Announcing 2020 Faculty Seed Grant Awards


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photo of a dandelion seed with text "IRWG 2020 Faculty Seed Grants"
photo of a dandelion seed with text "IRWG 2020 Faculty Seed Grants"

April 2020

The Institute for Research on Women and Gender (IRWG) has awarded nine Seed Grants for faculty projects on women, gender, and sexuality.

The grants support individual research activities, as well as collaborative projects, pilot studies, and initial research efforts, with over $60,000 in awarded funds. One seed grant addressing transgender health research was awarded in partnership with the Michigan Institute for Clinical & Health Research (MICHR).

The 2020 seed grants were awarded to the following faculty projects: 

Allison Alexy – Asian Languages and Cultures, Women’s Studies, College of LSA

Families Together and Apart: Negotiating Child Custody and Co-Parenting after Separation
This project explores how American parents imagine, negotiate, and enact their family relationships after a marital split. Focused on parents, this research ethnographically investigates complex but common family experiences influenced by contested gender norms, legal restrictions, and economic patterns. Key research questions include: What does it feel like to live in a separated family? What negotiations and compromises are required? To answer these questions, and in comparison to data I have already collected in Japan, I will interview and conduct ethnographic research with 20 people in southeast Michigan.

Adriene Beltz – Psychology, Data Science, College of LSA
Collaborator: Pamela Davis-Kean, Professor of Psychology, Research Professor at the Institute for Social Research, Associate Director of the Michigan Institute for Data Science

Beyond ‘Mean Girls’ and the ‘Average Joe’: Person-specific Models Quantify Daily Gendered Phenomena Important for Teacher-reported Learning
Do sex and gender matter for learning? A fierce debate surrounds this question. Some argue that boys and girls are “wired” differently and require different education strategies, while others argue that gender-based education is ineffective and validates sexism. This debate is partly fueled by significant heterogeneity in biopsychosocial phenomena underlying gender, which uniquely influence the learning of individual youth. Thus, this project reveals how academic achievement is related to daily transactions among gendered cognitive, affective, identity, and social phenomena for individual youth. This is accomplished through parent and teacher surveys and a 100-day intensive longitudinal study of representative adolescent siblings.

Amy Brainer – Women's and Gender Studies, UM Dearborn

Queering Marriage Immigration
This project explores the ways that queer and trans individuals and couples navigate marriage-based immigration to the United States. I use interviews and case studies to delve into the daily work and material costs that structure this experience, as well as its emotional impact on the couple. The project bridges queer migration studies with scholarship on marriage immigration and family reunification as it is conceptualized and enacted in US law, policy, and practice. Most importantly, it seeks to produce knowledge that may affirm and assist the growing numbers of LGBTQ+ people who are navigating this largely uncharted territory.

Rona Carter – Psychology, College of LSA
Collaborators: Janelle Blazek, Change Kwesele, and Joonyoung Park, Doctoral Students in Psychology and Social Work

An Analysis of Ethnic-Racial and Gender Identity during the Pubertal Transition among Girls in Early Adolescence
Black girls enter puberty at younger ages than their same-age counterparts. She is ahead of her peers regarding her physical development (e.g., height, breast size) at a time when she is keenly aware of herself in relation to others. Her precocious appearance elicits an onslaught of identity-related messages imbued with adult expectations. Because puberty connotes social and psychological valence, Black girls are confronted with a unique developmental task, which may be distressing if not navigated smoothly. This project explores how girls make meaning of their identities and changing bodies and variations in these meanings based on pubertal timing and ethnicity-race.

Sarah Compton – Obstetrics and Gynecology, Michigan Medicine

Field Testing of a Contraceptive Decision-support Tool in Urban Ghana
The maternal mortality rate in Ghana remains high, often due to unplanned pregnancy. Contraception prevents unwanted pregnancies, however, few Ghanaian women currently use contraception, largely due to poor quality contraceptive counseling and care. One way that has been proposed and studied in the US to improve the quality of contraceptive care is for women to use a decision-support tool during their appointment. In this study we will complete an adaptation of such a tool and field test it in family planning clinics in Kumasi, Ghana, leveraging a post-doctoral fellow who will be in-country for 11 months (July 2020-June 2021).

