Emerging Scholars Fellowship – Active Minds Blog http://activemindsblog.org Changing the conversation about mental health Mon, 10 Jul 2017 17:03:08 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.7.5 Meet the Scholar http://activemindsblog.org/meet-the-scholar-6/ Thu, 06 Apr 2017 13:51:38 +0000 http://activemindsblog.org/?p=6455 This post was written by Nate Sawyer, one of our 2017 Emerging Scholars. Over the course of the next few months, Nate’s “Dear Emory” project will focus on the investigation, and artistic presentation, of student oral histories of mental health experiences at Emory University. You can read more about his project here

Hi everyone! My name is Nate Sawyer—an interdisciplinary studies major focusing on critical studies of mental illness at Emory University. For a figment of a fragment of a snippet of myself, I imagine these facts will suffice. I grew up in a Taiwanese-Jewish household—a mix of cultures producing a passion for food and family that is truly unparalleled. With the same sense of wanderlust as both my parents had when they were my age, I have spent as much time as possible in my college career abroad. I lived in Shanghai for a semester and spent a summer studying with Tibetan monks living in exile in Dharamsala. Ever since meeting him, His Holiness the Dalai Lama has been a personal hero and inspiration of mine. If you saw me walking on campus, you would probably see me with my headphones in, guaranteed to be listening to some sort of film score on my iPhone. A music composer myself, I genuinely believe that the way that music affects us is magical—and for the wide range of human experiences, mental illness related or not, I find myself returning again and again to music as a bridge that helps communicate the otherwise-unintelligible-through-words parts of life that move me.

These artistic impulses are perhaps what led to the inception of my project. I am primarily interested in building an artistic community at Emory that establishes community-based platforms that give voice to mental illness experiences of college students. I imagine that the network reading this blog post is well aware of the extensive mental health challenges that contemporary students face in today’s college setting. In light of these trends, this project takes to heart the Active Minds’ spirit of elevating student voices to generate performances that speak out against stigma, discrimination, and a larger system of normative structures that marginalizes the experience of mental illness.

For me, this project really began (informally) way back at the beginning of this year where I was asked to help out with a group at Emory called Issues Troupe—a theater troupe consisting of various undergraduate students who develop monologues and various short scenes to highlight the ways that certain identities confront daily realities of social injustice. Honestly, I’m not sure why I agreed: I had never done any theater before and the group performs annually at Orientation and I wasn’t particularly excited about the prospect. Nevertheless, my good friend who was in the group dragged me in and I ended up performing my monologue about my experience with depression in front of Emory’s entire incoming class.

It wasn’t about providing some inspiring story of recovery or hope. Nor did I “feel good” or somehow more whole after doing so. But it was an act of reclaiming my right to my own story—to cut through the representations of mental illness as pathological, as “broken,” as the object of moral fault when all of a sudden you’re not “normal” anymore in a society that doesn’t like it when we misfit. Since then, with the incredible help of other students, we have collectively worked together on an arts collective that we call Emory Dark Arts that focuses on producing performances, exhibits, and platforms whose explicit mission is to help students reclaim their voice (yes, we do use the acronym “DA” for all you Harry Potter fans out there). And through these reclamations of our own stories, I am interested in listening compassionately and deeply to what students have to say about their mental illness experiences at Emory to work towards actively constructing a better system.

Mixed-media dance and spoken word piece opening the Emory AHANA dance showcase. The brilliant choreographers, first-years Charlotte Blumenfeld and Maria McNiece, focused the piece on the interrelated themes of body image, beauty standards, and mental illness.


A group spoken word performance at a campus-wide event called “CultureShock”

This process has been challenging, disruptive, and impactful. No two individuals relate to their experience of illness in the same way, yet each experience that is shared holds immense value for us as listeners and learners, as all of us are working towards challenging stigma and carving out a place of belonging for those of us who have been deemed as “misfitting” or “unfit” to be here. Seeing other students—many who have never taken the stage before—find their voice entirely of their own bravery and volition has been perhaps the most rewarding aspect of this project so far. Together we are finding not some mythical “recovery,” but empowerment. And above all, that none of us have to face these challenges alone.

