UNCW Faculty Members Promote Research By and About Diverse Communities

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Six UNCW faculty members have teamed up to encourage research by diverse groups of students, including racial and ethnic minorities; people with mental, physical or sensory disabilities; LGBTQIA+; military veterans; and first-generation college students.
The Interdisciplinary Minority Student Research Group is a three-year initiative funded through the Office of Applied Learning and started by faculty members Sabrina Cherry, public health; Kris Hohn, Josalin Hunter-Jones and Alicia Sellon, social work; Anka Roberto, nursing; and Addie Sayers China, English.
By the end of year three, the goal is to move from a mentor-led research model to a student-led, faculty-advised initiative that also engages the greater Wilmington community and advances research involving diverse communities.
“As a first-generation college graduate, I feel it is important for students who share my background to receive mentorship, support and opportunities to change the lives of the people in our community,” said Roberto. “IMSRG has already opened doors for students to embark on life-changing research projects that have the potential to have a long-lasting ripple effect.”
IMSRG combines interdisciplinary collaboration, student-engaged research and mentorship, which is important to help students reach their academic potential, Cherry said. Applied learning and community outreach are key components of UNCW’s 2016-21 Strategic Plan.
Team members also are using the initiative to introduce their classes to more inclusive curriculum and research topics, as well as to increase diversity in internship opportunities.
“The university has a mission of diversity, which we hope to match in terms of internships and community outreach,” said Hunter-Jones, who approached her faculty colleagues about establishing the research group. Plans also include open-invitation “brown bag” research presentations, including one held Nov. 13, where faculty mentors and their student research assistants shared their work with a broader UNCW audience.
“Seeing students standing aside a member of the faculty is very meaningful for other students,” Hunter-Jones said.
Students say they benefit from the support of their faculty mentors and their peers.
“I belong in the LBGTQIA+ community, the black community and am also a first-generation college student,” said J.T. Smith ’20, a senior English major. “Thanks to the amazing support I have received from Dr. Sayers China and Dr. Hunter-Jones, I have been able to conduct meaningful research in a space that is not only inclusive of my multiple identities, but also encourages exploration of what makes me who I am.”
-- Tricia Vance