Masters Student, Global Health
Lacey Ahern, Faculty Mentor
Strengthening Palliative Care Surveillance and Service Provision in Uganda using an mHealth platform: Katie will be completing her fellowship in Uganda working with Palliative Care Association of Uganda. Uganda is a leader in palliative care services in Africa, but seeks to establish a consistent data collection mechanism for palliative care services across the whole country. Katie will be working with a team at PCAU to scale up a pilot mHealth palliative care surveillance system. The use of smartphones will enable simple data collection through a survey about the palliative care services at 10 health facilities throughout Uganda. Katie will be testing if the application collects quality data and is acceptable to healthcare providers. She will also analyze data that the surveillance system collects to identify gaps in palliative care or areas for further investigation through quantitative means and GIS mapping. A deeper understanding will be obtained through qualitative interviews. This research will allow PCAU to expand the palliative care surveillance system for a more complete understanding of the state of palliative care needs and services in Uganda and enable efficient data dissemination to enable evidence-based decisions.
Masters Student, Peace Studies
Gerard Powers, Faculty Mentor
Bridge Mindanao Peace and Reconciliation Program: Katie will be partnering with Catholic Relief Services (CRS) as they implement Bridging Relationships through Interreligious Dialogue in Mindanao (BRIDGE Mindanao). Bridge Mindanao will target key people within Christian, Muslim and Indigenous communities in violence-prone and polarized areas in Mindanao. Respected community leaders are holders of social esteem and mediators of conflict within their spheres of influence, and have great potential to build a culture of peace and reconciliation. BRIDGE Mindanao will facilitate interactions between key leaders and their affiliated groups who can most directly and positively contribute to peacebuilding efforts and a peaceful political transition.Katie’s primary contributions to BRIDGE Mindanao will consist of mapping and profiling dialogue and reconciliation efforts and interreligious networks and groups in Muslim and Christian communities. Katie will also be documenting success stories and good practices of reconciliation in these communities. Katie will use learning documentation practice to collect findings and produce a peacebuilding assessment for CRS and local partner organizations. Katie is especially interested in BRIDGE Mindanao because it allows her to examine how key leaders in Muslim, Christian and Indigenous communities utilize their role in civil society to engage communities throughout the peace process, and ultimately impact the development and sustainability of peace.
Masters Student, Education
Erin Wibbens, Faculty Mentor
Educational Innovation Lab School: Kelsie, a Master of Education student with the Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE) Teaching Fellows program, will be working in partnership with ACE Haiti and the Basil Moreau School in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Kelsie will study the impact of a community literacy intervention on the reading development of students in the primary grades. Research shows that 49% of Haitian students are unable to read a single word by the time they enter third grade. While ACE Haiti has made gains in improving the literacy skills of students through in-school interventions, a question remains: how can the organization utilize communities and families to promote the literacy skills of student in under-resourced schools? The context of schooling matters, so efforts should include that context. Kelsie will assist in implementing a pilot intervention consisting of volunteer-driven after-school reading camps targeting the lowest performing students through a structured curriculum. Her research will evaluate the effectiveness of a school-based literacy intervention plus community mobilization and monitoring leading to after-school reading camps, with the goal to implement the intervention at scale in the summer of 2017.
Post Doctoral Fellow, English/Learning Analytics
G. Alex Ambrose, Faculty Mentor
Smarter Education Initiative: John Dillon is a Learning Analytics and Text Mining Postdoctoral Research Fellow. For his fellowship, he will be working on a USAID-IBM research project that focuses on the importance of affect in online learning platforms, namely Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). How do we describe, predict, and intervene based on student emotion in online learning environments such as those provided by edX, Coursera, and Udacity? If, for instance, we detect that a student is bored or frustrated, how do we use data-driven interventions and learning personalization to promote positive learning emotions? The payoff is a richer, personalized learning experience at scale. This benefits those students who depend on open and online learning. This project constellates data and learning scientists from the University of Notre Dame, specifically, from the Kaneb Center for Teaching and Learning, the Office of Digital Learning, iCeNSA, and the University Writing Center. Furthermore, it builds from a valuable research and development collaboration between Notre Dame and the Smarter Education Team at IBM Research, Bangalore, India. By bringing together the computing and analytic power of IBM Research with data and learning scientists at IBM Smarter Education and Notre Dame, we are improving learning at scale.
