Riecker Undergraduate Research Fund

Through the Riecker Undergraduate Research Grant, established in 1994 by the late Ranny Riecker, CEW+ provides funds to University of Michigan faculty members engaged in gender-focused research. The intent of this fund is to enable faculty members from any discipline to involve undergraduate U-M students in research projects pertaining to gender.

A faculty member may apply for up to $500 to pay the wages of an undergraduate student as part of their research team. Faculty are eligible to apply for these research funds to support their undergraduate student(s) only once during the course of any academic year.

For questions, please call (734) 764-7640 or email cew-researchgrants@umich.edu.

Dr. Tiffany Marra, Director, CEW+
330 E Liberty St., Ann Arbor, MI 48104-2274
(734) 764-7640

Award Recipients

Congratulations to all who were awarded Riecker Undergraduate Research Grants!

Spring 2019:

Terri Conley, Associate Professor, Psychology/Women’s Studies – Gender Differences in Mutual/Non-Mutual Heterosexual Casual Sex Encounters

Women are thought to enjoy casual sex less than men. In a previous study, women and men were presented with a scenario in which a casual sex partner either reciprocated and gave them an orgasm or left without giving them an orgasm. We found that women and men both thought the non-reciprocal encounter was much less appealing than the reciprocal one, but women still liked the encounter less than men. We seek to replicate this study and unearth other reasons why women may not enjoy the encounter as much as men–considering that women are more stigmatized than men.

Fall 2018:

Pamela Aronson, Professor, Behavioral Sciences, CASL, UM-Dearborn – Gender Revolution in the Trump Era: Transformations in Consciousness and Gender Relations

Since the 2016 election, changes in gender consciousness are rapidly altering gender relations, as women are exposing and challenging gender inequalities in new ways. This project examines the transformation of gender consciousness through a study that focuses on three interlocking areas of social change: the increase of women candidates running for political office in the 2018 election and gender dynamics in the election; the rise of women’s movement activism; and the emergence of new forms of public discourse on sexual assault and harassment (the #MeToo movement). This project utilizes multiple data sources, including social media posts and focus groups.

Shanna Daly, Assistant Professor, Mechanical Engineering, College of Engineering – Exploring gendered cultural beliefs about engineering work and the ways these may inform engineers’ practice of sociotechnical systems thinking

Research suggests a deep technical/social dualism within engineering that maps onto stereotypical perceptions of technical work as masculine and socially-oriented work as feminine. These gendered cultural beliefs about the nature of engineering work and what merits recognition as an engineer may incentivize engineers to practice engineering in a way that is recognized and rewarded within the educational and professional contexts in which they are situated. In this study, we explore how individuals’ experiences within particular engineering educational and professional contexts, as well as the experiences they bring with them into these contexts, shape the way they practice engineering.

Sarah Peitzmeier, Postdoc, School of Nursing – Dept of Health Behavior and Biological Sciences – Health impacts of chest binding

Chest binding involves the compression of chest tissue for masculine gender expression among transgender/non-binary individuals assigned female at birth. We conducted a survey (n=1,800) on binding practices and symptoms experienced as a result of binding. One surprising finding is that commercial binders – widely perceived as “safe” by the community – were associated with negative health outcomes. To explicate this finding, the RA will code open-ended data about which binders were used, and then use a regression model to determine which binder characteristics are most associated with health risks. This information will help community members make informed choices about their binding practices.

Vijay Singh, Adjunct Clinical Assistant Professor of Emergency Medicine, Assistant Professor of Family Medicine and Assistant Professor of Internal Medicine, Medical School – Understanding intimate partner violence identified among male primary care patients

Nearly 1 in 5 men report perpetrating physical intimate partner violence (IPV). Few clinical studies assess IPV among men in primary care settings. The purpose of this study is to understand men’s accounts of talking about, changing, perceived causation for, and treatment received for IPV. Twenty men who disclosed IPV on surveys in family medicine clinic waiting rooms received audio-recorded, phone-based individual semi-structured interviews with open-ended questions describing their IPV incident, if behavior is problematic or changing, speaking to health care providers about or treatment for IPV. Content analysis will identify themes from men’s accounts of their IPV.

Spring/Summer 2018:

Adriene M. Beltz, Assistant Professor, LSA Psychology – The Daily Diary Oral Contraceptive Study

Sex hormones (i.e., androgens and estrogens) are a key biological mechanism underlying gender differences, but it is unclear how they interface with daily, gendered psychosocial experiences. Thus, the goal of this study is to examine how rises and falls in endogenous hormones in naturally cycling women and exogenous hormones in women using combined oral contraceptives are related to gendered affect, cognition, and behavior; men will also be studied. About 150 participants will be enrolled in a 75-day diary study on daily experiences, affect, and cognition. Data will be analyzed using sophisticated, person-specific network models. Data collection is ongoing.