One student’s photo in the “Dear Emory” photo exhibit that was showcased in the student center


Meet the Scholar http://activemindsblog.org/meet-the-scholar-5/ Tue, 28 Mar 2017 13:29:21 +0000 http://activemindsblog.org/?p=6409 This post was written by Alyse Ruriani, one of our 2017 Emerging Scholars. Over the course of the next few months, Alyse is creating “What Now? A Creative Workbook Journal Thing,” which will be a book featuring creative prompts to help users process and express emotions in a visual, cheeky way. You can read more about her project here

Hi hello! My name is Alyse Ruriani! I’m going to tell you some things about me.

I am a person in recovery

My interest in the mental health field comes from a personal place. I live with mental illness, and through my experiences in treatment and recovery, I realized that with my story came the power to make a difference. I started writing for mental health blogs, such as this one, and The Mighty. I started talking about my experiences and sharing openly and honestly on social media. The response was better than I could have imagined, and being vulnerable in this way has actually supported my recovery in so many ways.

I’m graduating art school in a couple weeks (AHHHHH!!!)

They’re not joking when they say 4 years goes by in the blink of an eye (I’m sorry that pun had to be done). As scary as it is to be graduating college, I’m really excited at the same time. Since we’re complex human beings, I actually feel excited, nervous, afraid, happy, sad, terrified, eager, and many more emotions! It’s a good time. My project as an Emerging Scholar, which is creating a guided journal/creative workbook, is also my degree project as a Graphic Design major at the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore, MD. I’ve been working so hard on this journal, and I can’t wait for it to be in the hands of those who can benefit from it. After I graduate, I am going to work during the summer and then attend a Masters of Art Therapy and Counselling program (hopefully… still working out that $$$$!)

It literally took me 20 minutes to narrow down to 2 GIFs. I’m productive I swear!!! But sometimes, you just need to chill out and
watch a compilation 30 pug videos. Right now, I don’t own a pug, or any dogs at all (SAD) but that is because I don’t believe I have the ability to care for one just yet. Once I’m settled down more, you better believe one of the first things I’m doing is getting a pug! I already get alerts sent to my phone when a pug has been posted for adoption on Petfinder, so I’m preparing. Though I am a dog lover with no dogs, I do have a big black cat named Boo who is basically a dog, in personality and size.

I’m really loud!

Like father like daughter, I am quite the loud talker. I don’t realize the volume of my voice sometimes, though now after 22 years I’ve learned how to be a little softer. I come from a loud, Italian and Irish american family, so we don’t really know how to be quiet. If you want to talk, you’ve got to make your voice louder than the person speaking, or else you’ll never get a chance!

Besides my voice, my personality is also loud. I say how I feel and what I think, and sometimes people don’t like that. It’s something I’m learning to be okay with- because I don’t plan on making myself quieter just so others can like me, when I have plenty of those who DO like me. To help me with this, I’m currently reading I Thought It Was Just Me (but it isn’t): Making the Journey from “What Will People Think?” to “I Am Enough” by Brene Brown. I think it’s so important to stay true to who you are- so if you’re loud, be loud. You don’t need to lower your voice, you just need to learn when to use it.

I absolutely hate doing laundry.

Give me dishes to clean, tables to wipe, or floors to sweep. But please don’t give me laundry. It is the waiting and planning that I hate- I have to pick a time when I will be home for 2+ hours, and sometimes on a hectic schedule, that is hard! I also will sometimes forget that my clothes are in the washer, or when everything is done, I don’t have the energy to put the clothes away so once again they’re on my floor. I know it’s such a small problem and it’s something everyone has to do, but for me it sometimes can feel like a mountain instead of a molehill. It’s things like laundry that will push me over the brink when I’m on the verge of a depressive episode. Sounds dramatic, but it’s the truth! If I let the plates in the sink pile up too much, or my laundry basket get too full, suddenly I feel unable to function and too depressed to clean anything at all. I’ve learned this about myself, so now I try to make sure I don’t let chores get to that point, because I know if I’m already vulnerable to an episode, that some dirty clothes can throw me into a full-blown one. If you struggle with cleaning and chores, I recommend scheduling it like you would anything else. Don’t let yourself just clean when you feel you need to- because that is when it can end up piling. Instead, plan to do laundry every Thursday when you get home from class, or plan to tidy up your room every Saturday afternoon. It may seem tedious, but it can help!

So, there are some things about me! Now I have to go back to regularly scheduled programming of working followed by an existential crisis and a pep talk. Repeat.

And don’t forget to keep following along with me and the other Scholars on the blog!

