Collage of Ohio State faculty

Research with community partners to create bold, innovative solutions

Dean Don Pope-Davis has announced the awarding of four of his latest Dean’s “Big Idea II” Research Innovation Challenge Grants to faculty in the college.

Following the first set of awards made in 2020, this second round of “Big Idea” grants provides $100,000 to each recipient for up to two years. The aim is to support innovative strategies to increase healthy living opportunities for children, adults and families.

“Data from our prior seed grant programs shows that our college receives 16 times the return on investment as a result,” Pope-Davis said. “We use this intentional approach for promising projects that create bold solutions with community partners. We foster faculty innovation that addresses a variety of issues, such as reversing health disparities and promoting social justice in our society.”

Faculty compete for these seed grants, knowing the support enhances their ability to apply for major external grants to extend the reach of their innovative solutions. 

“Each of these projects underwent a competitive peer review process,” said Natasha Slesnick, professor and director of the college’s Office of Research, Innovation and Collaboration, “as well as a discussion session to clarify details of the project.”

“The funded studies are especially exciting because they have meaningfully engaged community partners and colleagues across disciplines to address problems that impact our society. It is through collaborative problem-solving that the most creative ideas can be implemented and tested, and I can’t wait to see what they find.”

The college’s seed grants also engage the talent of the college’s postdoctoral researchers and graduate research associates.

The four faculty recipients, who began work on Jan. 1, are in the college’s departments of Educational Studies and Human Sciences.

Reducing Chronic Absenteeism in Columbus City Schools: A School District-University Partnership

Arya Ansari headshotArya Ansari, principal investigator and assistant professor, Department of Human Sciences

This project will evaluate Columbus City School’s attendance improvement strategies, which has four foci:

  • Prevention and early intervention aimed at reducing chronic absenteeism among pre-K-12 students
  • Assessing the root causes of chronic absenteeism among pre-K-12 students in Columbus City Schools
  • Identifying potential points of improvement and new promising interventions
  • Evaluating those interventions’ effectiveness in reducing chronic absenteeism among pre-K-12 students in the district

The project’s community partners are Columbus City Schools, with leadership provided by Tyree Pollard, director of attendance, and alumna Dionne Blue, chief equity officer, as well as the Office of the City of Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther.

The project’s three co-principal investigators are:

  • Jay Plasman, assistant professor, Educational Studies
  • Kelly Purtell, associate professor, Human Sciences
  • David Julian, program director of Community Engagement and Evaluation in the college’s Center on Education and Training for Employment

Two of the Dean’s Diversity Postdoctoral Fellows serve on the project:

  • Cyndi Robertson, Human Sciences, and Noemi Linares-Ramirez, Educational Studies

Three doctoral students are engaged in the project:

  • Maria Abdul-Masih, M. Nicole Buckley and Summer Luckey, all in Human Sciences

All Children Deserve Effective Reading Instruction: Effects of Literacy Programs for Students with Developmental Disabilities Who Are Nonverbal

Matthew brock headshotMatthew Brock, principal investigator and associate professor, Educational Studies

This proposal aims to transform our understanding of how best to teach nonverbal students to read by impelling change in early childhood education to ensure equitable literacy opportunities for all children. Specifically, the team will research:

  • The effectiveness of the Early Literary Skills Builder on literacy skills of nonverbal students compared to a control group
  • The effects of Accessible Literacy Learning on literacy skills of nonverbal students compared to another control group

The differences in effects between the two interventions will be examined to determine if individualized adaptations improve the rate of progress in students who demonstrate minimal progress after receiving one of the interventions.

The project will engage with three community partners: Bridgeway Academy, Dublin City Schools and Reynoldsburg City Schools.

The project’s co-principal investigator is:

  • Shayne Piasta, professor, Teaching and Learning

The Dean’s Diversity Postdoctoral Fellow on the project is:

  • Tuba Gezer, Educational Studies

The five doctoral students on the project are:

  • Kate Anderson, Sarah Hudler, Jenna Hurlburt, Sara Martin, Kaitlyn Viera, all in Educational Studies

Understanding the Psychosocial and Behavioral Health Benefits of Providing Culturally informed Services and Housing to Sexual and Gender Diverse Youth Experiencing Homelessness

Allen Mallory headshotAllen Mallory, principal investigator and assistant professor, Human Sciences

This project aims to understand how the various services that are provided affect sexual and gender diverse youth experiencing homelessness at the partnering Kaleidoscope Youth Center in Columbus, Ohio.

The researchers will look specifically at how services help to reduce negative outcomes, such as poor mental health and substance misuse, and increase positive outcomes, including independent housing and psychosocial well-being.

The project’s co-principal investigators are:

  • Lauren McInroy, assistant professor, Ohio State’s College of Social Work
  • Mollie V. Blackburn, professor, Teaching and Learning

The project includes Dean’s Diversity Postdoctoral Fellow:

  • Leslie K. Morrow in the college’s Office of Equity, Diversity and Global Engagement

Protecting the Brain from Toxic Side Effects of Chemotherapy: A Pilot Study of A MIND Diet Intervention in Women Undergoing Active Treatment for Breast Cancer

Tonya OrchardTonya Orchard, principal investigator and associate professor of Human Sciences

This project aims to evaluate the efficacy of a remotely delivered, highly accessible, 12-week Mediterranean Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay (MIND) diet vs. the General Health Curriculum as a control to reduce cancer-related cognitive impairment symptoms in diverse women newly diagnosed with invasive breast cancer and starting systemic therapies.

It also aims to evaluate the sustainability of dietary changes and outcome measures six months after then participate in the intervention.

One community partner is Lesley Glenn, CEO of ProjectLife MBC, a virtual support platform for those living with metastatic breast cancer and their loved ones.

The other community partner is Mita Patel, MD, director of the Breast Cancer Program at Mercy Regional Medical Center in Lorain, Ohio.

The co-principal investigators on the project, both within the college and in other Ohio State units, are:

  • Brian Focht, professor, Human Sciences
  • Irene Hatsu, associate professor, Human Sciences
  • Darrin Aase, clinical associate professor, College of Medicine, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Health
  • Bridget Oppong, MD, The Ohio State University James Comprehensive Cancer Center, Division of Surgical Oncology
  • Patrick Schnell, assistant professor, College of Public Health, Division of Biostatistics
  • Nicole Williams, MD, The Ohio State University James Comprehensive Cancer Center, Division of Medical Oncology

The Dean’s Diversity Postdoctoral Fellow on the project is:

  • John Paul Anders, Human Sciences

A key staff member on the project is Kellie Weinhold, research coordinator of Tonya Orchard’s research laboratory.

The doctoral student on the project is:

  • Zihan Zhang, Human Sciences, and also a member of the Orchard Lab.

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