PhD Student, Peace Studies and Theology
Todd Whitmore, Faculty Mentor
Theology, Peacebuilding and Reconciliation: The Government of Colombia (GOC) and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia have invested more than four years in formal negotiations to arrive at agreements on issues ranging from victims to land. Yet the GOC's promise of a "post-conflict" Colombia remains distant. The peace process is challenged by counterforces: eruptions of violence and setbacks in discussions are inevitable in the final phases of the formal dialogues, just as outbreaks of violence and setbacks in implementations are inevitable in a (likely) post-accord Colombia. Geographically focused in Bogota and outlying regions on the northern coast, this project examines moral visions embedded in particular communities as resources to withstand what is to come and avoid renewed war. It focuses on moral communities that give primacy to collective ontology. Janna will explore the role the particular moral visions that enabled transitions from violence to peace in the height of the war have in cultivating a favorable environment for transitions from more violence to less violence in a period of accord deliberation and (possible but unconfirmed) implementation. This research builds on research Janna carried out in 2001-2004; 2006-2009. She is pleased to join the conflict and reconciliation research group of Javeriana University's theology department as she continues with her research trajectory.
PhD Student, Anthropology and Peace Studies
Catherine Bolten, Faculty Mentor
The participation of Youth in Social Movements and Peacebuilding in zones of conflict in Colombia: From Kiev to Cairo to Ferguson, the world has witnessed the ways in which youth fundamentally influence social change; yet, little is known about what motivates youth to participate in peace activism while still living in settings of social unrest. As a USAID Fellow, Angela will conduct ethnographic fieldwork in the Alta Montaña del Carmen de Bolívar, Colombia. The Alta Montaña del Carmen de Bolívar exemplifies the consequences of armed conflict in Colombia, where the presence of multiple armed factions led to repeated massacres, resulting in the displacement of entire communities. The Youth Provokers for Peace Movement (YPPM) emerged as the youth wing of the Peaceful Movement of the Alta Montaña in response to past and continued violence. Today, YPPM is at the forefront of reweaving the social fabric of their community. While research demonstrates that youth are frequently recruited into militant extremism, less is known about why and how they actively build peace. How do youth explain their engagement in peace activism in contexts of open violence and repression? Colombia is on the cusp of signing a peace accord to end over 50 years of war. The high recruitment of young people to violent conflict makes youth, in particular, a critical variable for lasting peace. Research demonstrates that youth participation in community-based peacebuilding efforts is central to ensuring sustainable peace in the aftermath of war (McEvoy-Levy 2006). The impending peace agreement situates this study in an unprecedented historical and political moment in Colombia, making this an ideal time and place to analyze the role of youth in peace. This project will provide more in depth research on the core conditions and motivations that lead youth to engage in peacebuilding in northern Colombia, articulating when, how, and why they succeed. The findings will provide insight into policies and practices that foster more resilient and just societies through sustainable peacebuilding.
PhD Student, Peace Studies and Sociology
Erin Metc McDonnell, Faculty Mentor
Safer Municipalities Project: Monitoring and Evaluation Technical Assistance: Leslie, a PhD student in Sociology and Peace Studies, will be working with the Monitoring and Evaluation Unit of the Honduran Fund for Social Development (FHIS) to research the impacts of a large, multi-site violence prevention project. Many Honduran cities currently suffer from high rates of crime and violence due to poverty, gang activity, and long-term state neglect. Yet these dynamics are sensitive to public investments like those being carried out by FHIS. Leslie’s goal is to track change processes in several urban neighborhoods, document project impacts, and systematize lessons learned. This builds on the preliminary research carried out by Leslie in July / August 2015 and will strengthen her ongoing collaboration with FHIS.
International Development Fellow, Kellogg Institute for International Studies
Steve Reifenberg, Faculty Mentor
M&E of Development in an Emergency Context in Central Equatoria, Eastern Equatoria and Lakes State for AVSI South Sudan: AVSI-South Sudan currently faces organizational and contextual constraints on monitoring and evaluation (M&E), including limited knowledge sharing within the organization and the second and third order effects of civil war, such as high inflation, population displacement, and intermittent violence. If AVSI-South Sudan is to improve upon the efficacy of its project implementation, it will require M&E adjustments commensurate with its resources and operational environment. In July of 2013, AVSI-South Sudan was awarded a grant from the Health Pooled Fund in order to partner with the local government of Ikotos County, Eastern Equatoria State, South Sudan, to provide basic health services across the county. AVSI’s initial implementation of the project went poorly and recurring issues proved difficult to resolve and numerous indicators went unmet. While AVSI caught up significantly in nearly all indicators, issues endured. In particular, staffing, funding, and geographic constraints appear to have limited M&E efforts throughout the project and no post-project evaluation was currently planned. AVSI-South Sudan requires a deeper understanding of what specifically happened throughout the project’s implementation. More generally, M&E reforms are needed for future projects. The overarching goal of this fellowship is to provide recommendations for M&E reforms which reflect AVSI-South Sudan’s constraints. These will be informed by a case study of AVSI-South Sudan’s implementation and monitoring of the HPF project. These recommendations are intended to be applicable to not only another HPF health services project cycle in Ikotos County, but also to other projects within and without the health sector in South Sudan.