Meet the Scholar http://activemindsblog.org/meet-the-scholar-4/ Tue, 21 Mar 2017 13:21:55 +0000 http://activemindsblog.org/?p=6393 This post was written by Khushbu Patel, our 2017 Stephen C. Rose Legacy Scholar in the 2017 Emerging Scholars cohort. Over the course of the next few months, Khushbu is focusing her project on employing qualitative methodology to understand how culture influences the way South Asians conceptualize ‘mental health.’ You can read more about her project here

I recently attended a screening of documentary filmmaker Dinesh Sabu’s Unbroken Glass. In 57 minutes of footage, the film traces some devastatingly turbulent and abundantly love-filled stories of his family. In particular Dinesh invites himself, and by extension us, into an intimate portrait of his mother’s entanglement with schizophrenia and the rippling effects on this particular family. It’s a challenge to do justice to an intimate family portrayal in a tiny blog space, but I share this in order to talk about my response to the film. I was a bit paralyzed, honestly.

In my 25 years of exploring the world, I hadn’t encountered a piece of art or storytelling that I could insert myself into in that way. I could feel a similar longing echoing from the audience as well that evening. And in the middle of my swirling thoughts about my research project, my social work world, and my family, I realized this emotional resonance is why I wanted to take on this fellowship in the first place.

I am a (graduating!!!) master’s student of Social Work at the University of Chicago. Though I’ve loved my program, I’m incredibly excited to graduate and dive back into full-time work. Ironically, and with perhaps misguided optimism, I chose to start this research project as a way to shift back into my non-academic life. To get closer to the things that were deeply part of my childhood.

India was a big part of my world, in direct and indirect ways. This photo is either my second or third passport. I got my first one as a months-old baby with my mom holding me up, before I made my first journey overseas and into my grandparent’s palace. I was pretty introverted as a child and spent much of my time pressed into a book. I felt like I could never tire of reading (…and then I came to grad school). When I think back to my favorite stories, the ones I keep on my windowsill to this day for a sense of comfort, these titles are strikingly bare of South Asian origins. And then, why I try to think of the stories that show families like mine – with parallel roots in multiple continents, ones that struggle deeply with mental health and unconditional love, I’m at a loss.

Enter my idea for this project: to listen to as many stories as possible, and then write one myself. Very broadly, my project uses interviews to explore both the idiosyncrasies and themes that shape different South Asian family narratives around mental health. From this richer understanding, I’d like to present the findings and engage a younger generation of South Asian researchers and storytellers as well as social workers who may encounter this population in their work. Then, the writing part of this kicks in. I started this project to make mental health dialogue and support more accessible for families like my own. I want to stay true to this, and like I said earlier, to my younger self who explored the world through the fictional stories on my bookshelf. My aim for the final (long-term) product of this project is to write a fictional novel that dives deep into South Asian characters struggling with mental health. And I want them to be complex, and troubling, and loving, and hopeful, and enduring. Just like my own family.

Though I don’t want to disclose too much here in respect of personal privacy, I don’t hesitate to share that my family, like so so many others, has navigated the unpredictable tides of mental illness. It adds to the already isolating experience when stigma and lack of representation stifle your ability to connect to others. Though I am passionate about direct practice work and hope to build my career in supporting real families, I am just as excited about what can be gained from fiction. I’ve found, at times, that nothing feels as real as what we’re able to step into through words. I’ve already been so humbled by the stories individuals have shared with me through this project, and I hope to offer them a little something in return through this long-term end goal. I thank my participants, this fellowship space, and my family above all, for the chance to do this work. I love sharing ideas and learning from others, so I welcome anyone reaching out if they are so moved to do so!

Meet the Scholar http://activemindsblog.org/meet-the-scholar-3/ Tue, 14 Mar 2017 14:50:19 +0000 http://activemindsblog.org/?p=6366 This post was written by Natalie Oman, one of our 2017 Emerging Scholars. Over the course of the next few months, Natalie is focusing her research on the mental health needs of sexual assault victims on college campuses and the mental health services provided by college campus first responders. You can read more about her project here

Hi everyone!

I’m Natalie, a second year Masters student at UC Berkeley in the School of Public Health. In my free time when I’m not watching public health documentaries, I live for farmers markets and vegetarian cooking, concerts, traveling, and anything with movement, yoga, biking, hiking, and snowboarding are among my favorites!

