Announcing 2019 Faculty Seed Grant Awards


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The Institute for Research on Women and Gender (IRWG) is proud to announce 24 funded Seed Grants for faculty projects on women, gender, and sexuality. The grants support individual research activities, as well as collaborative projects, pilot studies, initial research efforts, and creative endeavors. New this year were specific calls for research projects related to transgender health, humanities and healthcare innovations, sexual harassment, and gender violence. The new seed grants were awarded in partnership with the Michigan Institute for Clinical & Health Research (MICHR) and the U-M Office of Research.

The 2019 faculty awards comprised four categories: Transgender Health and Empowerment; Social Science, Arts, and Humanities Innovations for Health; Sexual Harassment and Gender Violence; and Open Topic.


Kristi Gamarel – Health Behavior and Biological Sciences, School of Public Health
Collaborators: Laura Jadwin-Cakmak, Racquelle Trammell, Gary Harper, UM Public Health; Bré Campbell, Cierra Burks, Lilianna Angel Reyes, Trans Sistas of Color Project

Empowering the Love Her Collective: Participatory research with and for transgender women of color
Transgender women are disproportionately affected by HIV. One of the most consistently reported contexts for HIV transmission among transgender women is within intimate partnerships. Transgender women experience intersectional stigma across all areas of their lives, including within intimate partnerships. Led by the Love Her Collective, a community-academic partnership between the Trans Sistas of Color Project (TSoCP) and the University of Michigan School of Public Health, this project seeks to develop and evaluate a relationship stigma scale. Study findings will identify targets for the development of an empowerment-based violence prevention intervention that meets the needs of transgender women.

Oliver Haimson – School of Information
Collaborator: Patience Baron, Community Partner

Researching and Improving New Online Spaces to Support Transgender Wellbeing
In this study Haimson and Baron investigate Trans Time, a new social media platform which was designed specifically for transgender and non-binary people to document their gender transitions and build community with others going through similar changes. The investigators will conduct interviews and user tests to understand how the unique worldly and community elements of gender transition can best be represented on social media sites. Haimson and Baron take an intersectional and ethical research approach to research with, by, and for transgender people. This research will help them to understand how to best use technology to support transgender wellbeing and empowerment.

Gary Harper – Health Behavior and Health Education, School of Public Health
Collaborators: Remi Parker, Nuii-Waav; Elliot Popoff, MPH, and Laura Jadwin-Cakmak, MPH, Public Health

New Day, Nuii-Waav. Building a community-academic partnership with transgender men in Detroit
Although health-focused research with transgender people has increased in recent years, transmasculine communities have been under-represented. The proposed project seeks to build a community-academic partnership between researchers at the University of Michigan School of Public Health (UMSPH) and Nuii-Waav, a community-based organization serving transgender men of color in Detroit. Through this partnership, Harper and collaborators seek to use empowerment-focused participatory mixed-methods research and evaluation strategies to identify and prioritize community needs for future research regarding the health and well-being of transmasculine people and communities.

Erin Kahle – Health Behavior and Biological Sciences, School of Nursing
Collaborator: Rob Stephenson, MSc, PhD, School of Nursing, Department of Systems, Leadership and Population

Stress and Health among Transgender and Gender Diverse Adults
Transgender and gender diverse (TGGD) populations have substantially worse health outcomes compared to the cisgender population. Health disparities experienced among TGGD may be the result of gender- and identity-related stressors that directly and indirectly impact health through behavioral and biologic stress response. Stressors increase inflammatory responses that may increase risk of disease, disability and psychological distress. However, limited studies have examined associations between TGGD-linked stressors and biological markers of stress. The aim of the proposed study is to examine associations between TGGD-related stressors and stress-response behaviors and biomarker defined stress outcomes (C-reactive protein) to provide preliminary data to support a prospective cohort study to explore the extent to which these stressors explain TGGD health disparities.

