College of Public Health faculty awarded 2024 Mason Impact Grants

Melissa Villodas
Assistant Professor Melissa Villodas

Congratulations to College of Public Health faculty Assistant Professors Melissa VillodasAnna Parisi, and Li-Mei Chen, and Associate Professor Kyeung Mi Oh on earning 2024 Mason Impact Grants. Awards go toward funding Summer Team Impact Projects, part of the Mason Impact (MI) program. Researchers identified a central theme, research question, or a community-identified problem to explore over the course of 10 weeks. 

Anna Parisi headshot
Assistant Professor Anna Parisi

“We’re not only deeply proud, but also incredibly excited for our awardees within the College. The Mason Impact Grant opens a new avenue for our faculty and students to be on the forefront of public health innovation and is another opportunity to showcase their expertise serves to uplift population health,” said Alison Cuellar, associate dean of research in the College of Public Health.  

During the multidisciplinary Summer Team Impact projects, faculty, with a team of undergraduate students, address a topic of their choosing. At the conclusion of the grant, faculty and students present their findings and prototype solutions.  

Li-Mei Chen headshot
Assistant Professor Li-Mei Chen

Chen and Oh from the Department of Social Work and School of Nursing, respectively, will study civic engagement among older adults of color in Fairfax County. Jung Yeon (Ellie) Park from the College of Education and Human Development Division of Educational Psychology and Research Methods is also on the research team.  

Villodas and Parisi, both from the Department of Social Work, will contribute to reducing rates of suicide among youth in Fairfax and Prince William County public schools.  

MI prepares students to tackle global challenges by investigating meaningful questions, engaging in multiple perspectives, and creating new knowledge. MI grants foster faculty-student partnerships and facilitate putting research into action for social well-being. 

More details on College of Public Health faculty research projects are below. 

Kyeung Mi Oh
Associate Professor Kyeung Mi Oh

Investigating the link between civic engagement, E-health, and health outcomes of older immigrants 

Limei Chen (Social Work), Jung Yeon (Ellie) Park (Division of Educational Psychology and Research Methods), Kyeung Mi Oh (Nursing) 

Exclusion from civic engagement and finding meaningful roles in society can have strong implications for older adults’ health and well-being. Civic engagement has been conceptualized as a part of the broader construct of social capital and has been identified as a pathway for accessing important health information through personal networks, and public and community organizations. However, there is a paucity of research examining how health, race, ethnicity, and gender facilitate or impede civic engagement in late life. The purpose of this proposed interdisciplinary project is to investigate the state of civic engagement among older adults of color in Fairfax County. This project will provide students with a rich experiential learning in community-based participatory research with communities of color in Fairfax County such as skills in cultural adaptation of measures and cultural humility when working with older adults of color. The results of this study will be shared as a student-led workshop to promote and educate the communities on older adults' civic engagement in tandem with digital literacy for positive health behavior.  

Assessing supports to address suicidality among northern Virginian middle- and high- schoolers 

Melissa Villodas (Social Work), Anna Parisi (Social Work)  

Suicidality and non-suicidal self-injury among youth continue to grow as serious public health concerns in the United States (U.S.) and globally. With alarming rates of suicide trending in the wrong direction across the world, researchers are committed to bending the curve of suicide and reducing rates by 2025. Research and published reports have consistently brought attention to the alarming need to intervene and address mental health at a much earlier time point than previously anticipated. Indeed, improving access to mental health resources early in life can facilitate lifesaving connections for youth. Therefore, the proposed project will contribute to national efforts to reduce suicide by focusing on our local communities within Fairfax and Prince William County public schools. We seek to investigate what resources, programs, interventions, and services are available for middle- and high-school students in this region. The goal of this project is to highlight interventions, programs, or initiatives in place within Fairfax and Prince William County Public middle- and high- schools that offer support to students who express thoughts of suicide. Additionally, we aim to identify specific factors within each high school that contribute to enhanced student support, such as family involvement efforts or training for school staff.