders working to identify solutions to retain employees (Sherman et al., 2017). This qualitative study explores the strategies that addiction treatment leaders can use to increase employee motivation in the addiction treatment industry.

Understanding Access to Preventive Health Screening for Working Women Using the Social Ecological Model

Charlotte Clark-Rowe, CHSPP/Public Policy & Administration/PhD

Charlotte Clark-RoweMany working women lack access to routine preventive health screenings due to their 40-hour work week, problems with transportation, lack of workplace flexibility, and clinic hours that are the same as their work hours. A mobile health clinic may enhance access to preventive health screenings for working women. Doing so may increase preventive health screening for working women. The purpose of this qualitative study is to understand how working women experience access to preventive health screenings through MHCs guided by the socioecological model. The population for this qualitative study is working women who have used MHC for preventive health screenings. The criteria for this study are working women over 21 years of age, not a homemaker, and females who used MHCs within the last 36 months.

The data analysis in this study is to identify segments of the data that will assist with a deeper insight into the phenomenon the research is trying to discover. Also, to answer the research question, how do working women describe their experience using MHC to access preventive health screenings based on the sociological model. The study may increase knowledge to better understand for access to preventive health screenings for working women. Also, with the knowledge about access to preventative health screenings, organization's leaders may have opportunities secure funding to create partnerships for resources for working women.

Black Male Initiatives’ Effect on Black Male Persistence and Graduation

Eric Johnson, CMHP/Management/PhD

Eric JohnsonGraduating with a college degree serves to advance an individual's career and economic prospects and simultaneously projects a net positive effect on society. With a decade-long stagnant 34% Black male college graduation rate, there is little understanding of how and why Black male initiatives, designed to improve Black male persistence and graduation in 4-year colleges, affect retention and graduation-related behaviors, as understood by the Black male participants in such initiatives. This interpretive description study explores Black male initiatives' influence on Black male persistence and graduation at three East Texas historically Black colleges. For continued accreditation, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges requires management for each of the three colleges to identify and address academic needs that improve student persistence and graduation. The questions guiding this research study solicit Black men's experiences, the meanings that emerge, and how Black male college students perceive the effectiveness of Black male initiatives to improve their persistence and graduation at three East Texas historically Black colleges. Using a purposive sample of 12 full-time Black male college students, I conduct interviews and use a reflexive journal to explore the Black male students' experiences, meaning-making, and perceptions of effectiveness as they engage Black male initiatives. Cultural capital, social capital, and narratives are three essential critical race theory concepts that ground this study. Positive data may offer new insights, instructive academic and program-based understandings, influence social change, and promote entrepreneurial innovation, management opportunities, and strategic initiatives to support better Black male students at colleges and universities nationwide.

Stigma in Intimate Partner Relationships Among Ebola Survivors in Monrovia

Adam M. Kyne, CPCS/Human Services/PhD

Adam KyneStigmatization is a growing concern for Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) survivors in Monrovia and it is the single most factor contributing to the increased number of broken relationships and marriages among EVD survivors. After surviving nearing-death experiences from the deadly Ebola Virus Disease, survivors are unable to fully integrate at home and keep stable relationships due to stigmatization. EVD Survivors continue to experience stigmatization in their intimate partner relationships causing a low quality of lived relational experience, derailed by feelings of shame, guilt, and reactions of isolation and rejection for being blamed as transmitters of EVD by loved ones.

The purpose of this qualitative study is to explore how the lived experience of stigmatization affects the quality of intimate partner relationships for Ebola survivors in Monrovia. A descriptive phenomenological design was chosen to help describe and gain rich and exploratory information on EVD survivors’ lived experiences of stigmatization in their intimate partner relationships.  Purposive sampling and snowball sampling are used to recruit participants for this study.  Data analysis processes will occur following the guidelines developed by Braun and Clarke. To aid in this process, NVivo 12 will be used to organize and code the data.