For undergrad I went to James Madison University in Virginia, near the Active Minds Headquarters! I graduated with B.A. degrees in International Affairs and Psychology and then spent an amazing year in Madrid teaching English before relocating to Seattle, WA. Seattle is where I started my journey of performing public mental health work with children and families at a nonprofit called Childhaven, Seattle Children’s Hospital, and the University of Washington. I also volunteered weekly at the Refugee Women’s Alliance.

At the moment, my main focus of study is maternal and child health, however I’m also interested in underserved populations, immigrant and refugee health, and of course, mental health and trauma.

I also care deeply about global health and over the summer I was fortunate enough to able to combine three of my passions, by working with a large adolescent and caregiver HIV/ARV treatment adherence and mental health study at Groote Schuur Hospital in Cape Town, South Africa. I am continuing to work with the study’s data for my capstone thesis project!

So how did I get involved in my research for the Active Minds project? This past fall I attended a presentation about a new Signature Project by the University of California’s Center of Expertise on Women’s Health, Gender, and Empowerment on Campus Sexual Violence. Naturally, I wondered if there would be a mental health component and I met with one of the director’s Dr. Ndola Prata, to discuss a collaboration project that could contribute a mental health component to the UC CEWHGE signature project.

The topic of campus sexual assault has been getting a lot of media attention lately through documentaries, widely publicized sexual assault trials, and support from public figures. Additionally, in late 2014 President Obama launched the nationwide “It’s On Us” initiative, a campaign aimed at creating awareness of sexual assault on college campuses. Shortly after, a White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault was also created to support college campuses with addressing sexual assault.

The UC Campus system took note of this and in 2014, the University of California Office of the President (UCOP) convened a Task Force on Preventing and Responding to Sexual Violence and Sexual Assault. The Task Force recommended the creation of the  Campus Advocacy Resources and Education (CARE) program. Starting in 2015, CARE advocates were appointed at all 10 UC campuses to provide confidential emotional support and assistance to survivors of sexual violence.

There are many implications of sexual assault, one of these is mental health. Research has shown that sexual assault can result in serious short term and long term mental health problems; including fear, helplessness, rage, anxiety, depression, PTSD, and suicidal ideation.

My research project is focused on the mental health response to sexual assault on campus through the exploration of: mental health policies and procedures, mental health services and resources, and training provided for first responders including campus medical professionals, campus counselors, and campus police departments.

This research will culminate into the following final deliverables: (1) a research informed interview guide to conduct first responder interviews; (2) identification of 25-30 first responders from the UC campus system, (these materials that will be used to support a team member from the UC Center of Expertise WHGE); (3) a research paper draft of findings from the national level and within the UC Berkeley system; and (4) fact sheets for early dissemination of project findings and notification of future goals.

So far, my research has provided a few initial lessons. First off, information about sexual assault on campus at the national level consists mostly of broad sexual assault policies and some training tool kits. Secondly, it has been difficult to find information/data on who is being trained in sexual assault care and even more specifically, who is receiving mental health training. Furthermore, current scientific literature on campus sexual assault focuses on prevention and reporting versus services and training. Lastly, it is encouraging to see that mental health needs are being widely discussed, however there is not a lot of information in the public domain on what is being done.

Despite these difficulties, I believe this is important work and I am up for the challenge! I look forward to sharing my accomplishments in June!

Meet the Scholar http://activemindsblog.org/meet-the-scholar-2/ Wed, 08 Mar 2017 15:35:40 +0000 http://activemindsblog.org/?p=6307 Why is the trigger warning debate important to me?

That’s a good question.

It is not because I have ever needed trigger warnings. Rather, it is because I feel that it is largely a conversation about students, without students.

I first became aware of the controversy when the University of Chicago (UC) released a letter to its incoming class of 2020 stating they do not support “safe spaces” or “so-called trigger warnings.” The letter was going viral on social media, and I was surprised by the number of people that were praising it.

This was during the peak times of the Trump campaign, when everyone was becoming very divided over several topics. However, instead of getting annoyed or angry at these people who were praising UC, I became very curious. Even though I had never really thought about the issue of trigger warnings, I found myself leaning toward the supporting side because, “Of course, I want students with trauma experience to be respected in the classroom.”