Shanna Kattari – School of Social Work
Collaborators: Susan D. Ernst, University of Michigan, University Health Service; Rachelle Wilcox, University of Michigan, University Health Service; Monique Steel, University of Michigan, University Health Service; Diana Parrish, University of Michigan, University Health Service; Roman Christiaens and Liz Gonzalez, University of Michigan Spectrum Center; Ian Gackowski, University of Michigan Counseling and Psychological Services

Understanding Health Status and Barriers to Healthcare for Transgender and Nonbinary University Students
While health disparities and barriers to accessing care for transgender and nonbinary people are receiving increased research attention, significant gaps remain in our understanding of transgender and nonbinary university students. In collaboration with transgender and nonbinary students and a multidisciplinary team of campus partners, the purpose of this study is to assess the overall health and resilience of transgender and nonbinary students, their experiences accessing healthcare, unmet healthcare needs, and barriers/facilitators to accessing care.

Sarah Peitzmeier – Health Behavior and Biological Sciences, School of Nursing
Collaborators: Juno Obedin-Maliver, MD and Tonia Poteat, PhD PA-C

Chest binding-related practices, symptoms, and quality of life impact in transmasculine individuals
Chest binding, or compression of the chest tissue for gender expression, is a daily practice for many transmasculine individuals. While binding benefits mental health, 97% report physical symptoms ranging from pain to rib fractures. Peitzmeier and collaborators will use in-depth interviews and quantitative daily diaries to develop a rich description of binding practices, symptoms, and impact on quality of life, and develop the first validated tools for measuring these three concepts. The daily diary will collect practicability and statistical data for designing a future long-term cohort study to determine risk associated with different binding practices and develop evidence-based recommendations for safer binding.

Daphna Stroumsa – Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation; Obstetrics & Gynecology
Collaborators: Justine Wu, MD, MPH, Family Medicine, Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation and Elliot Popoff, MPH, Epidemiology, Public Health

Partnering for Hormone Initiation (PHI): Partnering to Understand and Improve Gender-Affirming Hormone Initiation Using a Participatory Action Research Model
Gender-affirming hormones (GAH) are an essential service for many transgender and gender diverse (TGD) people. There is little data about TGD people’s needs in this initiating GAH. Such data is necessary to guide providers in establishing an optimal process for initiating hormones. In a qualitative study, Stroumsa and collaborators explore patient and provider experiences in GAH initiation using in-depth interviews. Using a participatory action research design, they will involve TGD community members in the analysis and sharing of the findings. Findings from this pilot study will inform the patient-centered development and testing of a gender–affirming hormone initiation toolkit for providers.


Jane Prophet – Stamps School of Art & Design
Collaborators: Afton L. Hassett, Psy.D., Department of Anesthesiology, Chronic Pain & Fatigue Research Center, University of Michigan Medical School, and Colleen Clark, Graduate Student, Masters of Design, Stamps School of Art and Design

Engaging Art, Science and Empathy (EASE): An interdisciplinary art and science approach to ameliorating the gendered experience and treatment of chronic pain
Chronic pain is experienced by over one in every four Americans, and by more women than men. Gender impacts the way people are treated, with women patients often judged by doctors as either not sick, or suffering from an imaginary illness. Research has shown that art can be one of the best forms of educating medical professionals, communicating with healthcare staff and for patients to feel more ownership of their treatment. This twelve month collaborative project between artists, pain researchers, and women that suffer from chronic pain, will create PhotoVoice projects and artworks, exhibited at Stamps Gallery and research data.


Susan Ernst – Obstetrics & Gynecology
Collaborators: Michelle L. Munro-Kramer, PhD, CNM, FNP-BC, School of Nursing, University of Michigan, and Diana Parrish, LMSW, University Health Service, University of Michigan

Understanding Student Experiences with Inappropriate, Disrespectful, and Coercive Healthcare and Physical Exams: A Mixed Methods Study
In the wake of recent allegations of harassment and abuse perpetrated by healthcare providers at leading universities, colleges are feeling compelled to protect students on campus and in healthcare exam rooms. However, the scope of the problem is unknown due to the lack of studies and tools assessing experiences with inappropriate, disrespectful, and coercive (IDC) healthcare interactions among college students. The purpose of this study is to gain a better understanding of the nature of IDC interactions with healthcare providers among a diverse sample of college students in order to develop and validate a survey tool to measure IDC experiences.