The findings of this study will address the following objectives: (a) educate researchers and caregivers about how stigmatization affects the quality of intimate partner relationships for Ebola survivors; (b) establish the baseline for developing a platform of advocacy for EVD survivors by using their voices to share how the disease has affected their intimate partners; and (c) add to the limited body of literature regarding the outcome for Ebola survivors. The findings of this study may also provide information that may improve the interventions designed to address the needs of EVD survivors in regard to reintegration with previous or future intimate partner relationships

Local CTE Educators’ Perceptions of Students’ Understanding Technical Text

Maria Santiago, CEHS/Education/EdD

Maria SantiagoIn the focus career technical education (CTE) high school in the northeastern United States, most students struggle to understand the technical course material and do not meet expectations in state and national licensing tests. The purpose of this project study is to investigate the successes and challenges that CTE educators have when implementing the instruction of technical text in a vocational and technical high school. This project study is framed by Bruner’s constructivist theory of learning and Rosenblatt’s transactional theory of reading. The research questions of this basic qualitative study will focus on the challenges CTE educators have with instruction of informational technical text and the techniques that CTE teachers and supervisors have found effective in teaching technical text. A minimum of 10 current CTE educators with a state teaching certificate (teacher/ supervisor) who have taught at a CTE high school program for more than 10 months will participate in semistructured interviews. A priori and closed coding will be used for the first and second analysis cycles. The coding results will be organized into categories and axial coding will be used to create themes. The results of this project study may reveal ideas to address challenges CTE educators have when teaching technical texts and ideas to improve instructional practices. Possible improved practices may support improved student achievement in CTE education as an indication of positive social change.  

2023 Social Change Fellows: Alumni and External Recipients

The San Salvador Bahamas Community Garden Enrichment Program: A transdisciplinary approach to healthy living for social change

Dawn M. Ford, PhD, (Walden Alumnus), University of Tennessee at Chattanooga

Dawn Ford

Troy Dexter, Gerace Research Centre, San Salvador, Bahamas

There is a dramatic increase in chronic diseases and conditions in the Bahamas such as overweight and obesity, diabetes, and high blood pressure. Ninety-two percent of Bahamians report eating less than 3 servings of fruits and vegetables a day on average, and 90% of food is imported. One way to address chronic diseases is to make fresh local produce more available through a community garden, along with educational activities. This proposed community garden enrichment project serves the low-income residents of San Salvador, a rural and remote island of the Bahamas. The San Salvador Community Garden was newly created in December 2022-January 2023 at the Gerace Research Centre by students at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and community partners on the island. We propose to expand this work with the overall goal of improving resident health by 1. Expanding the garden by adding a composting area and a rain catchment system for increased production, and 2. Offering hands-on transdisciplinary educational programs for adults and children. The educational programming will include healthy living workshops, such as cooking classes, marine conservation sessions, and a summer kids camp. Before 2017, there was an annual summer kids camp offered by a Bahamian non-profit organization that focused on marine conservation. We propose to offer a camp that broadens programming to include healthy living topics involving the community garden. These activities align with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals related to health and well-being, quality education, reduced inequalities, food insecurity, and life below water and life on land. Grant on-site programmatic activities will take place in June 2023, December 2023, and March 2024 which coincide with planned trips to San Salvador.

2022 Social Change Fellows: Faculty and Staff Recipients

Aging Online Faculty:  Attitudes Towards Technology, Work, Cognition, Retirement, and Self

Lee StadtlanderLee Stadtlander, PhD, Office of Research & Doctoral Services and Amy Sickel, PhD, CSBS/School of Psychology

Aging is a neglected aspect of workplace diversity, equity, and inclusion; how people successfully age at work and how to meet their needs are important issues in serving older employees. The rate of working for people post traditional retirement age is growing faster than the rate for any other age group. This trend is seen in education; for example, Walden has a large number of faculty over the traditional retirement age of 65 (including some in their 80s). While there has been research on older faculty in brick-and-mortar institutions there have been no studies examining online older faculty, thus their needs as they age are unknown, despite the reality of the high percentage of older faculty in online education. In the proposed sequential explanatory mixed methods study, the first aspect will explore the attitudes and needs of 200 online faculty in US universities in their 50s, 60s, 70s+ through surveys examining skills and attitudes toward technology, work, retirement, cognition, teaching self-efficacy, and self-stigma. In the second aspect of the study, one-hour interviews with 30 of the participants will be conducted to explore the identified factors in more depth.                                          

