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Policy Experts

National Policy Experts

  • TBD

Faculty Experts

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2020 Summer Faculty Scholars

A.   Education

  •   *   ​Virginia’s CROWN Act: It’s the Law, So How Do We Use It?, P.I.: Cynthia Salley Nicholson, Ph.D., School of Education (SESL) 

    With the new legislation banning discriminatory practices based on hair, there needs to be literature on best practices in making the law work in favor of all. With courageous conversations that challenge the norms in hiring practices among teacher educators, the new law could have an adverse reaction if the silencing in hire practices continues. Based on initial research from another study, I learned that discriminatory practices can easily be upheld under the guise of professional attire and presentation. I am seeking to learn and share how teacher education practitioners can help to navigate the implementation of the new expansion of the Virginia’s Human Rights Act in ways that will promote acceptance and tolerance for African American female identity. Additionally, I would like to learn more about the unwritten expectations on professional attire, including hair and what is perceived as acceptable among teacher education practitioners.

B.  Criminal Justice

  •   *   ​The Decriminalization of Marijuana Use and its Potential Effects on the Well-being of African Americans, P.I.: Leah J. Floyd, Ph.D., Department of Psychology

    The Commonwealth of Virginia has become a part of the growing number of states to decriminalize marijuana use. Recently, Governor Ralph Northam signed into approval a bill that replaces criminal charges for simple possession of marijuana with a $25 civil penalty (ha bill to decriminalize marijuana in the commonwealth). Supporters of the decriminalization of marijuana have highlighted the positive effects that the legalization of marijuana will have on the criminal justice system. Particular attention has been given to the potential of the new law to reduce the disproportionately high arrests and unfair sentencing for the possession of marijuana experienced by African Americans. On the other hand, the negative effects of marijuana on health and social (e.g. education, employment, and income) outcomes have been downplayed. Understanding the impact of marijuana use on the health and wellbeing of African Americans is critically important, given that in the United States African Americans suffer disparities in health and social consequences across drug use groups.


  •   *   ​​HB246 and Securing Input from Historically Marginalized Populations, P.I.: Austin Ashe, Ph.D., Department of Sociology

    House Bill 246, requires Virginia police departments to establish a written policy operation of a body-worn camera system and make it available for public comment and review prior to its adoption. Although the bill’s primary sponsor was Del. Mark Levine, DAlexandria, it passed with bipartisan support. The purported intentions are to increase accountability, transparency, and build stronger relationships between law enforcement and citizens across Virginia (Arnold 2020). The bill will go into effect on July 1st. In order to actualize transparency and ensure public input from an inclusive public requires substantial effort and research. The proposed project is intended to study effective mechanisms for engaging marginalized populations who have consistently been excluded from the process.

C.  Healthcare

  •   *   ​Challenges and Prospects of African-American Families in Raising Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), P.I.: Timothy D. Goler, Ph.D., Sociology and Urban Affairs and Robert K. Perkins, Ph.D., Sociology and Criminal Justice

    To gain a better understanding of the unique challenges (i.e. criminal justice system), needs, and family resources of African American families raising a child with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) by gathering data to inform better policies to ameliorate the health disparity. To understand the racial and ethnic difference in prevalence. To bring awareness to Autism Spectrum Disorder and to reduce the stigma associated with ASD in the black community. We propose conducting a pilot study that builds on our 2018 “Families Connect” Autism Study, in Cleveland, Ohio. The proposed Pilot Study aims to obtain data from African American family members of children with ASD to identify greatest areas of need and desirable modalities for future interventions. We plan to conduct 2 focus groups with interested family members of children with ASD. We also plan to collect individual level data from focus group participants through questionnaires. Focus groups have been successfully used in qualitative research to give voice to marginalized groups and can serve to empower participants (Morgan, 1996). The multitude of stressors experienced by families raising a child with ASD have been extensively documented day family tasks, obtaining a diagnosis, interfacing with schools and with health care providers and obtaining services. In addition to practical challenges families also face social isolation due to a stigmatized condition, interpersonal challenges in communicating with family members and caregiving burden Social supports can play an important constructive role in promoting family well-being and grandparents could be a source of support to parents, to the child with ASD and to the child’s siblings.(Kahana et al 2015). Such stressors include managing day to day family tasks, obtaining a diagnosis, interfacing with schools and with health care providers and obtaining services. In addition to practical challenges families also face social isolation due to a stigmatized condition, interpersonal challenges in communicating with family members and caregiving burden Social supports can play an important constructive role in promoting family well-being and grandparents could be a source of support to parents, to the child with ASD and to the child’s siblings.
  •   *   ​Ten Years of ACA: Its Effects on Racial Disparities in Children’s Health Care Access and Implications for African Americans, P.I.: Yuying Shen, Ph.D., Sociology Department

    Eliminating the racial disparities in health care access has been the national public health priority stated in Health People 2030. Prior research has documented the racial disparities in health care access among children. Inadequate attention, however, have been paid to research questions such as whether racial disparities in health care access and health insurance coverage among children are increasing or decreasing over the years, given the changes in health care and other related policies and programs in recent years, particularly the initiation and revision of Affordable Care Act (ACA). The proposed project plans to cover the gap in current literature by optimizing the use of the available nationwide data to identify the 10-year temporal trends in racial disparities of children’s health insurance coverage and children’s health care access between 2010 and 2020, with statistical analyses of data from National Survey of Children’s Health (NSCH). It will further examine the implications of such changes for African American children with empirical data collected from structured quantitative survey and qualitative focus group interviews among randomly selected African American families in Virginia.

