Skip to main content
  Cornell University

Engaged Graduate Student Grants 2017 Recipients

Engaged Graduate Student Grants provide opportunities for Ph.D. students and their thesis advisors to conduct research or scholarship that is community engaged or to develop strategies for incorporating community engagement into existing thesis work.




Agents of Change: Institutionalizing Progressive Planning Practices in Medellin, Colombia

Graduate Student: Andrea Restrepo-Mieth, city and regional planning

Medellin, Colombia, has gained wide international attention for its large-scale urban transformation, where the city’s community-based organizations (CBOs) have had moderate success altering planning practices in a context framed by institutional weakness, economic inequality and spatial fragmentation. However, more research is needed to understand which actions and strategies have led to true change. Andrea Restrepo-Mieth is addressing this knowledge gap by partnering with one of Medellin’s oldest and most established CBOs on a case study that examines how CBOs – which have little economic and political power — strategize the use of contention, collaboration and negotiation in pursuit of institutionalization.

Special Committee Chair: Mildred Warner, Department of City and Regional Planning, College of Architecture, Art, and Planning

Community Partner: Corporación Con-Vivamos (Colombia)



Causal Effects of Later School Start Times: The Case of NYC Public Schools

Graduate Student: Hui Fen (Sarah) Tan, statisticsSarah Tan

A growing body of research suggests that later school start times improve adolescents’ health and academic performance. However, more research needs to be done to identify a causal link between later school start times and improved student outcomes. To this end, Sarah Tan is working with the New York City Office of School Health to evaluate the impact of start times in the city’s public schools, using machine-learning based causal inference methods she is developing in her dissertation research. After looking at a comprehensive set of student outcomes and accounting for conditions unique to local schools, Tan will provide each school with a specific policy recommendation to improve students’ health and performance.

Special Committee Chair: Giles Hooker, Department of Biological Statistics and Computational Biology, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences

Community Partner: New York City Office of School Health



Community-Engaged New York Fibers: A Path Toward Farm-to-Fashion

Graduate Student: Helen Trejo, fiber science and apparel design

Upstate New York is home to more than 260 sheep, alpaca and goat farms — emblems of the state’s legacy in wool growing and fiber processing — but these farmers do not have an easy way to reach fiber artisan and designer target markets. To address this issue, Helen Trejo is collaborating with a team from Parsons the New School of Design to develop a New York Fiber Sourcebook, where designers can learn about available fibers. Trejo is also assessing raw wool and alpaca fleeces from local farms as part of an apprenticeship program for scaled-up production. Aligned with the fashion industry’s Made in New York movement, Trejo’s research supports local farm-to-fashion entrepreneurship and community-based economic development.

Special Committee Chair: Tasha Lewis, Department of Fiber Science and Apparel Design, College of Human Ecology

Community Partners: Parsons the New School of Design Professor Laura Sansone and Suzanne Dvells, Ironwood Hill Sheep Farm, Blind Buck Angora Goats, Nistock Cotswold Sheep Farm, Orchard View Farm, Laughing Goat Fiber Farm, Nyala Farm Alpacas, St. Mary’s On-the-Hill Cashmere, Hidden Alpaca Acres Farm, Guard Farm



Digital Security and Privacy in Abuse Settings and the Intimate Partner Violence Ecosystem

Graduate Student: Diana Freed, information scienceDiana Freed

Intimate partner violence is a pervasive problem, affecting roughly one third of all women and one quarter of all men at some point in their lives. As digital technologies become more prevalent in daily life, they also play an increasingly large role in intimate partner violence — through cyberstalking, location tracking, remote cameras, monitoring contacts on social networks, spyware, and more. However, current understanding of how abusers find, install and use technology to abuse their victims is limited. The goal of Diana Freed’s research is to map the role digital technologies play across the intimate partner violence ecosystem and develop new materials, tools and technologies that improve security, privacy and safety for victims of abuse.

Special Committee Chair: Nicola Dell, information science, College of Engineering

Community Partner: New York City Mayor’s Office to Combat Domestic Violence



Evaluating Quality Management Systems: Engaging the NY Dairy Industry in Milk Quality Improvement

Sarah MurphyGraduate Student: Sarah Murphy, food science

About a third of the milk produced by New York farms is processed into fluid milk, making it an important part of the state’s economy. Fluid milk, however, is prone to rapid spoilage; this is a particular issue in older dairy processing facilities. In collaboration with Cornell Dairy Extension, Sarah Murphy is helping New York dairy processors — especially small processors — develop and implement enhanced quality management systems. These efforts will improve the quality of the milk processed and help assure production of high-quality dairy products, maintaining the competitiveness of the upstate New York dairy industry.