Nevertheless, as someone who wants to teach in the future, I found myself understanding many parts of the other side as well. It was during this time that I realized that the gap between supporters and opponents in the debate needed to be bridged. As I began to read more on this topic for the Emerging Scholars Fellowship, I started to realize that many supporters had concerns about implementing trigger warnings, and many opponents could see ways that warnings could be beneficial.

I found that the debate was not so “black and white.” However, I could not find a piece of writing that comprehensively considered the most important viewpoints and offered a way to start a conversation. That is what inspired my project.

I have spent the first two months of the fellowship drafting a paper to bridge the gap on the important questions in the trigger warning debate. The purpose is not to prove that one side is more right or wrong than the other. The purpose is to find a middle ground in the debate to create room for discussion. For example, offering a trigger warning may create a supportive environment for a student with a trauma. However, trigger warnings may also create a false sense of security for that student and instill fear in others.

The rhetoric of the debate right now is not based on facts; it is based on opinions. To bridge the gap, we have to respect each other’s opinions and consider the important issues, which is the education and mental health of all students—with and without trauma. Part of this is considering the stigma associated with seeking mental health services and the lack of access on many university campuses. If students do not have an active voice in the trigger warning debate, then these issues may not be realized.

Now that I have written my first draft of this paper, which largely revolves around opinions of professors and faculty, I want to focus on the active student voice. How can students start a conversation with their professors on the issue of trigger warnings? How can students who need trigger warnings discuss this topic with a professor who does not support them, or does not understand them? These are the conversations for which a self-exploration and discussion tool will come in handy.

For the next steps of my project, I plan to create a web page that will include:

  1. Important points on each side of the debate
  2. Reasons to start the conversation on trigger warnings (e.g. awareness, stigma, need for consistent policies)
  3. Self-exploration tools, or resources, that students can use to decide whether they would like to address the debate on trigger warnings in their school or classroom and what strategies they might take to do so (e.g. who can we talk to? who should be involved? how can we communicate our needs?)
  4. A pledge of commitment to bridge the gap by welcoming everyone’s needs and opinions into the conversation

For anyone who is skeptical about my project, please understand that this is not about proposing a case for mandatory trigger warning policies. This is about helping students who need trigger warnings, or groups of students who support them, to advocate for themselves on campus. It is also a way to respect the concerns of professors regarding academic freedom and job security.

As long as my project allows these students to have a voice, and makes it easier for faculty to listen and understand, I will consider it a success.

What Now? A Creative Workbook Journal Thing http://activemindsblog.org/what-now-a-creative-workbook-journal-thing/ Tue, 28 Feb 2017 17:30:46 +0000 http://activemindsblog.org/?p=6286 Throughout my illness and recovery, I have always been drawn to self-help books. Even when I was in treatment, I was often working through a self-help workbook in between sessions. It was my way really committing myself to recovery — I was doing the work on my own as well as with my therapist.

I remember going to the bookstore and grabbing all the books I was interested in from the self-help and psychology sections and sitting on the ground going through them. Despite the many workbooks I’ve used, I didn’t find any that really clicked with what I was searching for.

As I got further in my recovery, I strayed from the heavy, clinical workbooks to the genre of guided and interactive journals. These were often more creative, based in self-expression and fun to work through. However, I realized that while I loved the voice and approach of these journals, I missed having the clinical and researched aspect. I wanted the journal to be based in something that would help me, not just something that was purely fun or aesthetic.

Finally I decided that since there wasn’t one that filled this gap between clinical and creative, I would make one myself. I proposed “What Now? A Creative Workbook Journal Thing” as my degree project and applied (and was accepted) to be an Active Minds Emerging Scholar to make it a reality.

“What Now?” is a workbook/journal featuring creative prompts to help users process and express emotions in a visual, cheeky way. It’s organized into sections by core emotion. The prompts in the journal draw influence from several existing therapeutic approaches and theories, but mainly from art therapy and the skills and philosophy of dialectical behavior therapy (DBT). DBT is a treatment model that centers around mindfulness, emotional regulation, distress tolerance and interpersonal effectiveness. At its core, DBT is rooted in validation and in the synthesis of acceptance and change, and that theme runs throughout the journal.

While the book isn’t a substitute for treatment, it can be an aid in managing the difficult emotions that may come with a mental health condition. The goal of this journal is to help people — especially young adults — improve emotional regulation, build resilience and increase (and destigmatize) help-seeking.

