MSW Student Stacey Stevens has received a summer research grant from U-M’s Anti-Racism Collaborative for her community-based research project, 48208 Lives. Stevens created the project in partnership with Yusef Bunchy Shakur, MSW ‘19, who is the director of the Mama Akua Community House in Detroit, Zone 8, and Pedro Coracides, an MSW student at Wayne State University.
The project focuses on Zone 8, a predominantly Black neighborhood in Detroit, which takes its name from its zip code. Zone 8 experiences many of the inequalities that ravaged all of Detroit in the past decades — unemployment, addiction, persistent poverty, lack of affordable housing — in hyper-focused ways. The high percentage of both empty apartments and rental properties make it difficult to foster a sense of community. Despite these many challenges, residents have fostered a sense of community out of survival. Many critical institutions, including local schools and grocery stores, have closed, which has made this community more vulnerable socially, politically and economically.
“This is a neighborhood that is under constant attack from gentrification from outsiders,” said Stevens. “It is only now with its proximity to Midtown and Downtown Detroit, that this neighborhood is being ‘valued’ and recolonized.”
According to project documentation, 48208 Lives seeks to “connect, develop and nurture emergent leadership from Zone 8 to create a racially and socially just vision for a revitalized Detroit without displacement or continued disinvestment.” To do this, the project will develop an asset map, marking all the human resources available to residents. “We are hopeful that this project will lay a foundation for neighborhood residents to support their visions for a vibrant community,” said Stevens.
“One of the things I have learned thus far in our planning is how there is no one-size-fits-all approach to doing this work. I live about two miles away from the neighborhood we are working in. There is such a drastic difference in how my community looks and the resources most folks in my community have compared to Zone 8,” said Coracides. “I think that is the one thing I hope to learn through this work: what does it look like to replicate this work in different communities around Metro Detroit in light of the unique needs and resources available to each community?”
“The support will allow us to navigate some of the challenges on the ground and to meet our goal by connecting us with residents and positioning us to amplify their voices,” said Shakur. “As a graduate of the School of Social Work, this opportunity to work with like-valued people is inspiring. Developing a research framework that is resident-driven and working professionally in a team capacity doesn’t necessarily happen post graduation.”
Joint PhD student Irene Routté has been awarded a 2021 Rackham Public Scholarship Grant for her project “Grand Rapids Congolese Refugee Youth Council and Leadership Program.” In partnership with Michigan Banyamulenge Community (MBC), a refugee-run organization in Grand Rapids, Routté will help develop and launch a community-driven youth council and leadership development program for Congolese refugee youths. This project will help MBC extend its organizational capacity to serve the roughly 8,000 Congolese refugees in the Grand Rapids area and create a space of support and empowerment for Congolese and other refugee youth.
The Rackham Program in Public Scholarship supports mutually beneficial projects created between Rackham students and community partners.
Ed-Dee Williams, Joint Doctoral Program in Social Work and Sociology, has successfully defended his dissertation entitled, “Black Boys Mental Health Help-Seeking: Exploring Perceptions, Barriers and Social Processes.” His committee consisted of Jamie Mitchell and Alford A. Young, Jr. (co-chairs), David Córdova and Renee Anspach.
Williams will join the University of Michigan School of Social Work Level Up: Employment Skills Simulation Lab as a postdoctoral fellow this August. Williams will use his expertise on the mental health of Black youth to support two federally funded studies that are focused on autism, as well as engage in an intensive training program to lead randomized controlled trials.The fellowship will also support Williams to develop a new technology-based intervention to enhance the conversational help-seeking skills for Black autistic youth experiencing depression.
Sara Stein, Joint Doctoral Program in Social Work and Psychology, has successfully defended her dissertation entitled “Towards Intentional Relational Well-Being: Syndemic Contributions of Mental Health, Trauma Exposure, and Sociodemographic Factors to Risk for Intimate Partner Violence Victimization.” Her committee consisted of Andrew Grogan-Kaylor and Sandra Graham-Bermann (chairs), Julie Ribaudo, Quyen Ngo and Todd Herrenkohl.
Sara received a two year American Heart Association Postdoctoral Fellowship to work with Alison Miller and Maria Muzik at the University of Michigan.
Hayeon Lee, Joint Doctoral Program in Social Work and Anthropology, has successfully defended her dissertation entitled “Korea Dreaming: Vietnamese Women's Stories from the Marriage Migration Cycle.” Her committee consisted of Michael Spencer, Kelly Askew (co-chairs), Sandra Momper, Ruth Behar and Youngju Ryu.
Summer graduation will be held in person at Hill Auditorium with a livestream for those who can not attend. Family, friends, classmates and guests who are fully vaccinated may exempt from wearing a mask indoors by completing the ResponsiBLUE Guest daily screening process and voluntarily answering the applicable questions about vaccination status. The student speaker is LeDeanea Williams, MSW ‘21 and the keynote speaker is Kathy Tran, MSW ‘03 and Virginia House of Delegates Member, 42nd District. Details will be sent to graduates this week and will be posted on the SSW calendar.
Change Kwesele, Joint Doctoral Program in Social Work and Psychology, has successfully defended her dissertation entitled “‘Shibukeni!’: Exploring the Mental Health Perceptions and Experiences of Young Adult Children of African Immigrants through the Lens of Sociocultural Influences.” Her committee consisted of Katie Richards-Schuster, Rona Carter (co-chairs), Jacqui Smith, Daicia Price and Moses Okumu.
PhD student Lauren Whitmer is the 2021-22 recipient of the U-M Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies (LACS) Alfredo D. & Luz Maria P. Gutierrez Dissertation Award. The award will support Whitmer in the writing of her dissertation, “Finding a Way Through the Violence: How Mujeres Abusadas in Lambayeque, Peru Navigate Formal and Informal Help-Seeking.” The selection committee specifically cited the high quality of Whitmer’s scholarly work. “I am very thankful for this support, which will allow me to dedicate myself, fully, to writing my dissertation in the coming academic year. Additionally, it is so gratifying to have my work recognized as an important and valuable contribution to the field of LACS,” says Whitmer.
MSW student Cassie Elder is a mother and U.S. Marine Corp veteran. In a webinar this week for mothers serving in the armed forces, Elder shared her experiences to help female veterans searching for resources and support. “I hope that more folks will begin to acknowledge, recognize, and understand the complexities of being a veteran and service member while also being a mom,” she said. “I also hope to bring more visibility to women in the military and our unique experiences.”
PhD student and Reverend Charles Williams of Detroit’s King Solomon Baptist Church is featured in a HuffPost article about closing the COVID-19 vaccine race gap. Citing accessibility and hesitancy, Williams thinks it could be a year or more before citywide vaccination rates in Detroit catch up to the rest of the country. “There’s a sincere concern about the care that many of us get when we go to the doctor’s office, end up in the hospital,” Williams said. “You talk to any Black family, we all have the same strategy ― somebody is going to have to be there around the clock, in the room, to stay on top of these nurses and to make sure the doctor comes by, because if we don’t practice that strategy, the system will let our loved one down.”
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