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Center for Social Change:
2020 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.

Transgenerational Trauma, Locus of Control, and Stigma as Predictors of Mental Health Help-Seeking in Alaska Native Communities

Jorene Volkheimer, PhD in Psychology Student

American Indian/Alaska Native (AI/AN) persons have been identified as a group with greater risk for trans-generational trauma (TT) and experience environmental, external, systematic, or pragmatic barriers for treatment for mental health and social issues. In addition, there is limited access to culturally sensitive services and infrastructure; individual and group therapeutic approaches are needed for this vulnerable population. Researchers who have studied mental health help-seeking in minority populations have called for more studies of groups like AI/AN to better understand the complex social, interpersonal and intrapersonal problems involved in access to and use of mental health services. The developmentally based trauma framework (DBTF) and theory of planned behavior (TPB) were chosen as the theoretical frameworks for this study. The research design is a correlational study, using a quota sampling strategy, to determine the predictive relationship between demographics (gender, age, SES, tribal affiliation, and IRS-family member), TT, stigma, and LOC and help seeking (HS) attitude, intention, and use of mental health services. A hierarchical multiple regression analysis plan is proposed. It is hoped that the results of the study will add to the scientific literature and provide guidance for policy-making and mental health services program development for minorities.

Experiences, Reflections, and Applications of Service-Learning Among Rookie Police Officers

Jacqueline Smith, PhD in Education Student

When police officers do not positively engage with the people and situations they encounter, public safety is at risk. Police officers are exposed to learning about how to deescalate volatile situations in police training.  Yet, some officers still rely on use of force, and are not fully incorporating positive engagement to deescalate volatile situations.  Service-learning provides one way to possibly learn positive modes of engagement among police officers in training.    Kolb’s experiential learning theory frames both the purpose and corresponding research questions of this basic qualitative project study: to explore the experiences, observations, conceptualizations, and experimentations of service-learning in college criminal justice courses among rookie police officers.  Interviews will be conducted with at least 8 officers, until saturation is reached. Interview transcripts will be coded for common themes. Findings from the study will offer insight to instructors and developers of curriculum who prepare police officers about service-learning experiences among rookie police officers.  Possible implications for positive social change resulting from the study include changes to police officer training curricula, better prepared police officers, and ultimately enriched relationships between community members and police.

Impact of LEGO Robotics Enrichment Curriculum on STEAM Interest in Minority Girls in Grades 4 and 5

Co-Principal Investigators

Eric Brosch, Walden University

Jennifer Blessing, PhD, University of Tampa


Steve Canipe, EdD, Walden University

Neirda Lafontant, FUNducation

Women, especially minorities, are historically underrepresented in science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics (STEAM) careers in the United States. The goal of this transdisciplinary research and applied project is to develop a multi‐session STEAM enrichment curriculum and understand its impact on minority girls in grades 4 and 5. Leveraging LEGO robotic sumo—in which participants use the engineering design process to iteratively create and program a robot that can autonomously locate its competitor and push it out of a ring—the investigators will measure participant interactions and interest in STEAM. Assessments of this enrichment curriculum are designed to capture changes in interest and dynamic knowledge changes. Girls’ interest in science and related topics will be measured pre and post activity. The participants’ conversations during the curriculum as well as the talk of instructors will be analyzed for changes in how girls talk about STEAM and how adults support their learning. Deliverables from this project will include a) dissemination of the curriculum as a means of helping others to foster out‐of‐school interest in STEAM among elementary‐aged students and b) research presentations and papers to outline how such an activity actively promotes STEAM discussions in students.

Women Veteran Voices Project

Cynthia A. Briggs, PhD, LPC (NC), NCC, Walden University College of Health Professions

Brook Davis, PhD, Wake Forest University 

Women represent 10% of total military veterans in the United States (Department of Veterans Affairs, 2017). Because they exist as a small minority of total veterans, and because women have traditionally been barred from combat or frontline experiences, they often feel underrepresented in cultural conversations about veterans’ experiences. The intent of this Social Change Project is to create a platform for women veterans’ stories with a two-fold purpose:

  1. To create a healing experience for women veterans as they write and publicly share their stories;
  2. To educate the public about the role of women in the military via live storytelling by the veterans themselves.