Masters Student, Global Health
John Grieco, Faculty Mentor
Use of Genetically Modified Mosquitoes for Dengue Control in Mexico: Working in conjunction with the Centro Regional de Investigación en Salud Pública in Tapachula, Chiapas, México, John is evaluating the efficacy of a novel strategy using genetically modified mosquitoes to combat dengue. The increasing burden of dengue, lack of an effective vaccine, and relative failure of traditional mosquito control programs highlight the need to develop new control methods. A genetically engineered strain of Aedes aegypti, the primary mosquito responsible for dengue, is currently in open-field trials. The concept is simple; the genetically modified male mosquitoes are released in order to mate with wild females. All offspring of such matings die due to the passing of a lethal gene. Continual releases of sufficient numbers of the genetically modified male mosquitoes will reduce the wild population to below the level needed to transmit disease. John will also survey local healthcare professionals to gain a better understanding on the current knowledge, acceptance, and perceptions related to the use of genetically modified mosquitoes. Based on this research, future studies can develop “custom-fit” frameworks to addressing these issues upon implementation. This research could help introduce a new strategy capable of greatly reducing the burden of dengue and other mosquito-borne diseases.
PhD Student, Political Science
Gary Goertz, Faculty Mentor
Analyzing sub-national variation in state capacity in El Salvador: Sarah’s research focuses on the causes of state building in post-civil war environments. She seeks to understand how the legacy of recent internal armed conflict affects the subsequent capacity of state institutions to provide public health care and education, and to effectively respond to crime and violence. As a USAID fellow in San Salvador, El Salvador, Sarah will partner with Glasswing International, a non-profit organization that aims to prevent youth from participating in gangs and violence by empowering communities and investing in existing public infrastructure. While conducting her research, Sarah will also be working with Glasswing to improve qualitative and quantitative evaluations of their community programs, and training Glasswing employees to use qualitative research methods.
Masters Student, Peace Studies
Aysegul Keskin Zeren, Faculty Mentor
Reflection Circles as a tool for Building Community with Sarus Exchange Program: Karen, a master’s student with the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies, will be working in partnership with the Sarus Bangladesh-Myanmar Exchange Program. This program aims to dispel stereotypes and build mutual understanding between young women leaders from the two neighboring countries. Recent years have seen a dramatic increase in inter-religious conflict in the region. The program is designed to provide a space for participants to explore issues pertaining to cultural identity, gender equality, and social justice with their peers during collaborative summer internships in each country. Karen will be conducting research on the process and effects of Talking Circles. These are facilitated discussions based on restorative practices which will be held frequently throughout the program. Her research methods will include semi-structured interviews, surveys, and ethnographic participant observation. Karen’s research will culminate in recommendations for future Sarus exchanges, as well as a final report on the efficacy of restorative practices within inter-group peacebuilding programming.
PhD Student, Theology
Gabriel Said Reynolds, Faculty Mentor
The state, communal boundaries, and religious violence: Mourad’s research project focuses on contemporary Christian-Muslim relations in the Middle East. Specifically, his research examines the various dynamics producing and circumscribing ethno-religious boundaries between the various Christian and Muslim groups in the Middle East, the totality of which configure the region as a sectarian milieu in which systemic violence is instrumental in perpetuating the ongoing sectarianism. Given that violence perpetuates an inherently unstable system that is constantly at risk of implosion, Mourad’s research proposes the democratization of foundational communal narratives as key to thwarting communal violence through the permanent dislocation of centers of meaning among the members of this community, and thus shifting their role from guardians of communal boundaries on the periphery to active stakeholders. In collaboration with a team of researchers at the Afro-Middle East Centre in Johannesburg, South Africa, Mourad will add an important comparative outlook to his research, primarily through engaging the experience of Christian and Muslim groups in minority settings in Sub-Saharan Africa in general, and South Africa in particular.
Hesburgh-Yusko Scholar, Computer Science
Joseph Buttigieg, Faculty Mentor
Exploring Mobile Technologies and Applications to Advance Development Objectives: Maggie Thomann, an undergraduate sophomore computer science major and a Hesburgh-Yusko scholar, will be working with the Reach Trust in Stellenbosch, South Africa this summer. The Reach Trust produces mobile applications that focus on supporting low-income communities through health and education resources via feature phones (non-smart phones). Maggie's research is geared toward enhancing the gathering of data from the Reach Trust's existing mobile applications as well as looking into developing new applications that specifically promote stronger STEM education. She will work closely alongside the Reach Trust's programming team to implement intelligent education applications that offer a seamless, user-friendly experience in a cost-effective package.