Emerging Scholars Fellowship

2017 Emerging Scholars Wrap Up

Congratulations to the 2017 cohort of the Emerging Scholars Fellowship!

After an incredible semester of hard work, the 2017 cohort of Emerging Scholars Fellows made some impressive contributions to the field of behavioral health. Each scholar worked incredibly hard alongside their campus advisor and program mentor, and came out with insightful findings and discoveries. To read more about the scholars’ phenomenal work, you can explore the compiled report of their findings linked to the image below, or read on for a quick summary.


Alex Budenz’s project examined Twitter communication about mental health/illness, comparing conversation about one highly stigmatized condition to the wider conversation about mental health/illness. Her study supported the practical application of social media data in studying attitudes towards mental health/illness in the current media structure, which relates to public opinion, clinical indicators, and policy decisions. The sheer volume of posts over a combined, six-day period (N=1,270,902) demonstrated that conversations about mental health and mental illness are prevalent on twitter. The abundance of MH/MI posts speaks to the fact that these terms refer to the entire spectrum of mental health and mental illness, while bipolar disorder refers to a specific mental health condition.

Katherine Nieweglowski focused her project on the trigger warning debate that has recently been highlighted in public arenas such as college/university campuses and public media outlets. Given that there is little research into the topic at this point and discussions are often informed almost entirely by one’s own opinions, Katherine chose to investigate both sides of the debate with the aim of creating a tool to help people discuss and explore the issue further on their own campuses and in their own communities. Katherine’s final project culminated in an informed paper about her findings on each side of the debate, as well as an online tool to help others address the debate in their own personal contexts.

Natalie Oman focused on the mental health needs of sexual assault victims on college campuses and the mental health services provided by college campus first responders. It was a supplemental project to support the UC Center of Expertise on Women’s Health, Gender and Empowerment and their signature project focused on sexual violence on University of California (UC) campuses. Sexual assault can result in serious short term and long term mental health problems which can include shock, fear, anxiety, depression, and PTSD. Natalie’s project contributed a mental health component to the signature project, which will deepen understanding of current mental health needs and university accomplishments to this point.

Khushbu Patel’s project used semi-structured interviews to explore the personal narratives of South Asian young adults around mental health experiences. In particular, her project sought to understand how these individuals define mental health/well-being, if and how they seek support, and what their family dynamics and processes look like. From this rich narrative data, Khushbu explored critical emerging themes (e.g. parental enmeshment, suicide) and drafted short, creative writing pieces to correspond with each. From here,her project will work towards a longer fictional narrative that derives from the themes she discovered. Her project aimed/aims to cut through the stigma and openly explore stories, ultimately disseminating the data through creative writing in order to provide an accessible form of exchange for young audiences.

Alyse Ruriani explored the intersection of creative processes and self-help through the creation of a visual journal/workbook. Recently there has been an expanding genre of self-help books, specifically ones of a creative nature or set up as a guided journal. However, many of the books in this genre lack the clinical backing and research that is behind a typical self-help book or workbook. Because of this, the books that are more “fun” are less effective, and books that aren’t necessarily fun are the ones that would probably help more. The book she created, What Now? A Creative Workbook Journal Thing, aims to fill this gap. It is comprised of creative prompts based on current therapeutic theories, such as Dialectical Behavior Therapy and art therapy. Her goal with this book is to help young adults improve emotional regulation, build resilience, and increase (and destigmatize) help-seeking.

Nate Sawyer’s project focused on the investigation, and artistic presentation, of student oral histories of mental health experiences at Emory University. He used qualitative methods to understand student mental health experiences on his campus to inform content for a university-wide Mental Health Arts Showcase titled “Mental Health and, well, Being at Emory.” The showcase was a collaborative production featuring students who wished to elevate their voices, speak or perform about their experiences, and help illuminate some of the gaps in university mental health support.

Interested in becoming an Emerging Scholar? Our Call for Proposals for the 2018 cohort of fellows will open on October 16. In the meantime, you can learn more on the Emerging Scholars Fellowship website or by emailing Emily Armstrong, Program Manager, at emily@activeminds.org.