Co-principal investigators (co-PIs), Dr. Cyndi Briggs and Dr. Brook Davis, experienced in creative work with veterans and long-term professional partners, will form a small group of women veterans and guide them through the process of writing and performing their stories in a theatre setting. Through the process, the co-PIs will create a writing and performance curriculum that can be shared and reproduced by others who wish to create similar performances in their communities.

Outcomes of the project will be evaluated both quantitatively and qualitatively so that the impact of the project on the participants can be understood. Both the experience of the veterans and the experience of the audience will be assessed. It is anticipated that scholarly articles and presentations will be created demonstrating the process of the production and the outcomes.

Sense of Belonging & Well-Being among American-Muslim Post-Secondary Students in Two Upper Midwestern States

Patrick A. Tschida, DrPH, MPH, BA, Walden University College of Health Professions

Rabeh Robert Hijazi, PhD, MS, MHA, PMP, SSBB, CCE, CBET, Walden University College of Health Professions

In the recent past, Muslims in the United states have been included in an immigration ban, harassed on college campuses, and experienced racial profiling. In 2015, hate crimes against Muslims rose by 78% to an all-time high in America history. In 2016, assaults against Muslims in the United States surpassed the peak reached after 9/11. Considering that Islam is the world’s second largest religion, Islamophobia, (defined as social stigma toward Islam and Muslims, dislike of Muslims as a political force, and a distinct construct referring to xenophobia and racism toward Muslims or those perceived to be Muslim), now seriously challenges health equity and population health. The negative impacts of Islamophobia in the United States during the time of Trump are enormous. Two female Muslim elected officials, Michigan Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib, and Minnesota Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, have received death threats, hate mail, and are regularly harassed. This proposed study attempts to quantify the extent of some of these adverse health effects among Muslims students attending colleges and Universities in two midwestern states. The Michigan and Minnesota Chapters of the Council of American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and the Muslim Student Associations of several major universities in Michigan and Minnesota will serve as collaborators of this research. The participants will include male and female Muslim students, ages 18-26 attending post-secondary educational institutions in Michigan and Minnesota. The Belonging to the University Scale (BUS), and the PERMA-Profiler measuring five pillars of well-being, along with negative emotion and health, are the constructs being used in this study. The results of this research will be widely disseminated so that administrators, health providers, economists, scholar/practitioners, and public health policy experts can prepare and equip these students to better deal with the consequences and impacts of Islamophobia on their lives, and have more productive, happier, successive post-secondary experiences.

Building Community with Parents and Families of Transgender and Gender Expansive Children and Family Members: Participatory Action Research

Jennifer Gess, PhD, LMHC, LCPC, NCC, Walden University College of Social Behavioral Sciences

Parents and families with transgender and gender expansive children and family members may experience multiple challenges when their child comes out. These challenges potentially may include grief of the ambiguous loss of the assumptions they had for their child or family member, grappling with fear based on society’s oppressive and discriminatory lens on non-cisgender people, and creating a new healthy and secure relationship with their child or family member (Johnson, Sikorski, Savage, & Woitaszewski, 2014; McConnell, Birkett, & Mustanski, 2016; Ryan, 2009; Saltzburg, 2009). Support groups provide opportunity for parents and family members to process their grief while expanding their understanding with those in similar situations. Using participatory action research, this study will explore the transformation of group members, the parents and families with transgender and gender expansive children and family members, through engagement of the support group with mentorship components. Participatory action research involves the group members in the research process, meaning group members will reflect on their own experiences through interviews and reflective journals. Thematic analysis will code themes to provide specific suggestions and ideas for future support groups with mentorship components.