Aline Cotel – Civil and Environmental Engineering, College of Engineering
Collaborators: U-M master’s students Julia Magee (SEAS and Engineering), Adriane Kline, (SEAS and Public Health), Tom Courtright (SEAS), Adrienne Watts (SEAS), and Sondra Halperin (SEAS). In country partners: Petronella Chabeli and Thuthukani Hlangu, Kgora; Michael Sudarkasa, UM alum, CEO of Africa Business Group, and African Economic Development Company; and Wisdom Matsheka, African Farmers Association of South Africa.

The Leadership Role of Women Farmers in Sustainable Farming in South Africa
Decades since Apartheid, South Africa is still struggling to achieve equality and equity. A large government initiative has been the restitution of land to black farmers, which has created a need for farmer training, such as the Kgora Farmer Training Centre. Sustainability Without Borders (SWB) at the University of Michigan has partnered with Kgora to implement sustainable technology in farming. Kgora has specifically identified women farmers as a priority population to be involved in such knowledge transfer. This project intends to identify and propose solutions to obstacles typically faced by female farmers and to promote them as community leaders.

Harmony Reppond – Psychology, Behavioral Sciences, UM Dearborn
Collaborators: Janet Vasquez, Mikayla Fellman, and Jasmine White (undergraduate research assistants in Prof. Reppond’s Social Psychology and Economic Justice laboratory.

LGBTQ+ Student Activism: An Intersectional Examination of Race, Class, and Sexuality
While collective action research has a rich history of research, an intersectional epistemology is missing. The current study utilizes an intersectional lens to examine the collective action efforts by self-identified LGBTQ+ college-student-activists. The interview questions will aim to uncover common factors that lead to people becoming activists. Determining factors that increase the likelihood of activism is essential for collective action groups who are looking for recruitment, as well as determining the factors that people care the most about that influence them towards making a change. Implications will expand intersectional psychological theories of social identity factors that drive collective action efforts.

Denise Saint Arnault – School of Nursing

MiStory Expansion: Validating Instruments and Creating Regional Infrastructure
Gender-Based Violence (GBV) remains shrouded in a culture of silence. The Multicultural Study of Trauma Recovery (MiStory) is an international research and training collaborative developed to expose, challenge and eliminate the sociocultural underpinnings that inhibit GBV recovery engagement. The goal of this application is to validate our intellectual products, create sustaining infrastructures that allow strategic funding, and showcase our work through global visibility. Our objectives are to: 1) Conduct an international survey to validate our instruments (Normalization of GBV, Help seeking Barriers, and Healing); 2) Develop Nordic and Eastern Europe MiStory regions; and 3) Develop a website.

Daphna Stroumsa – Obstetrics and Gynecology, Michigan Medicine
Collaborators: Halley P. Crissman (Ob/Gyn), Sarah Peitzmeier (School of Nursing), Molly B. Moravek (Ob/Gyn), and John F. Randolph Jr., (Ob/Gyn)

Uterine Symptomatology in Transmasculine Individuals Receiving Testosterone for Gender Affirmation: A Pilot Study
Transmasculine individuals receiving gender affirming testosterone may have irregular uterine bleeding, spotting, cramping and pelvic pain. Based on clinical experience, such symptomatology is prevalent and may impact the emotional wellbeing and identity affirmation of transmasculine individuals. Additionally, bleeding can have significant practical implications for transgender men, and uterine symptoms may lead to otherwise unnecessary surgical interventions if untreated. However, these symptoms, their prevalence, and their impact on transmasculine people’s lives have not been described. In this pilot study, we aim to describe and quantify the scope of the problem, using a combination of electronic medical record and survey data.

The IRWG Faculty Seed Grant program, established in 1996, supports disciplinary and interdisciplinary faculty projects on women, gender and sexuality with annual awards. For more information, visit

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