Special Committee Chair: Martin Wiedmann, Department of Food Science, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences

Community Partners: Cornell Dairy Extension, NYS fluid milk processing plants



From Civil Rights to Local Food: Historical and Local Perspectives on Food Justice

Graduate Student: Bobby J. Smith II, development sociologyBobby Smith

How do local food justice efforts address the food access concerns of low-income communities? How can historical perspectives on food justice be used to aid in these efforts? These questions are central to Bobby Smith’s research and his goal of helping to create a more just, sustainable local food system. By analyzing community responses to the Greenwood Food Blockade of 1962 during the American civil rights movement — as well as current local food justice efforts organized by his community partners — Smith is examining how historical perspectives can aid local community food efforts and how communities rely on food justice to generate creative solutions to address their food needs and related problems.

Special Committee Chair: Scott Peters, Department of Development Sociology, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences

Community Partners: G.I.V.E. Program, Rocky Acres Community Farm



Good Land Governance in Post-Authoritarian Myanmar

Graduate Student: Hilary Faxon, development sociologyHilary Faxon

Myanmar’s recent turn toward democracy offers new hope for millions of farmers who lost their land during decades of authoritarian rule. But adjudicating land disputes has proven difficult, with only a small percentage of farmers receiving compensation. Hilary Faxon is analyzing the complex politics of land in Myanmar and applying insights in collaboration with a local nonprofit that works with activists and the government towards solutions to land conflict.

Special Committee Chair: Wendy Wolford, Department of Development Sociology, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences

Community Partner: Land Core Group (Myanmar)



Historic Memory and Pedagogy Working Group

Graduate Student: Amir Mohamed, anthropologyAmir Mohamed

The current official school curricula in Guatemala represent the country’s majority indigenous and youth populations as passive and apolitical, and educators who want to develop and teach alternative curricula lack the tools and resources to do so. Through the organization of the Historic Memory and Pedagogy Working Group, Amir Mohamed is bringing together students and scholars from Guatemala’s public university system to collaborate with local artists to produce educational materials on aspects of the country’s history that are currently suppressed or altogether omitted from school curricula.

Special Committee Chair: Saida Hodžić, Department of Anthropology, College of Arts and Sciences

Community Partners: University of San Carlos (Guatemala), an education professional in Guatemala, a local illustrator and graphic designer in Guatemala



Linking Flood Risk and Climate Change: A Map of Riverine Flood Risk in Central New York State

Graduate Student: James Knighton, biological and environmental engineering

Despite increased funding since the 1936 Omnibus Flood Control Act, flood damages have continued to escalate. Today, there is an ongoing debate about the relationship between man-made climate change and flood-inducing weather events. James Knighton is developing a flood-risk methodology to analyze the link between increased flood risk and global climate change, coming up with a system that can be leveraged by stakeholders to implement flooding solutions at the local level, generate public support for funding of flood instrumentation and monitoring at the state level, and generate public support for climate change-related action at the national level.

Special Committee Chair: M. Todd Walter, Department of Biological and Environmental Engineering, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences

Community Partner: City of Ithaca



Mizo Nationalism at the Edge of the Empire

Graduate Student: Mariangela Mihai, anthropology

Mariangela Mihai is conducting ethnographic research in the northeast Indian state of Mizoram to examine how Mizos make sense of their identities through interactions with people they see as ethnically and morally different. To gain a deeper understanding of how the Young Mizo Association — a civil society organization whose campaigns addressing miscegenation, the LGBTQ community, alcohol and drug addicts, and others lay at the center of contemporary Mizo-self articulation — produces “Mizoness,” Mihai will collaborate with the Mizo Film Development Society and the Central Young Mizo Association to produce an in-depth ethnographic film that follows YMA’s socio-political activities across Mizoram. At film screenings, local communities will be invited to participate in public conversations about the role the YMA plays in society.

Special Committee Chair: Magnus Fikesjo, Department of Anthropology, College of Arts and Sciences

Community Partner: Mizo Film Development Society (India)



Program and Participant Evaluation of a Farmers’ Market Incentive Program for SNAP Participants

Graduate Student: Jennifer Garner, nutritional sciences

Low-income households experience disproportionately high rates of obesity, chronic disease and food insecurity and have notably low intakes of fruits and vegetables. Farmers’ market incentive programs that subsidize the cost of fresh produce for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) participants may be one way to improve diets, stretch SNAP benefits and support local farmers; but researchers know little about the utility and cost-effectiveness of such programs. Jennifer Garner is working to fill this knowledge gap by assessing whether fruit and vegetable intake and household food security improve over the course of participation in Double Up Food Bucks, a farmers’ market incentive program in Western New York. She is also analyzing the program’s overall cost-effectiveness.

