Sean Corp, Content Strategist (@sean_corp); Elyse Aurbach, PhD, Public Engagement Lead (@ElyseTheGeek), Ellen Kuhn, Public Engagement Specialist

Projects focused on the impacts of COVID-19 on Washtenaw County, the housing crisis exacerbated by the pandemic, and an examination of the response and support of a sexual assault survivor within the Muslim community are being funded as part of the University of Michigan’s Public Engagement Faculty Fellowship.

The Center for Academic Innovation created the fellowship program to support faculty engagement with different publics and build enhanced capacity and support within the university. The projects will receive up to $10,000 in financial and in-kind support from the center and other campus partners.

Ellen Kuhn

“These projects represent how public engagement can come in lots of different forms. Fundamentally, however, these projects all rest on building strong, equitable relationships with people outside the university,” said Ellen Kuhn, public engagement specialist at the center.

Learn More | Public Engagement Faculty Fellowship

Faculty moving forward with these projects have already gone through an initial intensive public engagement training within the fellowship. Fellows attended workshops, networked with others, and received mentorship.

The Public Engagement Faculty Fellowship launched in 2020 with 15 fellows and mentor fellows. Three projects proposed by the 2020 cohort have been approved for support. The next cohort will be announced in Spring 2021.

Elyse Aurbach
Elyse Aurbach

“We’re so excited to launch these three unique projects examining important issues. We will support our faculty partners in this phase of the Public Engagement Faculty Fellowship, and aim to support a wide range of experiments in different forms of public engagement,” said Elyse Aurbach, public engagement lead at the center.


Voices from Washtenaw

Faculty Lead: Holly Jarman, Assistant Professor of Health Management and Policy, School of Public Health

The COVID-19 pandemic is a multivalent crisis that is changing how we live and interact. But while epidemiologic and demographic data are essential for understanding the pandemic, quantitative data alone do not provide a coherent picture of its effects. Many problems caused by the spread of disease and / or related policies are hard to measure with quantitative data. Nor do our quantitative measures necessarily lead to the identification of better ways to respond to this crisis and the next. Understanding how and why the pandemic is disproportionately affecting some people in America over others and how this plays out within different communities requires community-engaged research that draws from first hand accounts and experiences.

Voices from Washtenaw is a community-engaged storytelling project that aims to gather and share the health experiences of people in Washtenaw County as they relate to the COVID-19 pandemic. We are aiming to explore local perspectives on the problems that pandemic is causing and the solutions that it is catalyzing, communicate those perspectives to the public and to policymakers, and leave teaching and learning tools in the hands of the community that can be used to continue the work once the project is over.

Holly Jarman
Holly Jarman

“This project is important because the health policies that we get can really depend on whose experiences are in the spotlight. I want to explore the ways in which stories and statistics can come together to influence policy choices and promote a better understanding of how people are experiencing the pandemic.” – Holly Jarman, Assistant Professor of Health Management and Policy, School of Public Health


Case Study on Muslim Religious Leadership #metoo Responses

Faculty Lead: Nancy Khalil, Assistant Professor of American Culture, LSA

In the Fall of 2018, during the Kavanaugh hearing, a Muslim rape survivor disclosed online her disappointing experience seeking help from her mosque when she came forward about her sexual assault. Many people from her city knew the abuser and were affiliated with the implicated mosque causing a loud controversy in their community. A community organization, Facing Abuse in Community Environments (FACE) was called in to help facilitate conversations on community responses, and, with the consent of the survivor, launched an investigation into what happened regarding her disclosure.

In partnership with FACE, this project aims to produce a case study which compiles and analyzes data captured during and after the investigation. It will shed light on the immediate aftermath of the survivor’s sexual assault disclosure to mosque representatives, her public disclosure one year later, the subsequent community response, restorative techniques and safeguards employed, unanticipated outcomes, victim impact, and finally current community mechanisms in place. This case study will contribute to both the scholarly literature and help to address a professional development gap US Muslim religious leaders contend with in the absence of an authoritative central authority. It will also provide a learning tool to offer knowledge and skills in a sensitive area that benefits not only the leaders, but also the congregants they lead and serve, rooted in legal, mental health, religious, and community health perspectives.

Alia Salem
Alia Salem

“FACE is beyond thrilled for our important case-study to be awarded the platform it deserves and to be curated and used as an incredible teaching tool in support of communities for years to come. The existence of this type of research is painfully scarce, especially in a teachable format. When it does exist it, more often than not, is relegated to an obscure corner of an academic repository that is all but inaccessible to those on the ground doing the work. Dr. Nancy Khalil, however, not only believed in our vision to help this work see the light of day, but made the case to others on our behalf and recruited the University of Michigan to invest in making this vision a reality. We owe her and the University of Michigan a debt of gratitude for embarking on this journey and making it possible for the outcry of a survivor to teach a nation.” — Alia Salem, Founder and Executive Director of FACE

Nancy Khalil
Nancy Khalil

“As a scholar with a deep interest in community work and bridging academia and public engagement, I am tremendously grateful for the resources, individuals, and community the Public Engagement Faculty Fellowship afforded me towards that pursuit. PEFF was not just a summer fellowship, but a platform and network to support and further normalize hopefully a career’s worth of scholarship that is both intellectually rigorous and community-minded. There is so much to be gained in the humanities from resources like PEFF. I look forward to it becoming the academic norm, instead of the exception to it.” — Nancy Khalil, Assistant Professor of American Culture, LSA


Blueprints for the University of Michigan Housing Policy and Research Center

Faculty Lead: Roshanak Mehdipanah, Assistant Professor of Health Behavior and Health Education, School of Public Health

The U.S. has a chronic shortage of adequate, safe, and affordable housing, and COVID-19 has exacerbated the situation. With renowned researchers across campus working on different housing issues, strong partnerships with the housing community, and local to national policy influence, the University of Michigan is well positioned to become a leader in housing research and policy in the Midwest region. Establishing a center would leverage knowledge across disciplines, raise awareness, and provide resources to address emerging housing issues and their intersections with health, race, socio-economic status and other factors.

This project aims to support the development phase and lay the groundwork for future funding requests, relying on an interdisciplinary approach and strong partnerships with community and housing organizations across the region. Ultimately the center’s goal will be to fill important research gaps, provide public resources on prominent housing issues, partner with communities and non-profit organizations to address housing issues, and translate research evidence into housing policy recommendations from local to national levels.

Roshanak Mehdipanah
Roshanak Mehdipanah

“Housing is central to people’s health, social and economic well-being. The vision for this center is to become an established leader in housing research and policy in the Midwest region with the goal of reducing housing inequities.” – Roshanak Mehdipanah, Assistant Professor of Health Behavior and Health Education, School of Public Health