Riecker Undergraduate Research Fund Awardees

The Riecker Undergraduate Research Grant, established in 1994 by the late Ranny Riecker, awards funding to U-M faculty members engaged in gender-related research, making it possible for them to include undergraduate students on their research teams. Faculty members may apply for up to $2,000 to pay the wages of an undergraduate student as part of his/her research team.

CEW has awarded Riecker Undergraduate Research Grants to U-M faculty members engaged in gender-focused research. Congratulations to all who were awarded Riecker Undergraduate Research Grant!

Fall/Winter 2016-17:

April Bigelow, Clinical Associate Professor, School of Nursing, Department of Health Behavior & Biological Sciences:  Perceptions and Realties 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, healthcare access, and the ideas of "self-management" of chronic disease versus "self-medication."

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.

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. 

Francine Banner, Associate Professor, Associate Professor:  Playing the Rape Card: Sexual Assault on Social Media This research project focuses particularly on the ways in which, although the internet offers the capacity for mass organization to further social justice, the medium 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. 

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

This research project focused 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 healthcare 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Spring/Summer 2017:

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 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 eugenic 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.

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 tine. 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.

Fall/Winter 2017-18:

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, impact various facets of their lives. There are speeches, posters, tweets, etc. about gender injustice; however, the front lines 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 b) examine how gender influenced the possibilities of flight and escape from slavery.

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”, while bonobos “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, lends insight into the effects of ecological and social niches on primate cognitive abilities.

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.