Edward C. Chang, Professor, LSA Psychology – Examining Contingencies of Self-Worth as Mediators of Association Between Self-Esteem and Eating Disturbances in Female College Students

The present study examines the role of contingencies of self-worth as potential mediators of the association between self-esteem and eating disturbances (e.g., drive for thinness, bulimic symptoms) in a large sample of female college students. Findings from past studies have not only highlighted the greater risk of eating disturbances in females, compared to males, but they have also underscored a common association involving low global self-esteem. What is not clear from the latter pattern is the extent to which different facets of self-esteem are involved in accounting for the association between global self-esteem and eating disturbances in females. By being able to identify the specific contingent self-worth dimensions that account for the association between global self-esteem and eating disturbances (viz., drive for thinness & bulimic symptoms), we hope to not only gain a better understanding of the common or distinct paths involved in how self-esteem might ultimately lead to greater risk of different types of eating disturbances, but to also identify ways in which such pathways might represent important points of intervention and prevention in working with females who are at risk for eating disturbances.

Susan Gelman, Professor, LSA Psychology – Communicating gender-nonconformity to children

Can children learn about gender identities through stories? Can this understanding lead to reduced gender essentialism? The books “I am Jazz,” about the social transition of Jazz Jenner, a trans girl, and “Red: A Crayon’s Story,” about a blue crayon who is miscategorized by his red label, are used to explain transgender identities to children. However, we do not know how well they convey their message, and if they change how children view the innateness, discreteness, informativeness and immutability of gender. We hypothesize that children exposed to these books may learn what it means to be transgender and reduce gender essentialism.

Ashley Harrell, Assistant Professor, LSA Organizational Studies – Who Shares? Gender and the Dynamics of Shared Leadership

Traditionally, leadership has been regarded as power and influence centered in a single individual. But leadership is increasingly being conceived as a shared activity, distributed among several group members. At first glance, shared leadership may offer opportunities for diverse individuals to wield influence over their groups. This is critical given that, despite advances toward gender equality in recent years, women remain underrepresented in leadership positions. Our lab will examine the social-psychological processes underlying gender and shared leadership. We consider, with a focus on differences between men and women: Who shares leadership? And with whom? Under what circumstances is shared leadership successful?

Fall/Winter 2017-18:

Terri Conley, Associate Professor, LSA Psychology, Stigmatized Sexualities Lab – Precarious Manhood

The precarious manhood theory posits that men’s masculinity is hard-won and easily lost. Therefore, men must continuously fight to maintain their masculinity and, by extension, their social status. We hypothesize that men who feel threatened in their masculinity are more likely to endorse the sexual double standard (SDS) in comparison to men who have their masculinity affirmed. In this study, participants will engage in a situation where their masculinity is either affirmed or threatened; then, we will measure their endorsement of the SDS. Our results have implications for understanding origins of sexist norms and can help with disrupting these behaviors.

Francine Dolins, Associate Professor, Behavioral Sciences, CASL, UM-Dearborn – Sex Differences in Spatial Cognition of Bonobos and Humans

A comparative study of bonobos and humans, presenting virtual navigation and foraging tasks to test spatial cognitive strategies and sex differences within and across species. These primate species, Pan paniscus and Homo sapiens, share approximately 99% DNA. However, humans are characterized as “male-dominant,” with bonobos as “female-dominant,” thought to reflect ecological and social species differences. Questions are: What spatial+social information forms the basis of intelligent behaviors, and how do males/females approach spatial problem-solving? Using virtual reality (VR), this project aims to understand the diversity of intelligent problem solving and cognitive capabilities. Cross-species approaches, and similarities and differences by species/biological sex, lend insight into the effects of ecological and social niches on primate cognitive abilities.