Understanding the Experiences and Counseling Needs of African American Women with Infertility

Ariel HarrisonAriel Harrison, PhD, CSBS/School of Counseling

The lack of acknowledging infertility challenges in the African American community often leaves women bewildered about their situations and the availability of counseling support. This phenomenological study will explore 10-12 African American women's experiences with infertility, stigma associated African American women and fertility, mental health and coping responses, traditional and alternative treatments, and counseling needs and barriers.

2022 Social Change Fellows: Student Recipients

Women’s Perception of Preeclampsia and Antenatal Care Attendance in Northwestern Nigeria

Aisha Nana AdamuAisha Nana Adamu, CHP

Researchers have demonstrated a significant relationship between antenatal care (ANC) attendance and pregnant women's sociodemographic characteristics. What has not been clearly studied is the relationship between ANC attendance and pregnant women's perceptions about diseases such as preeclampsia (PE) that could affect their pregnancies. ANC could facilitate the early identification and treatment of these conditions, ultimately improving the outcomes for PE affected women. In this study, the relationship between pregnant women's perceptions about PE and their ANC attendance were explored.

Accessing services for adolescents with perinatal HIV in Nigeria: the lived experience of girls, their families and healthcare workers

Joseph InyangJoseph Inyang, CHP

Adolescents living with Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) include those who were infected from their mother perinatally (PHIV) and those who were infected through sexual behaviors or drug use (BHIV). Nigeria contributes the largest burden of children born with HIV globally, due to its weak prevention of mother-to child transmission (PMTCT) program and a large HIV burden among adolescents with BHIV (NACA, 2019). Since the first case of AIDS in 1986 in Nigeria, and the advent of antiretroviral therapy (ART), and with optimal adherence, viral suppression has improved and more children and adolescents living with HIV infection are able to transition into adulthood. However, there are challenges associated with access, uptake, and adherence of ART, as well as the risks of long-term exposure to ART among these adolescents. With the application of social ecological model (SEM) and a phenomenological approach, this qualitative study will seek to understand the personal experiences of adolescent Nigerian girls aged 15-19 years living with PHIV with respect to access to services and adherence to ART.

Coping strategies linked to African Americans with Chronic Kidney Disease

Gabrielle LawrenceGabrielle Lawrence, CON

Chronic kidney disease (CKD)is a health problem that affects African Americans (AAs) faster than whites and other ethnic groups. Everyone copes differently. Individuals with chronic kidney disease need to develop strategies to help with the disease and life challenges. Social support, self-management, self -efficacy are factors that may influence how individuals with CKD cope with the disease. The purpose of this quantitative correlation study is to examine the relationships among self-management, self-efficacy, and coping behaviors in African Americans (AAs) with chronic kidney disease (CKD) in stages three or four.

Role of Racially Concordant Patient-Physician Relationships on Health Outcomes Among African American Women

Joy ThomasJoy Thomas, CSBS/SPPA

There are gaps in the literature regarding the effects of the role of racially concordant patient-physician relationships on African American women’s health. Bringing additional clarity concerning the effects of racially concordant patient-physician relationships on perceptions of healthcare in relation to medical mistrust, perceived racial discrimination, and perceived healthcare specific racial discrimination. The behavioral model for vulnerable populations will guide the study. The research questions seek to examine correlations and relationships between perceptions of care received from non-minority physicians using a quantitative focus.