D.  Housing

  •   *   ​Choice Neighborhood Initiative:  A Tale of St. Paul’s Redevelopment Project, P.I.: Sharon T. Alston, Ph.D., School of Social Work

    The purpose of this proposed project is to assess the impact the Choice Neighborhood Policy Initiative (CNPI) has and will have on the residents of Norfolk, VA. The proposed study is relevant significant, and timely. Over the next ten years, the city of Norfolk will continue to relocate residents from public housing through CNPI and similar initiatives. Ninety-eight percent of the residents in Norfolk public housing are people of color, and 70% are either at or below the federal poverty line (NHRA, 2018).  The proposed project is a rapid review and analysis of empirical literature on housing policies from the last ten years (research reports, publish articles, and conference proceedings) to assess what is currently known about their impact on residents. In addition, survey a small sample of Norfolk housing residents and compare their experience with those in the published literature. The analysis of these data will help to generate additional research questions and gather preliminary data on the specific experiences of Norfolk residents.


  •   *   ​Racial Discrimination of Property Management Companies Operating in Low-Income Housing Areas, P.I.: Kevin C. Santiago, Ph.D., Electronics Engineering Dept., Director of I.N.S.E.E.T. Labs​ 

    The purpose of this study is to investigate the racial bias and discrimination faced by people living in low-income housing communities. The ultimate goal is to provide empirical data that gives insight into the predatory practices of property management companies operating in the Hampton roads area. Racial discrimination is common place in many aspects of society. The brand of racism in the American south is especially heinous, and has far-reaching consequences in the day-to-day lives of black and brown people. One aspect of this discrimination is in the housing market [1]. Most people are not in the financial position to own, so a majority of young Americans rent to meet their housing needs. Property management companies take advantage of the large number of renters, and handle upkeep and day-to-day interactions for a percentage of the rental revenue. Property managers are often private businesses, each having unique employees, number of properties, and especially management cultures. Companies operating in the Hampton roads are notorious for neglecting people in low income areas [2], whom are often people of color dealing domestic and economic hardships. This study will shed light on some of the companies responsible for the poor treatment of people of color in low-income communities.

E.  Economic

  •   *   ​The study of successful contemporary African American and minority entrepreneurs in the Hampton Roads metropolitan area, P.I.: James Curiel, Ph.D., Department of Sociology

    Even though Virginia is ranked number 12 in population, it is ranked number 9 in number of Black owned businesses (Gladden), and the Commonwealth has the 7th largest Black owned business in the United States according to gross revenues of Thompson Hospitality Corporation (Gladden).  This proposed study will use systems theory to frame case studies of minority owned businesses in the Hampton Roads metropolitan area and will employ primary data gathered from interviews and ‘fly on the wall observation’ which will contextualized with archival data from newspapers, books, journal articles, and public records.  I will look for patterns in both the eco-systems and the organizations to identify critical elements in the market organizations must deal with, including laws and social conventions, and more importantly strategies organizations employ to successfully thrive in these eco systems.  This knowledge has the potential to inform and inspire future start-ups to succeed.


  •   *   ​​Economic Stimulus Programs for Small Businesses Due to COVID-19: Perceptions, Participation and Progress for African Americans, P.I.: Sally Sledge, Ph.D., School of Business, Professor of Management 

    [t]he U.S. Government has put in place a number of programs to help small business owners to gain funding to operate their businesses during this time. Yet many of these entrepreneurs have expressed difficulty in learning about the assistance or accessing the funds in a timely manner. This research project will specifically address the impact of the government and private industry pandemic response programs for African American Small Business owners. By nearly all media accounts, this demographic has been more severely impacted by the COVID-19 virus than other groups, and thus there is a need to determine how best to assist these business owners in this time of crisis.

F.  Community

  •   *   ​‘No Grass for Grassroots: Evaluating State Funding for Community Development Agencies in Norfolk’, P.I.: Colita Nichols Fairfax, Ph.D., School of Social Work

    The purpose of this research examination is to uncover funding budgets for community provider agencies in Norfolk, what those budgets cover, and the gaps in delivery streams. The methodology utilized is a cost analysis of the city of Norfolk’s Community Services Board, Human Services, and Neighborhood Development (, and a list of community agencies. Furthermore a benefit cost analysis will be conducted on those community agencies that provide services to constituents, by examining their budgets. Given that the number of nonprofit agencies have increased (Handy & Mook, 2011, 414), the researcher believes that it is important to examine the benefit cost of providing services to communities. Furthermore, “ (a) organizations can include their value and scope in decision making; and (b) nonprofits themselves can be recognized by governments, funders, donors, and the community as contributing value”, (Handy & Mook, 2011, 418), and (c) researchers learn about the amount of funding and resources available to grassroots organizations in Norfolk.