Nesha Haniff, Lecturer, Dept. Afroamerican and African Studies and Women’s Studies – The Gender Consciousness Project

The Gender Consciousness Project (GCP) is a grassroots program that builds awareness of the complexities of gender discrimination faced by young women simply because they are female. By understanding the societal forces that shape them, we build their agency to create a foundation for the struggle against injustices that they will face. Utilizing the principle of consciousness raising — that women themselves must understand their own oppression and, more importantly, how they themselves participate in their own oppression — the GCP engages high school girls in conceptualizing how gender, with other identities, impacts various facets of their lives. There are speeches, posters, tweets, etc. about gender injustice; however, the front line’s work to educate women to see these injustices is episodic and thin. This is a commitment to make women’s injustice the work of women themselves (starting as early as possible), who must develop and articulate agency through small and labor-intensive work. The communities on which the GCP focuses are girls of color who are in struggling communities or religious and ethnic minorities. Putting girls who experience innumerable discriminations in the world at the center of the project is critical. We grow the consciousness of each group to facilitate those who will struggle for their own communities, and from where leaders will emerge.

Annette Joseph-Gabriel, Assistant Professor, Romance Languages and Literatures – Mapping Marronage: Visualizing Trans-Atlantic Networks of Freedom

The data plotted on Mapping Marrongage, the interactive digital map, is mined from slave narratives, letters, and manumission documents. Each enslaved person’s network of movement and exchange is shown through a series of points and lines; points of origin and departure that correspond to coerced movement, voluntary travel, correspondence, and financial remittances. In mapping the wide range of movement through which enslaved people contested their bondage, this project aims to a) foreground the voices of enslaved women whose stories are often marginalized in the male-dominated canon of slave narratives, and b) examine how gender influenced the possibilities of flight and escape from slavery.

Spring/Summer 2017:

Jason Bell, Assistant Professor, Obstetrics and Gynecology – Immune modulation by sex hormones and hormonal contraception during the immune response to Chlamydia trachomatis

Research focuses on the impact of contraception on women’s health: we want to make contraception safer for women. Our lab has shown that baboons with the hormonal IUD have an extended course of C. trachomatis infection, which appears to be due to levonorgestrel acting as an immune modulating agent. C. trachomatis is the most common bacterial STI in the world, affecting between 2.4-6.9% of women around the world at any given time. Untreated C. trachomatis infection can cause pelvic inflammatory disease, tubal scarring, and infertility. This work is of vital importance to global women’s health: as use of the hormonal IUD is increasing in populations at high risk for STIs, and potentially in populations with little access to STI screening, we need to understand the immune modulation by levonorgestrel in order to communicate risks of this extremely effective LARC to women. This funding will expose our undergraduate research fellow, who already has a focus on public health work and women’s health, to the intersection of basic science research and global women’s health.

Kristen Harrison, Professor, Department of Communication Studies; Director of the Media Psychology Program, Institute for Social Research (ISR): Comm 404.102 Group Research Projects

Students will design and execute team research projects as part of the coursework for Gender, Media & Marketing. Students brainstormed topics and self-selected into research teams based on a research topic of their choosing. Each of these projects is based on an area of research relevant to the course. This hands-on experience will encourage students to engage more deeply with the course readings while also developing their skills as researchers and critical scholars.

Alexandra Minna Stern, Professor, American Culture and History (budgeted); courtesy appointments in Women’s Studies and ObGyn – Gender and Psychiatry in California’s Eugenic Sterilization Program, 1920-1960

This project examines both the experiences of women sterilized at state psychiatric hospitals in California in the 20th century, and how psychiatric conditions and labels were gendered. Preliminary research demonstrates that women were more likely to be diagnosed as manic depressive than men, and suggests that in general diagnoses were shaped by age, race, class, and other social variables. Kayla Kingston will work with me to expand our understanding of the dynamics of gender and psychiatry in the state’s eugenics program, which resulted in the involuntary sterilization of more than 20,000 people (and about 11,000 women). This research will be incorporated into a digital archive, co-authored publications, and Kayla’s honors thesis.

Fall/Winter 2016-17:

Francine Banner, Associate Professor, Associate Professor:  Playing the Rape Card: Sexual Assault on Social Media 

This research project focuses particularly on the ways the internet, although it offers the capacity for mass organization to further social justice, often functions as a site of exclusion rather than liberation. Banner is working on a book that focuses on social media discussions about alleged victims and alleged perpetrators in recent, highly publicized sexual assault cases. Chapters focus on issues such as cyber bullying and trolling, the impact of rape mythologies on socially mediated discourses, and the reciprocal relationship between online discussions and real-life legal outcomes.

April Bigelow, Clinical Associate Professor, School of Nursing, Department of Health Behavior & Biological Sciences:  Perceptions and Realities in Health Literacy among Detroit’s Chronically Homeless Population

This study will evaluate the perceptions of chronically homeless adults in Detroit, Michigan, and will attempt to evaluate gender differences in perceptions of health, health care access, and the ideas of “self-management” of chronic disease versus “self-medication.”