Lisa Fedina – School of Social Work
Collaborators: Lilia Cortina, PhD, Professor of Psychology, Women’s Studies, & Management, Associate Director of ADVANCE

#MeToo in the Workplace: Assessing Employee Bystander Behaviors at Institutions of Higher Education
Sexual harassment in the workplace has garnered growing attention, particularly within the context of #metoo. Women employed at Institutions of Higher Education (IHEs) experience high rates of sexual harassment and are subjected to additional forms of workplace harassment based on their race, ethnicity, and sexual orientation. Further, bystanders in the workplace are uniquely positioned to react to situations of workplace harassment. This study explores bystander behaviors among IHE employees’ in response to witnessed incidents of workplace harassment, including factors associated with increased willingness to intervene. Findings will identify areas for training and skill development in bystander programs for IHE employees.

Reshma Jagsi – Radiation Oncology, Center for Bioethics and Social Sciences in Medicine, Michigan Medicine
Collaborators: Chithra Perumalswami, MD, MSc, Center for Bioethics and Social Sciences in Medicine, Kayte Spector-Bagdady, JD, MBE, and Lilia Cortina, PhD, Professor of Psychology, Women’s Studies, & Management, Associate Director of ADVANCE (Consultant)

What is the Reception of Article X Among National Science Foundation Grant Awardees?
Increased public awareness of sexual harassment has led to policy windows during which active change is underway at the national level. In October 2018, in an attempt to leverage its influence to help address this major issue confronting the scientific community, the National Science Foundation (NSF) implemented Article X, requiring awardee institutions to notify the NSF of findings related to principal investigators and co-principal investigators who perpetrate sexual harassment. Jagsi and collaborators seek to understand NSF grant awardees’ knowledge, perspectives, and concerns about Article X in order to inform future policy.

Sarah Peitzmeier – Health Behavior and Biological Sciences, School of Nursing
Collaborators: Shanna Kattari, PhD, and Charlene Senn, PhD

Adapting an evidence-based sexual assault prevention intervention for transgender undergraduate students
One in three transgender undergraduates experiences sexual assault during college. No evidence-based sexual assault prevention intervention addresses their unique vulnerabilities. The Enhanced Assess, Acknowledge, Act intervention is the only intervention proven to reduce rape victimization by over 50% among cisgender female undergraduates. This pilot project conducts the mixed-methods formative research necessary to adapt this gold-standard intervention for transgender students, using focus group and survey data. The findings will be sufficient to draft and test an adapted intervention under an NIH R21 mechanism.

Denise Saint Arnault – Health Behavior and Biological Sciences, School of Nursing
Collaborators: Ines Testoni, PhD, University of Padua, Italy; Rachael Lev, PhD, University of Haifa, Israel; Sigrún Sigurðardóttir, PhD, University of Akureyri, Iceland; Sachiko Kita, PhD, University of Tokyo, Japan; Nikoleta Ratsika, PhD, Technological Educational Institute of Crete, Greece; and Sharon O’Halloran, CEO of Safe Ireland

A cross-cultural comparison of trauma recovery after GBV
Gender-based violence (GBV) recovery is a psychological challenge, and includes social integration, seeking care and post-traumatic growth. This project leverages Saint Arnault's and collaborators’ international research consortium selected for their diverse religions, cultures, SES, and gender-equity indicators. Surveys and interviews were conducted with women who identified GBV survivors recruited from service agencies. Saint Arnault and collaborators will compare trauma recovery processes using Ethnographic Analyses and demographic and sociocultural variables. This work contributes to changing cultural norms that inhibit trauma recovery, identifies domains of recovery, makes research recommendations, and provides an interdisciplinary feminist learning laboratory for students.