I hope this book will provide an alternative way of journaling and a more creative approach to a workbook. I want people to be able to work through what life throws at them in a beneficial way, and I believe this will be an invaluable tool for managing mental health.

Meet the Scholar http://activemindsblog.org/meet-the-scholar/ Wed, 22 Feb 2017 13:00:36 +0000 http://activemindsblog.org/?p=6221 This post was written by Alex Budenz, one of our 2017 Emerging Scholars. Over the course of the next few months, Alex is working to quantify the stigma and social support surrounding bipolar disorder on the social media platform, Twitter. You can read more about her project here

Hi everyone! My name is Alex, and I’m a third year doctoral candidate in the Dornsife School of Public Health at Drexel University. My Emerging Scholars Fellowship research focuses on social media communication about mental health conditions (specifically bipolar disorder) and how stigma and social support are carried through social networks. As much as I love research, there are other things that I love and that shape my identity.


First, I have always been passionate about all things art-related. I have played music all of my life, have been a photographer for about 10 years, and am always trying different creative outlets, like painting and graphic design.

I am also a long distance runner and am fascinated by the ways in which running brings together the connection between the mind and the body, allowing us to reason our way in and out of physical pain and endurance. Lastly, one of the things that has always been a trademark of mine is drastic hair changes. I have had bright pink hair, Mohawks, super long, Wednesday Addams hair, and everything in between (though now that I’m teaching and stuff, I’ve had to tone it down just a bit!).


Right now, I’m in full-time research mode. I became interested in my research topic, because, not only is bipolar disorder a deeply personal topic, but because I also have a background in multimedia and have always taken on projects that explore the relationship between media, identities, and mental health. In addition, the idea of using emerging technologies and methods to build up evidence to enact change is something that keeps my energy up every day. I think that my project can make an impact, because mental health is often on the “fringe” of the public health field, is devalued, and is inextricably tied to wider social structures, and it’s time that people who can stand up and advocate for mental health stand up and advocate! Also, I’m lucky that A LOTTTT of people use social media, and so, this is a tool that is widely known, accessible, and ready for us to leverage for good.

My research has gotten mixed reception. In public health, things tend to be very intervention focused and very focused on tried-and-true methodologies that allow us to present to decision-makers and say, “hey! We did this and then this happened, and we can measure it!” However, because I am working with some unconventional methods (Twitter, Instagram), we haven’t exactly figured out the full extent to which these things can be leveraged and how we can use them to enact change. SO, I’ve gotten responses as varied as “wow! I would actually want to read about this, because it’s something I’m familiar with and know how to use!” to “I just don’t believe in this as a viable research method.” This mixed reception has sometimes caused me to doubt myself, because, I’m not going to lie, validation from others feels great. Self-doubt might actually be one of the major setbacks that I’ve faced in this process.

Another one, which I won’t call a “setback” as much as a “challenge that’s taking over my life” is teaching myself machine learning. Machine learning is basically teaching the computer to think the way that you have about a problem, so that you can get it to carry some of your workload, in terms of analyzing the content of things (in this case, Twitter posts). I have hundreds of thousands of tweets on these topics, and I can’t possibly analyze the content of each one! So, machine learning is extremely useful, but very hard to learn for someone with a media/arts/clinical background.

My most important finding (at this early stage) has been that it’s pretty difficult to put objective meaning to social media content. You start out with a bunch of categories to put these tweets in, and these usually come from past works. However, when you actually get into examining these tweets, you find that they can mean ten things at once, and it’s your job to do your best to make meaning, even if it means that you have to choose simpler ways to categorize them. That really sounds abstract, but if you’re interested in that process, go on Twitter, and look at some of these tweets. What do you think they mean? This might be totally different from what someone else thinks they mean! See what I’m saying? That’s what makes this work so interesting-thinking about the ways in which we construct meaning individually and then stepping back and trying to think about it from others’ perspectives. Not only are you coming in contact with others’ thoughts, sentiments, and attitudes. You are also bringing a little bit of yourself to it every time, and so, while it’s important to be thoughtful and to establish some criteria for what things mean, based on what is known, you are a person, and no one knows how to understand people than…well…other people! So, I feel honored to be able to bring concreteness and some scientific realness to the things that we express about our experiences.

