Prison Re-Entry Project

Riyah Basha

Riyah Basha with partners Omar Ilyas (left) and Azhar Aboubaker (right)

BA ’19

The Prison Re-Entry project is a new student organization at the University of Michigan dedicated to lifting barriers to re-entry and bringing the campus community more proximate to issues of criminal injustice. Our central programming element is a series of digital literacy workshops tailored to returning citizens, which represents an effort to deliver the University’s social, human, and physical capital to a locally underserved population. Through a partnership with a research team in the School of Information, our team of undergraduates is developing a series of digital literacy workshops catering to returning citizens in Detroit and Ann Arbor. The curriculum is open source, and covers areas from basic computer skills to Internet navigation to scouting job opportunities via sites like LinkedIn. By recruiting students as facilitators, we believe the workshops can be sites of reciprocal, proximate, and sustainable relationships between campus community members and returning citizens.

Library Mentor: Naomi Binnie

BLUElab Thailand Flood Mitigation Project – Prototyping and Reiteration Phase 2018/19

BLUElab Thailand

Our project pursues sustainable solutions for flood mitigation in our partner district of Mae Chan, Thailand. Due to a combination of outdated infrastructure, inadequate city-planning, and a critical geographical location, Mae Chan’s communities are frequently inundated with rainwater. With the collaboration of students and faculty in Chiang Mai University and municipality officials in Mae Chan, this year we were able to create and test on-site our first prototype of a water-jet nozzle which removes the sediment that clogs the drainage sewers in Mae Chan. We plan to build onto this prototype and create other designs that address the needs that we have compiled.

Library Mentor: Paul Grochowski

Il faut se souvenir, We must not forget: Memorializing Slavery in Detroit and Martinique

Rachel Willis

BA ’19

Il faut se souvenir, We Must Not Forget: Memorializing slavery in Detroit and Martinique” is a photo exhibit and research project that aims to expand public knowledge about slavery in Detroit and its connection to the broader context of the French Caribbean slave trade and indigenous slavery in North America. The central narrative linking Detroit and Martinique in this exhibit is the story of five members of the Fox community who were captured at Fort Detroit and sold to Martinique as slaves in the early 1730s. I will be travelling to Martinique later this year, where I will search local archives for information regarding the fate of these five men, and photograph sites in Martinique that are dedicated to memorializing the islands’ enslaved and indigenous populations. I hope to display these photos side-by-side with photographs of sites that are linked to the history of slavery in Detroit, with the ultimate goal of igniting conversations around what we choose to memorialize and how, which is of particular relevance in a city that champions itself as a stop on the Underground Railroad.  This exhibit will be showcased at a venue in Detroit during the week of Juneteenth 2019.

Library Mentor: Jamie Vander Broek

Second-language Knowledge Affects Third-Language Acquisition: L2 Spanish Status Effects in the Phonological Acquisition of L3 French Rhotics

Michael Ward

BA ’19

My thesis explores the interacting effects of first-language (L1) and second-language (L2) knowledge on the acquisition of a third language (L3). I explore the competing effects of L1 and L2 influences by considering the role of the L2 status hypothesis, whereby a speaker’s L2 overrides the possible effects of an L1 during L3 acquisition. Specifically, I consider the acquisition of the rhotic phoneme /r/ by L3-French learners who are L1 speakers of English and are advanced L2 learners of Spanish. If L2 status overrides L1 knowledge, L3-French learners will transfer their L2-Spanish /r/ into French, rather than their L1-English /r/. In order to collect speech data, I designed a code-switching experiment whereby learners have to code-switch mid-sentence between their different languages (e.g. English-to-French, Spanish-to-French). This methodology allows for an assessment of whether L1-English or the L2-Spanish has more influence on L3-French pronunciation. Altogether, my thesis will render the most detailed analysis of the patterns of phonetic influence that occur during L3 acquisition studied thus far.

Library Mentor: Pam MacKintosh


Austin Wang

BS ’20


From left: Austin Wang and partner Abhay Nupur

MEND, a project in the mother organization M-HEAL, is focused on developing a device to minimize fall injury among older adults. In the US, older adult fall incidence and injury are major issues among hospitalized/assisted living populations. Our goal is to provide a solution which not only minimizes the damage of falls, but is comfortable, easy for caregivers to use, and can be fluidly incorporated into current hospital/assisted living infrastructures. While it is fairly simple to develop a device to prevent falls, it is significantly more difficult to make one which older adults will be comfortable with wearing without feeling self-conscious or stigmatized in their own communities. As a result, our project is two-pronged, not only focusing on the engineering of a solution, but also on the opinions and attitudes older adults have towards existing devices. This more holistic, human-centered approach will allow us to better motivate a design solution. Website:

Library Mentor: Leena Lalwani

hEARt: An Empathetic Ear for Students Everywhere

Aria Thakore

BSE ’20


From left: Aria Thakore and partner Aastha Dharia

Early on in our college careers, our team discovered just how many Michigan students struggle to maintain their mental and emotional well-being. We conducted interviews and ran surveys to investigate the extent of the crisis on campus, and found that many students were grappling with stress, overwhelming workloads, anxiety, and depression. When we asked why, students told us that they weren’t aware of many existing campus resources, and those they were aware of were not fully effective in meeting their needs. When we asked where they prefer to turn for help, the overwhelming response was their peers. As one student put it, people are seeking “a listening ear”; someone who will relate and empathize without offering unfounded and possibly insensitive advice. In response to this need, our team designed hEARt: a peer-to-peer chat application. hEARt connects students who want to talk with students who want to listen. Our platform quickly and anonymously matches users with a hEARt Supporter, a student who has been trained through our hEARt Training Program. By arming Supporters with skills and connecting them to students, hEARt aims to make emotional support accessible to students coping with any mental health challenges, ranging from depression to a simple bad day.

Library Mentor:  Alex Deeke

Supporting Farmer Transitions to Sustainable Agriculture Through Participatory Research in Brazil

Anne Elise Stratton

PhD ’21

This interdisciplinary project aims to co-design and implement an on-farm experiment with family farmers in southern Brazil. Working with non-profit and university partners, our participatory study will test the ecological, social, and economic effects of two sustainable agricultural practices, cover cropping and intercropping. Cover cropping (planting non-harvested crops during the fallow season) reduces erosion, builds soil organic matter, and contributes nutrients for crops, and intercropping (planting multiple crops in the same field) increases crop diversity and reduces pest and disease pressure, among other benefits. Agronomic and ecological studies have demonstrated the merits of these techniques on experimental farms and research stations, but very few studies have measured their effects on working farms. My project offers a novel, applied methodology that integrates agricultural and ecological research with the social and economic realities that farmers face as they transition from conventional to sustainable agriculture.

Library Mentor: Lori Tschirhart

Recruiting Underrepresented High School Students to Earth Science Through In-Class Activities, Hands-On Demonstrations and Thorough Information Sessions

Rebekah Stein

PhD ’21

Perspectives from diverse communities are severely underrepresented within science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields, particularly geosciences (which are currently excluded from typical high school curricula). At University of Michigan, efforts show that the main limitation is recruitment, highlighting the importance of increasing exposure of underrepresented groups to geosciences before their undergraduate career. With the help of my advisor/PI Selena Y. Smith, I am installing a summer internship program in the University of Michigan’s Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences for at Ypsilanti High School, as direct research experience has been shown to increases student retention in STEM fields. In conjunction with this internship program, I will be working with Ypsilanti Community High School Earth Science teachers to design and implement in-class demonstrative activities.

Library Mentor:  Alex Rivera and Monica Porter

Building Connections between University of Michigan Scientists and Michigan’s Native American Communities

Stephanie Pistorius

PhD ’21

Native Americans are currently underrepresented in science and in higher education. Taken together with the fact that indigenous viewpoints are frequently diminished in the United States, we have a severe lack of representation of the knowledge and perspectives of Native Americans, especially in the sciences. We aim to form collaborations with Michigan Native American tribes that will serve three main goals:
1. Bring awareness of different fields of science and opportunities to meet scientists to Native American youth.
2. Bring knowledge and awareness of dementia and aging to Native American elders.
3. Forge connections to the Native American community to learn about concerns related to science, medicine and higher education to inform research and education efforts at the University of Michigan.
It is clear that increasing representation of Native Americans in science will lead to better scientific discoveries. Innovative and creative ideas are not made when everyone thinks in the same way.

Library Mentor: Alex Rivera and Jasmine Pawlicki

Prison Birth Project: A3 Initiative (Assessment, Awareness, & Activism)

Rachel Sokolov

BA ’19

The mission of the Prison Birth Project is to connect students at the University of Michigan with people who have been incarcerated so as to advocate for their human rights. My team and I are striving to serve a population of incarcerated women during their pregnancy and deliver their children behind bars so that they may feel supported during their birth and postpartum processes. We aim to humanize incarcerated women’s experiences and inform others on how to respect them within a healthcare setting. We will conduct a survey that will allow us to assess campus beliefs, attitudes, and knowledge about topics like mass incarceration, restorative justice, and childbirth rights. The survey would inform my team and me as to how to best educate the community and raise awareness about these issues. We hope to prepare students who plan on pursuing a career in the medical field to work with incarcerated patients.

Library Mentors: Judy Smith and Darlene Nichols