Achyuta Adhvaryu – Business Economics, Stephen M. Ross School of Business
Collaborators: Anant Nyshadham, Ph.D., Boston College; Marianna Coulentianos, Ph.D. candidate, College of Engineering, University of Michigan; Diana Sofia Calderon Farfan, Research Staff, Ross School of Business, University of Michigan; and Good Business Lab, non-profit organization

Tackling mobility constraints of women in rural India
Rural villages in India are void of job opportunities for women, partly due to persistent patriarchal norms. Women cannot access jobs because of mobility constraints due to rigid social norms. The objective of the study is to shed light on the extent of women’s mobility restrictions by comparing the participation in home-based paid work with the participation in equivalent work in a village workshop, and by estimating the effect of wage on labor supply. By furthering their understanding of this constraint, Adhvaryu and collaborators will provide evidence for the design of initiatives inclusive of all rural Indian women who wish to work.

Pamela Aronson – Sociology, College of LSA

Gender Revolution in the Trump Era: Transformations in Consciousness and Gender Relations
The U.S. is in the midst of a gender revolution. Changes in gender consciousness are rapidly altering gender relations, as women are challenging gender inequalities in new ways. This project focuses on three areas of social change: the 2018 election; women’s movement activism; and the emergence of new forms of public discourse on sexual assault (the #MeToo movement). Utilizing multiple data sources, including news media, social media and focus group interviews, Aronson is systematically analyzing representations of these important social and cultural changes. This project will illuminate transformations in gender consciousness and relationships between women and men.

Jade Burns – Health Behavior and Biological Sciences, School of Nursing
Collaborator: Detroit Community Health Connection, Inc. (Community Partner)

Addressing a Critical Gap: Perceptions of Young Heterosexual African American Men of Their Access to Sexual Health Services in a Community-Based Setting
According to the CDC, Healthy People 2020 and the Office of Adolescent Health, African-American young men have a substantially greater need for sexual health services and are at higher risk of acquiring sexually transmitted infections than other young adult populations. Research has indicated numerous barriers to these services but has paid less attention to the solutions that may help this population increase their sexual health service use. A qualitative study using a Positive Deviance framework will be used to explore and identify strategies on sexual health service use and clinic access among young heterosexual African-American males ages 18-24 living in Detroit.

Terri Conley – Psychology, College of LSA

An Experimental Intervention to Reduce the Gendered Orgasm Gap among Heterosexual Couples
Women are less likely than men to orgasm in heterosexual encounters. The etiology of this “orgasm gap” is widely debated. Conley and collaborators suggest that the orgasm gap is a product of heterosexual couples relying on sexual practices that favor men’s orgasms, rather than women’s. The researchers will compare the orgasm gap among heterosexual couples during their regular sexual encounters, and when they are given instructions to provide equal types and amounts of stimulation to each other. Conley and collaborators hypothesize that when women and men receive equal amounts and types of stimulation, the orgasm gap will be diminished or eliminated.

Gaurav Desai – English Language and Literature, College of LSA

Charting Race and Gender in the Institutional History of the Modern Language Association
Desai proposes to examine the role of race and gender, both in terms of the professional identities of Modern Language Association (MLA) members and as subjects of study since the inception of the MLA in 1883. While it was not until the late sixties that the MLA actively set up two Commissions to study the status of women and of minorities in the profession, in actuality membership in the organization had been open to both women and minorities from the very beginning of the organization. Working in the MLA archives over two months this summer, Desai will try to excavate this long history.

Margaret Frye – Sociology, College of LSA

Feminizing Elites: The Transformation of Culture through Educational Expansion
Over the past three decades, Uganda’s university student population increased by more than ten-fold and went from being almost entirely male to several leading universities achieving gender parity. These structural changes have important cultural effects: this feminization of the educated elite is redefining the role of women in East African societies and transforming enduring systems of gendered power and familial obligation. This longitudinal qualitative study will examine how university students navigate the transition to adulthood during this period of educational expansion.