Meet Our 2017 Emerging Scholars Fellowship Class http://activemindsblog.org/meet-our-2017-emerging-scholars-fellowship-class/ Tue, 24 Jan 2017 13:00:31 +0000 http://activemindsblog.org/?p=6087 We’re excited to introduce you to the incredible Class of 2017 of our Emerging Scholars Fellowship, an Active Minds program that grants funding to young researchers studying mental health.

Over the course of the next five months, the scholars will be conducting research and working on their fellowship projects. They’ll post updates on the blog, so keep an eye out!

Let’s meet our superstars:

Alexandra Budenz, Drexel University

Research project: Social Media Communication about Bipolar Disorder: Implications for Stigma and Social Support

Alexandra Budenz (Alex) is currently a doctoral student of public health at Drexel University. Her research focuses on how stigma and social support towards bipolar disorder, and largely towards mental health conditions, are expressed on social media. Her goals as a researcher and in her career is to leverage media to reduce stigma towards mental health conditions. Read more about Alex’s background and research.

Andrae Laws, DePaul University

Research project: The Role of Critical Consciousness in College Students’ Psychological Well-Being

Andrae is a first-year Ph.D. student in Community Psychology at DePaul University. He is interested in the intersection of critical consciousness, social activism/civic engagement and psychological well-being, specifically as it relates to young people from marginalized communities and identities. Andrae’s professional goal is to generate research that can be applied to communities to support them thrive. Andrae is our 2017 Stephen C. Rose Legacy Scholar. Read more about Andrae’s background and research.

Katherine Nieweglowski, Illinois Institute of Technology

Research project: Bridging the Gap on the Trigger Warnings Debate

Katherine Nieweglowski is currently completing her final semester in the M.S. Rehabilitation and Mental Health Counseling program at the Illinois Institute of Technology. She is also a research assistant at the National Consortium of Stigma and Empowerment, where she conducts research on the stigma of mental illness and health disparities. Katherine’s long-term goal is to receive her PhD. in Rehabilitation Counseling Education and continue her work on stigma research involving disability populations. Read more about Katherine’s background and research.

Natalie Oman, University of California, Berkeley

Research project: Mental Health and Sexual Assault on University Campuses

Natalie is currently a 2nd year in the MPH, Maternal and Child Health program at the University of California, Berkeley. Her public health interests focus on underserved populations, immigrant and refugee health, adolescent health, mental health, and trauma. She passionate about interventions that use rigorous methods for identification, measurement, and evaluation, and at the same time utilize knowledge and expertise from within the community they serve. Read more about Natalie’s background and research. 

Khushbu Patel, University of Chicago

Research project: Transgenerational Perceptions of Mental Health Among South Asians 

Khushbu is a second year Master’s student at the University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration. In her social work program, she is exploring many interests including U.S. urban public school systems, juvenile justice systems, and mental health research focusing on Asian American ethnic groups. A native of Philadelphia suburbs, she completed her Bachelor’s of Science in Psychology at Drexel University, while working in the Nezu Lab where she served as a Research Assistant on various projects. Read more about Khushbu’s background and research. 

Alyse Ruriani, Maryland Institute College of Art

Research project: Building Resilience and Emotional Regulation through Interactive Journaling

Alyse Ruriani is an artist and designer studying graphic design, book arts, and culture and politics at MICA in Baltimore, MD. She works in mixed media and enjoys taking graphic design beyond the screen. Alyse believes in the relationship between art and healing and has a passion for using art as a catalyst for change and advocacy. Much of her work revolves around exploring the human experience, evoking emotion, making sense of her place in the world, and reflecting upon the dichotomies in life. Read more about Alyse’s background and research.

Nathaniel Sawyer, Emory University 

Research project: Dear Emory: Exploring Student Narratives through Performance

Nathaniel Sawyer (Nate) is currently a senior at Emory University majoring in Interdisciplinary Studies with a focus on mental health. As his Taiwanese-Jewish upbringing, filled with meals of Matzah Ball soup and 锅贴 (potstickers) have taught him, the epistemic value of approaching questions of mental health from a variety of academic and methodological perspectives is critically important and something in which he deeply believes. Nate is passionate about not accepting the status quo as “normal” or “natural” and critically re-imagining a world without mental health stigma, both at an individual level and structural level, and with accessible, effective mental health support for all. Read more about Nathaniel’s background and research. 

