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Center for Social Change:
2018 Social Change Grant Recipients & Social Change Fellows

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.

Opening Doors: Prejudice and Inclusion

Paul Englesberg Nina Spadaro

Dr. Paul Englesberg, Core Faculty in the Riley College of Education & Leadership

Dr. Nina Spadaro, Core Faculty in the School of Counseling

This project explores the historical legacy and the contemporary manifestations of ethnic and racial intolerance, and misunderstanding of the “other”, in a community in northwest Washington State.

Through a series of events at various sites for college and community, the project will seek to raise the awareness of both the historical and contemporary manifestations of prejudice and to contribute to an environment of understanding and compassion.

A culminating e-book will feature the history, personal experiences, and voices from the community, as told through video, images, artistic expression.


Well, the inspiration for the grant was the dedication of the Arch of Healing in Bellingham, Washington, which commemorated three different groups being expelled from Bellingham over the last several decades, the Chinese, the Punjabis, and lastly, the Japanese.


So, the results of our project were kind of surprising to us. Not only is it interdisciplinary with regard to Paul and I coming from totally different disciplines, but we also had some students involved.  One of them was an alumna, and the other one was a student. The student graduated, became an alumna, and the alumna came back for a doctorate. So, over the year, there were some changes, but we involve students.

We involved artists from the local community. We involved not only physical artists, but also people who were musicians. They wrote music for us, original songs. And we also involved some other folks, volunteers who learned how to facilitate groups to teach people the active listening skills.


And then the part of our project which is ongoing is we're collecting stories from people in the community about their own experiences with prejudice and inclusion. So, we're reaching out to people all across the county, and we're going to be publishing that in an electronic forum. 


Nina Spadaro, Ed.D. is a Core Faculty for the Masters in the Clinical Mental Health Counseling program. Dr. Spadaro currently resides in Bellingham, Washington where she is a partner in a clinical and consulting practice, Impact Education & Therapy, LLC.  A seasoned teacher and presenter she utilizes a multi-sensory approach to create dynamic impact in her presentations.  She is an admirer of Dr.  Alfred Adler’s approach, which promotes the development of social interest, exemplified by his model of community Family Education Centers which provided free group family therapy. In her creative fashion she offers Adlerian-style Kung-fu classes for families.


  •   Mr. Rives Thornton, M.S., Walden University alumnus from the School of Counseling
  •   Ms. Andrea Beilner, M.S. Student in the Clinical Mental Health Counseling program

Disclosure and Stigma in Online Environment: Perceptions of students with disabilities and staff who work in disability units in higher education.​

Susana Verdinelli Carolyn M. Roney

Dr. Susana Verdinelli, Core Faculty in the School of Psychology

Ms. Carolyn M. Roney, Sr. Director of Student Wellness and Disability Services, Walden University

The purpose of this qualitative study is to understand the decision-making process of disability disclosure and to explore the experiences of stigmatization among adult learners with disabilities enrolled in online programs. Additionally, it will explore how staff who work in the office of disability in higher education institutions perceive students’ disclosure and stigma in this learning format.

Understanding how students’ perception of stigma interacts with disability disclosure in online programs may help academic institutions better meet these students’ needs, improve the quality of their academic experiences, and increase their retention and degree completion rate.


Susana Verdinelli, Psy.D., is a core faculty in the academic psychology doctoral programs at the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences at Walden University. Susana has a Doctor in Psychology from Our Lady of the Lake University, a Master’s degree in School Psychology and a Master’s degree in Educational Psychology from the State University of New York, Buffalo. She joined Walden University as core faculty in 2010. Her research interests include disability studies, resiliency, qualitative methodology, psychological well-being, Latino psychology, and bilingual counseling. She has clinical experience at various community service agencies working with families, couples and children. She obtained the Faculty for Research Initiative Grant to conduct a study exploring students with disabilities reasons for enrolling in online programs. She teaches Qualitative Reasoning and Analysis, and various methodology courses.


Carolyn Roney has worked in the field of higher education and disability for over 30 years.  She has been Sr. Director of Disability Services at Walden University for 13 years.   She held the same role for 12 years at a local state university and continues to work as adjunct faculty in their Disability Studies program.   Ms. Roney has worked as a sign language interpreter in a college setting and has held various rehabilitation support roles at agencies in the Twin Cities area.  Her Master’s degree is in Higher Education Administration from the University of Minnesota.  

Post-GED Student Perceptions of College Preparation and Postsecondary Success

Andrea Helaine

Ms. Andrea Helaine, Doctoral Candidate in the EdD Program, Riley College of Education & Leadership

This project seeks to improve our understanding with respect to how General Equivalency Development (GED) programs may influence student participation and success in postsecondary education.  The project’s qualitative phenomenological design has been chosen to examine the experiences and perceptions of post-GED students regarding their preparation for, and participation in, postsecondary education.


Andrea Helaine holds a Bachelor’s of Philosophy in Theology from Ave Maria College, an MFA in Creative Writing from National University, and is a Doctoral Candidate in the Higher Education Leadership program at Walden University. In 2016-2017, Andrea was chosen for an Education and Public Policy fellowship through UC Denver and proposed a workforce mandate in AEFLA funded GED programs. Andrea is a board member of the Colorado Adult Education Professional Association (CAEPA) and is a member of the Governor’s Education Leadership Council. Andrea began teaching adult education students at Colorado Mountain College and has remained committed to working with HSE/ABE students at Emily Griffith Technical College in Denver since 2014. She is passionate about creating equity in college and workforce outcomes for adult education students.