William Carson, Assistant Professor, Medical School – Pathology: Regulation of immune cell cross-talk by estrogen signaling

Many autoimmune diseases are known to disproportionally affect women, but the molecular mechanisms governing this predisposition remain unknown. Previous research has identified a role for estrogens in the generation of dendritic cells (DCs), which are responsible for initiating immune responses to patient-derived molecular determinants (“antigens”) in autoimmune disease. However, little is understood about the ability of estrogens to promote mature DC functions in adults. Our proposed research will investigate the ability of 17-beta estradiol, the primary female sex hormone, to affect the ability of DCs to promote inflammation and activate other components of the cellular immune system.

Rona Carter, Assistant Professor, Psychology: Family Dyad Study

This project bridges pubertal development with critical developmental tasks (racial and gender identity) amid specific contexts (family) to elucidate whether these processes act in concert to increase (or decrease) the likelihood of psychosocial problems. Puberty is a normative biological transition that happens universally to healthy children. Yet, girls who undergo this transition earlier than their same-age female peers are more likely to experience a range of psychosocial problems, including depression, delinquency, and early sexual behavior. Although researchers have reached a general consensus that early puberty is linked to psychosocial problems in girls, the mechanisms underlying these associations are poorly understood.

Maria Cotera, Associate Professor, American Culture, Latinx Studies, and Women’s Studies:  Chicana Por Mi Raza: Uncovering the Hidden History of Chicana Feminism

Chicana por Mi Raza (CPMR) is a digital humanities project that involves the collection, digitization, and display of archival materials and oral histories related to the development of Chicana Feminist thought and praxis over the long civil rights era. The project proposes both the collection of documents related to this history — photographs, posters, correspondence, written material (both published and unpublished), ephemera — and the development of a flexible web-based user interface that can allow users, both professional and novice, to access these materials through interactive timeline and mapping utilities.

Rafael Meza, Assistant Professor, Epidemiology: Barriers to Cervical Cancer Screening Among Women in Two Semi-Rural Communities in Guatemala

This research project focuses on understanding the barriers and facilitators women face in obtaining screening for cervical cancer in Guatemala. In-depth interviews were conducted with 21 women in Santiago Atitlán and Livingston, Guatemala, using a semi-structured interview guide to explore knowledge about cervical cancer and screening practices. Acceptability of self-screening for HPV as an alternative to cervical cancer screening was also explored. Preliminary analysis suggests that economic restraints, a lack of preventive health-care practices, and stigma around reproductive healthcare present barriers to screening. Relationships with female family members and friends and local health campaigns facilitate care-seeking behaviors among participants.

Michelle Munro-Kramer, Assistant Professor, School of Nursing, Department of Health Behavior and Biological Sciences:  An Interactive Approach to Gender-Based Violence Prevention in Ghana

This study will adapt a pre-existing primary prevention curriculum to be piloted at the University of Cape Coast, with a focus on impacting levels of rape myth acceptance, gender inequality, and victim blaming. After the pilot and feasibility testing, this exciting work has the potential to be delivered to the entire freshman class of the University of Cape Coast (about 6,000 students) and could be utilized by other universities within the country. University of Michigan students will also be utilized to train University of Cape Coast students to deliver the revised curriculum using a training-of-trainers (TOT) model.

Sarah Rominski, Assistant Professor, U-M Medical School, Obstetrics and Gynecology: Addressing Gender-based violence on University Campuses in Ghana and South Africa

A collaborative team made up of researchers from the Universities of Michigan, Cape Coast (Ghana), and Cape Town recently adapted a sexual violence prevention program and are now working to evaluate the program and determine the best way to deliver the curriculum. Gender-based violence (GBV) is the most pervasive human rights violation in the world and preventing it has recently become a priority area on university campuses in Ghana and South Africa. This project evaluates the effectiveness of a primary prevention program for GBV reduction in two Sub-Saharan African countries, Ghana and South Africa.

Mara Ostfeld, Assistant Professor, Political Science: The Content of Your Color: Skin Color Identity and its Determinants

This research project assesses when and why people bias their self-reported skin color. The results will contribute to the burgeoning body of work exploring the relationship between skin color and life experiences by providing (1) original data exploring biases in skin color estimates using both objective and subjective measures; (2) new insights on how gender affects the significance and interpretation of skin color; (3) empirical tests of the psychological mechanisms driving these biases; and (4) analyses of the political symbolism of skin color. The data will be collected by embedding a novel experiment in a survey of 1,500 White, Black, and Latino respondents throughout the Detroit and Chicago metropolitan areas.