Emerging Scholars Fellowship: Asian American Men’s Experience of Gendered Racism http://activemindsblog.org/emerging-scholars-fellowship-asian-american-mens-experience-of-gendered-racism/ Thu, 02 Jun 2016 15:16:45 +0000 http://activemindsblog.org/?p=5003 Tao is a researcher in the 2016 class of the Emerging Scholars Fellowship. Read blog updates from Tao and her fellow scholars here.

tao liu_squareIt is hard to believe that my project is coming to an end! Doing a project is like raising a baby, you struggle with it and enjoy it at the same time, and have to appropriately let to it go at the end. In this blog, I will briefly talk about findings of my study.

As I introduced before, I collected data through an online survey. My aim of data collection was at least 500 to ensure enough statistical power for my factor analyses. Through over 5 month’s work and with the assistance of professors, bloggers, website managers, and administrative staff in universities, I collected over 1,000 responses through Qualtrics. Even after cleaning the “dirty” data, there was enough to conduct my analysis. I will talk about the tips of online data collection in another blog post.

After the nitty-gritty process of data analyses, which also dragged longer than I planned, my factor analyses lead to three dimensions of the perceived gendered racism among Asian American men: lack of masculinity, not good romantic/sexual partners, and passivity and lack of leadership. I will talk about the meaning of these results in each paragraph.

Lack of Masculinity


This dimension refers to the stereotype that Asian American men are small build, not physically masculine enough, not athletic enough, and because all of these above, they are not manly enough. My findings also indicate that this stereotype is perceived more as a collective stereotype rather than personal insulate, which means that participants indicated that they heard it more through media and being told that Asian American men are not manly enough as a group of whole, rather than being directly told in person that they are less of a man by another person.

Not Good Romantic/Sexual Partners


I am sure this is also not something new that we hear people joking about Asian American men’s small sexual organs. Besides this insulating and biased perception, this dimension of stereotype also refers to the assumptions that Asian American men are not attractive either sexually, physically, or romantically, and that they are nerds of dating. Also, we know through research that Asian American men are the least desired in the dating market for their racial and sex combination, this is highly related to the previous stereotype that they are assumed to be less of a man.

Passivity and Lack of Leadership

megaphoneThis dimension may be the most important finding of my study. Some literature has talked about this bias, however, no empirical study before mine has statistically tested it.

This dimension refers to the prejudice that Asian American men are not good leaders because they lack initiative, assertiveness, personality, or charisma to be good leaders. To me it is like the Chinese food discussed in my last blog post: even the number of Chinese take-out restaurants are three times more than McDonald’s in the US, it is not considered typical American food. There is nothing to do with the fact that Chinese food entered the US with immigrants and was modified to meet the “American” taste, just as all other typical American food did. Similarly, Asian American men are not accepted as good leaders, because they are not quite American enough: their leadership styles are not the same as the White leaders, thus they can’t lead the White.  As the economy in Asia is growing and great leaders are emerging, it is time to rethink this stereotype.

Emerging Scholars Fellowship: Not the End, But the Beginning! http://activemindsblog.org/emerging-scholars-fellowship-not-the-end-but-the-beginning/ Tue, 31 May 2016 15:13:58 +0000 http://activemindsblog.org/?p=4995 Matt is a researcher in the 2016 class of the Emerging Scholars Fellowship. Read blog updates from Matt and his fellow scholars here.

There’s a central tenet in science that you cannot prove anything, but rather, you can only disprove something.

jared gif

Confusing, I know.

While this may seem disheartening at first (who likes being wrong?), I actually find it to be one of the most beautiful things about doing research.

Essentially, we make our findings stronger when we try to disprove them, but are unable to do so. And what this means is that as long as there is a way to try and disprove an idea (and there are essentially infinite ways), then the work is never done!

Even though I am coming to the end of my time as an Emerging Scholar, this is only the beginning of the research I set out to do. While I don’t have my results quite yet (I’ll share those in a later blog post), being a part of this experience has only reaffirmed my belief that science should remain a fundamental part of the college student mental health movement.

golden science gifAt first you may feel like this dog. Science can be confusing, between all the numbers and questions and tools and ideas. But even the most experienced, smartest scientists are always learning how to do science. Find a mentor, professor, or someone at your school who is experienced in research. Ask questions and propose ideas. Read books and papers online. Watch TED talks. E-mail leaders in the field; many of them are actually willing to help!

By asking the right questions and getting the best answers we can, we can help college students – and all those living with mental illness – to achieve the best mental health they can. All through the power of…