Odessa Gonzalez Benson – School of Social Work
Collaborators: Mieko Yoshihama, Professor, U-M School of Social Work, and Ana Paula Pimentel Walker, Assistant Professor, U-M Taubman College of Urban Planning

Refugee-run organizations and women’s issues
The proposed study applies a feminist analysis to interrogate how the refugee-run organization unfolds as site wherein gender struggles play out. Gonzalez Benson and collaborators examine community practice conducted by refugee-run organizations addressing gender and women’s issues to develop a more nuanced understanding of the processes and power dynamics enacted. In preliminary studies, they have identified five gender-based issues addressed by refugee-run organizations that have male leadership: gender-based violence, sexual harassment, women’s empowerment, sexual trauma, and gender roles. Drawing upon intersectionality theory, the researchers examine organizational process of gendering as intersected with issues of citizenship/refugee status, that complicate or reinforce particular social locations.

Carol Jacobsen – Stamps School of Art & Design

Life on Trial Exhibition and Book Launch of For Dear Life: Women's Decarceration and Human Rights in Focus
Jacobsen will create and install "Life On Trial," a provocative, innovative solo feminist exhibition comprising a video installation and large color, digital photographic prints in spring 2019, at Denise Bibro Gallery, New York City. The exhibition will also serve as the national book launch for Jacobsen's book, For Dear Life: Women's Decarceration and Human Rights in Focus (University of Michigan Press 2019) and book event at the gallery. The exhibition contributes to the larger critical feminist discourse on issues of gender and race-based injustice in the criminal-legal system. The exhibition will be co-sponsored by Amnesty International.

Heidi Kumao – Stamps School of Art & Design

Erase, Replace, Repeat
“Erase, Replace, Repeat” is a multi-media art project that uses stop motion animation and mechanized puppets to explore the psychological and emotional effects of erasure in the lives of middle-aged and older women. This work physicalizes erasure as both a loss and a fresh start, and translates the experience of feeling invisible (in mainstream art and culture) and losing one’s memory into accessible, poetic, visual narratives.

William Lopez – Health Behavior and Health Education, School of Public Health
Collaborators: Nicole L. Novak, PhD, MSc, Department of Community and Behavioral Health, University of Iowa College of Public Health; Julio Salazar, Hamblen County Schools, Morristown, TN; Tammy Shull, Iowa Welcomes its Immigrant Neighbors (Iowa WINS), Mt. Pleasant, IA; Rachel Murray, Salem/Sandusky, OH; Rose Godinez, ACLU of Nebraska, Lincoln, NE; and Dalila Reynoso-Gonzalez, Justice For Our Neighbors-East Texas, Tyler, TX 

Worksite immigration raids: Gendered impacts and community response
This project will use a community-engaged approach to conduct in-depth qualitative research in six rural communities affected by large worksite immigration raids in 2018. Lopez and collaborators aim to document the gendered and racialized impacts of worksite immigration raids on mixed-status communities. They will also analyze the ways community actors respond to mitigate harm at the individual, family, and community level. This project will extend feminist literatures on gendered dimensions of immigration uncertainty and disaster response, and consider community resilience, strength, and creativity when confronted with policies that undermine community coherency. This project will inform future interdisciplinary research on the impacts of immigration raids on mixed status communities, with a focus on women’s health.

Sandra Momper – School of Social Work
Collaborator: Celina Doria, MSW

Nanaa’itoonaawaa Ezhi-bimaadiziyang Ge-dibaajimowaad: Mending Lives through Storytelling
American Indian (AI) women in the United States experience disproportionately high rates of interpersonal violence (IPV) and face systemic barriers to healing. To address this crisis, Momper and collaborators propose to conduct an exploratory study in collaboration with American Indian Health and Family Services, Inc. (AIHFS) to empower AI women survivors of IPV to share their stories by engaging them in a photovoice activity. They aim to increase community connectedness for AI women survivors and raise community awareness of IPV and prevention. Momper and collaborators will use the data collected to inform culturally-grounded violence prevention strategies that promote the wellbeing of AI communities.

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