Special Committee Chair: Rebecca Seguin, Division of Nutritional Sciences, College of Human Ecology

Community Partner: Field & Fork Network



Queer Baby: A Collaborative Multimedia Project with LGBTI Refugees in Turkey

Elif SariGraduate Student: Elif Sari, anthropology

Due to the discrimination and the abuse they experience in Iran, many lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) individuals flee their home country and arrive in Turkey. Elif Sari is examining the practices and processes of LGBTI asylum as well as refugees’ experiences in Turkey. In a yearlong collaborative multimedia project with community partners and the Iranian LGBTI refugee community in Denizli, Sari is producing and disseminating different artistic media — including podcasts, video and photo installations, and a film title “Queer Baby” — that explore the subtleties of being an LGBTI refugee in a transition country like Turkey.

Special Committee Chair: Saida Hodžić, Department of Anthropology, College of Arts and Sciences

Community Partners: Iranian LGBTI Refugees Group (Turkey), Pink Life QueerFest (Turkey)



Restoring the Place of Nut Trees in Haudenosaunee Foodscapes

Graduate Student: Sam Bosco, School of Integrative Plant Science – Horticulture

Nut trees native to the temperate Northeast are uniquely positioned to contribute to sustainable agriculture — providing economic and nutritional value while promoting soil and water conservation, human and wildlife habitat, and important ecosystem services. They also provided critical sustenance before and during the development of agriculture in pre-colonial North America. Sam Bosco is working with Haudenosaunee (People of the Longhouse, aka Iroquois) communities to further remember and restore their tradition foodways — much of which was lost during colonization — of integrating nut trees into a sustainable food system. Bosco’s work includes facilitating nut tree cultivation, and co-developing culturally-specific curricula, resources, and activities to expand interest and consumption of nuts.

Special Committee Chair: Jane Mt. Pleasant, School of Integrative Plant Science – Horticulture, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, and American Indian and Indigenous Studies Program

Community Partners: Tuscarora Nation, Niagara-Wheatfield Middle School



Sports, Memory and Decision Making: A Fuzzy-Trace Theory Approach

Graduate Student: David Garavito, human development

Despite growing concerns about traumatic brain injuries such as concussions, their full effects are still unknown. Researchers also don’t fully understand why many athletes underreport the severity of concussion symptoms. David Garavito is working with community partners to gather data that will help answer these questions and ultimately be used to create educational curricula for sports safety. His research also uses models and theory to examine the effects of concussions and the possible progression of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a neurodegenerative disease linked to repeated concussions, in athletes.

Special Committee Chair: Valerie Reyna, Department of Human Development, College of Human Ecology (See Reyna’s related grant)

Community Partner: Ithaca Youth Bureau



Stakeholder Engagement: Avoiding Catastrophic and Chronic Losses in the NY Hop Industry

Graduate Student: Bill Weldon, School of Integrative Plant Science – Plant Pathology

New York was the center of North American hop production in the early 1900s before fungal epidemics destroyed harvests and the industry moved west. However, the number of New York hop yards has recently exploded thanks to recent growth of the US microbrewing industry and a 2012 law that incentivizes brewers to use hops and barley grown in the state. This has created a community of new growers whose inexperience puts operations at risk for catastrophic and chronic losses in yield. So Bill Weldon is working with these growers to identify information gaps and connect them with experts who can effectively interpret research and communicate best practices for growing hops in New York.

Special Committee Chair: David Gadoury, School of Integrative Plant Science – Plant Pathology and Plant-Microbe Biology, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences

Community Partners: Cornell Cooperative Extension of Monroe County, Northeast Hop Alliance, USDA-ARS Corvallis, Pedersen Farms, Fowler Farms



Yucatec Maya Beekeeping and Sustainable Livelihoods

Ted LawrenceGraduate Student: Ted Lawrence, natural resources

Economic globalization is a pervasive driver of ecological and cultural change worldwide. It shapes the landscapes and livelihoods of even the world’s most remote regions, upsetting traditional patterns of land and natural resource management and creating new challenges for native communities. Ted Lawrence is working with Yucatec Maya communities to reclaim the forgotten skill of native beekeeping as a traditional livelihood and, ultimately, developing ways for the Maya to adapt to economic globalization and build new capacities to conserve biodiversity, traditional livelihoods and their rich cultural heritage.

Special Committee Chair: Rich Stedman and Stephen Morreale , Department of Natural Resources, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences

Community Partner: X-kumil (Mexico)