2022 Social Change Fellows: Alumni and External Recipients

A Veterinary Clinical Communication Program Addressing Culture and Disparities among Latinx Communities in the U.S

Maria Jose Navarrete TalloniMaria Jose Navarrete Talloni, DVM, PhD, Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine

Elpida Artemiou, DVM, PhD, Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine

Mariacamila Garcia Estrella, DVM Candidate Class of 2023, Cornell University

Luis Pablo Hervé Claude, DVM, PhD, Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine


In the United States, the minority population of Latinx Americans is continuously increasing, therefore Spanish is the second most frequently spoken language. This growth is reflected also in the increasing number of Latinx pet owners in the cities, and over 2.5 million the Latinx farmworkers in the rural areas, excluding millions of undocumented immigrants that are integral part of the food production industry. There is a need for graduating veterinarians that are linguistically and culturally informed to support these clients and farmworkers, as well as societal expectations. Such again emphasizes the importance of overcoming barriers, while attending to cultural beliefs and customs surrounding animal husbandry and care in the society. While there is a need for culturally competent Spanish speaking veterinarians, limited veterinary curricula programs exist. The objective of this project is to develop a Clinical Communication Program for veterinary students during their preclinical years, that enhances cultural competency surrounding Latinx clientele as well as the Latinx farmworkers, while promoting diversity and inclusion.

2021 Social Change Fellows: Faculty and Staff Recipients

Research Based Project

The Impact of COVID-19 on Working Parents: Navigating Work, Distance Learning, and Parenting

This study will explore changes in workload, workspace, household expenses, and stress for working parents with children. Participants will fill out a survey to address the changes put in place since the pandemic in regards to the allocation of space in the home, out of pocket costs associated with distance learning, and the impact of daily adjustments to personal well-being.

Sandra Bever, PhD

College of Nursing and College of Health Professions

Sandra Bever



Kim Kato, EdD

College of Health Professions/Health Education & Promotion

Kim Kato



Theoretical and Empirical Connections Between Physical and Mental Health among US adults in a Pandemic Era

The purpose of the proposed study is to explore 10-year mortality outcomes of depression. The biopsychosocial model will inform this study.  We will analyze COVID-19 related search behavior of the term “depression”, comparing before versus during the pandemic.

Srikanta Banerjee, MD, PhD

College of Health Professions/Public Health

Srikanta Banerjee

Gary Szirony, PhD

College of Social and Behavioral Sciences/School of Counseling

Gary Szirony



Applied Project

From Black Towns to Ghost Towns-The forgotten developments of Freed People: An Applied Project

This project highlights townships founded by Black Americans and the creation of textbook, workbook and teachers guide based on the discoveries about the townships. Through education and understanding of the past, students can make informed decisions about their future.  We want to invoke thought and generate knowledge through lessons in English, reading, and social studies, using material relevant to black students' culture.

Lequisha Brown Joseph, PhD

Richard W. Riley College of Education and Leadership

Michelle Susbery Hill, EdD

Ronin Institute

Michelle Susbery Hill

2021 Social Change Fellows: Student Recipients

Alice Edwards

Neurodiversity and Workplace Social Capital Effects on Employee Attitudes and Intentions

This quantitative causal-comparative study will examine the relationships between self-identified neurodiversity symptomology (NDS), workplace social capital (WSC), job satisfaction (JS) and turnover intent (TI) in working adults living in the United States in gender and job classification (JC). Social change informed by this study may lead to greater diversity and inclusion (D&I) within workplaces of neurodiverse employees and support further adoption and growth of D&I initiatives aimed at increasing workplace neurodiversity.

Alice Edwards, Candidate PhD in Industrial & Organizational Psychology

College of Social and Behavioral Sciences



Cultural Lens: Haitian Immigrant Parental Acculturation and High-Risk Behaviors in their Haitian Children

The purpose of the proposed case study is to explore and describe perceptions shaped by Haitian parents’ (a) acculturation and (b) cultural lens with respect to at-risk behaviors in their children. The results may shed light on the cultural factors forming Haitian parental perceptions of high-risk behaviors since the 2010 earthquake.

Weiselande Cesar, Candidate PhD in Human Services

College of Social and Behavioral Sciences