U.Va. Students Receive Backing in Public Service Projects

February 20, 2012 — Helping residents of Southside Virginia lower their utility costs. Improving primary and preventative health care in St. Kitts. Assessing water health in Africa and Guatemala, vocational training in India, and "girlfighting" in Charlottesville city schools. Sustainable schoolyard gardening at Clark Elementary.

These are a sampling of the 14 Jefferson Public Citizen projects that 59 University of Virginia undergraduates will be leading during the 2012-13 academic year, with the guidance of 15 faculty advisers and eight graduate student mentors.

"The JPC applicant pool was competitive this year," said Megan Raymond, director of academic community engagement in the Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost. "The committee was able to fund less than half of the proposals submitted, and the quality of proposals was very high. There were lots of hard decisions to make and we're pleased with the final roster of JPC projects."

This is the fourth year of the Jefferson Pubic Citizens program, which was identified as a priority by the Commission for the Future of the University and approved by the Board of Visitors.

The program is an academic public service program. Undergraduate student teams, drawn from all over the University, develop project proposals, recruit faculty and graduate-student advisers and apply for funding.

A long-term goal of the program is to have faculty courses supported by the program eventually reach hundreds of students across Grounds, Raymond said. "We plan to grow the program by 25 percent each year." To complete the program, students must publish their findings in a journal. The first JPC journal was published last fall.

The six new projects, and their participants, are:

ecoMOD Project/Southside Outreach
Students: Briana Dobbs, Stephen Le, San Thongprasert, Christopher Jones, Kaitlyn Badiato

Faculty adviser: John Quale
Graduate mentor: Michael Britt
Community partner: Southside Outreach Inc.

This team will help Southside Outreach, which provides affordable, safe housing for low- to moderate-income residents of Southside Virginia, improve the energy efficiency of their current homes by designing and implementing a monitoring system and by conducting a post-occupancy evaluation survey of residents. The team will also educate homeowners on ways to decrease their current home energy use by creating a homeowner's manual.

"Southside Outreach is doing important work in Southside Virginia," said John Quale, associate professor of architecture, ecoMOD project director and director of the graduate architecture program. "They offer housing counseling services, as well as housing rehab and ownership opportunities for low-income individuals and families. This interdisciplinary group of students has committed themselves to supporting the efforts of the Southside Outreach team, and to helping them lower utility costs for Southside Outreach homeowners and renters."

Enhancing Primary and Preventative Care Through Increased Utilization of Community Health Centers in St. Kitts and Nevis
Students: Ania Giffin, Suraj Mishra, Grace Ball, Rachael Hanna, Kenny Perez Lorenzo
Faculty adviser: Dr. Marcus Martin
Graduate mentor: Jamela Martin
Community partner: Saint Christopher and Nevis Ministry of Health

Despite an abundance of community health centers in St. Kitts and Nevis, local residents seek high-tech health care, resulting in decreased use of cost-effective health clinics. This team will study the views of patients, health care providers and policymakers in St. Kitts and Nevis regarding the health system through surveys, interviews and focus groups. They anticipate their research will lead to the development of effective methods for enhancing the health care of St. Kitts and Nevis citizens.

"The students will research how health care literacy affects the use of primary care versus specialized care facilities, and how community health centers can understand utilization trends to produce a more effective health care system," said Martin, professor of emergency medicine and U.Va.'s vice president and chief officer for diversity and equity. "Studying how citizens interact with the system may help find windows of opportunity such as 'social marketing' to improve utilization of community health centers, which is an especially important primary care goal for nations with precious little health care funding resources," he said.

The study will also describe the experiences, events and processes of prenatal care in St Kitts and Nevis from the perspective of women, care providers and policymakers, and to assess factors associated with lack of service uptake. The students will disseminate their findings through presentations and publications, Martin said.

Giving Caring Hand a Hand
Students: Dorothy Young, Ithi Joshi, Isabella Artiles, Arjun Chopra
Faculty adviser: Rae Blumberg
Community partner: Caring Hand for Children

The nonprofit Caring Hand for Children operates vocational training programs in low-income neighborhoods of India. This team will evaluate the impact of the organization's programs by assessing the economic and social outcomes. They anticipate their data will benefit the community by promoting greater sustainability for the program and higher employment for the community.

Intimate Partner Violence Assessment and Prevention: A Public Health Approach
Students: Emily Renda, Emma Petkofsky, Jamie Swogger
Faculty adviser: Claire Kaplan
Community partner: Shelter for Help in Emergency

The National Violence Against Women Survey found that 25 percent of women surveyed experienced intimate partner violence such as sexual violence, threats and emotional abuse. This group plans to conduct a mixed-methods research study to examine the attitudes toward, incidence rates of, and risk factors for intimate partner violence among college-age couples. In collaboration with the Shelter for Help in Emergency, they intend to tailor prevention programs based on their findings.

Nutrition and Sustainable Schoolyard Gardening at Clark Elementary School
Students: Marina Freckmann, Achai Patel, Margaret Gelburd
Faculty adviser: Richard Handler
Community partner: Clark Elementary School

This group will implement a schoolyard garden at Clark Elementary School in Charlottesville to enhance its after-school nutritional education program. The group will examine how the garden and the nutrition program can foster a productive dialogue among parents, teachers and students about the fundamentals and accessibility of good nutrition. They anticipate that teaching nutritional education classes while simultaneously creating an educational garden will cultivate a greater understanding of healthy foods and active lifestyles.

You Can't Stop the Beat: Developing Sustainable Research Methods for Music Resource Center
Students: Rebecca Christensen, Allison Cooper, Courtney Fox, William Binion
Faculty advisers: Nancy Deutsch and Valerie Futch
Community partner: Music Resource Center

Charlottesville's Music Resource Center provides school students with an outlet to explore their musical creativity through performance and production. This team will collaborate with the center to research the program's effectiveness. They will use various methods to document the center's work and develop sustainable assessment tools for the future.

"This information will help the MRC to understand its impact on the Charlottesville community as well as to reach out to potential and current funders," explained Nancy Deutsch, associate professor in the Curry School of Education. "Information on outcomes and a sustainable evaluation plan will assist the MRC as it expands into other communities."

Eight Jefferson Public Citizens projects are continuations of past awards. Descriptions can be found on the JPC website.

• Analyzing Energy Saving from LEAP Renovations
• Assessing the Establishment of a Ceramic Water Filter Factory in Limpopo Province, South Africa
• Girlfighting: YWLP Relational Aggression
• GIS Mapping of Water Sanitation and Health Project in Lake Atitlan, Guatemala
• Have a Stake in the Market: Increasing Physical, Cultural and Economic Access to the Market
• Hermana a Hermana
• reCOVER: Water and Health in Limpopo Ceramic Water Filter Factory/Science Resource Center
• Rocket Power: Accessing Energy Poverty in Rural South Africa

— By Rebecca Arrington