The Simon Family Public Research Fellowship is the result of a generous gift from Julie Simon Munro '86 and the William E. Simon Foundation. This award supports students working with community partners and performing community-based research (CBR) under the mentorship of a faculty member. CBR is a method of responding to the conditions, problems, and needs of an organization and/or the broader community. It is a partnership of students, faculty and community partners who collaborate to engage in scholarship with a purpose of solving a problem and effecting greater social change (Strand et al. 2003).

Julie Simon Munro and the William E. Simon Foundation established the Simon Family Public Research Fellowship program in 2012 at the University of Vermont’s Honors College. The fellowships provide University of Vermont students a summer stipend to pursue community-based research, which often continues into the academic year that follows that summer. 


Many UVM students are strongly motivated by the desire to better social conditions and build upon their past experiences in service-learning coursework, volunteerism, or internships. Community-based research (CBR) fits with this desire since it seeks to apply academic knowledge and skills to the problems and needs of the communities in which students are actively engaged. Such research, a powerful form of experiential learning, often transforms students’ sense of themselves and their career aspirations. The Simon family generously provided the funds in 2012, with the first awards given in 2013. 

A pilot program preceded the establishment of the Simon Fellowship. A group of offices at UVM (Undergraduate Research, Fellowships Advising, and Community-University Partnerships & Service Learning) collaborated for two years to provide students with funding for CBR and research internships. The pilot program showed the potential of CBR to simultaneously address community and academic learning needs. Moreover, several recipients of awards during the pilot phase converted their experiences into employment, graduate school, and national fellowship awards and nominations. We were thus very pleased and deeply grateful that the Simon family established this Fellowship to build on the success of the pilot program. 

2019 Simon Fellows

Meryl '20, Environmental Sciences (CAS, HCOL)

Project Title: Adding Cultural Components to the Water Conservation
Faculty Mentors:  Beverley Wemple (Geography), Cheryl Morse (Geography), and Eric Roy (Gund Institute for Environment)
Community Partner: Vermont Land Trust

Meryl is an accomplished writer and local journalist, publishing in both the student environmental magazine, Headwaters, and the Hinesburg Record. Her project bridged the floodplain conservation research of her three faculty advisors with the social mission of her partner, the Vermont Land Trust.  By focusing her social science lens on understanding the values of local towns people, together they created a template for structuring inclusive conservation efforts, ones that valued the traditional working landscape in conjunction with tourism and recreation-based livelihoods.

Isabel '20, Global Studies (CAS)

Project Title: Identifying Trends in Employers of New Americans in Chittenden
Faculty Mentor: Pablo Bose (Geography)
Community Partner: US Committee on Refugees and Immigrants

As Isabel describes her work: [I was welcomed by the] staff at the Association of Africans Living in Vermont … and [they] provided me with trainings on some of their in-house operations. I learned how to navigate their database and soon began helping case managers with data entry and training new staff on how to use the system. I took over administering an internal client feedback survey and assisted the New Farms for New Americans program with data organization, general site upkeep and monitoring, and grant writing…

At the same time, I was working with … the US Committee for Refugees and Immigrants and Dr. Bose to develop our research questions and objectives … I also took part in workshops led by AALV and trainings led by Dr. Bose on qualitative research methods. I made many connections with both staff and clients during this initial period that later proved to be invaluable for this research project.

Raymond '20, Biology (CAS)

Project Title: Determining the role Canada Geese play in disease transmission and implementing education programs about ranavirus
Faculty Mentor: Nicholas Gotelli (Biology)
Community Partner: Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department: Agency of Natural Resources

Raymond’s interest in vector transmission potential in Canada Geese came from reading a few articles about ranavirus disease transmission in amphibians and other birds (mallards).  By discussing this curiosity with his faculty mentor, Nick Gotelli, he was introduced to his future community partner. Studying if birds can be a vector for the transmission of ranavirus is of particular interest to Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department, because of the viruses cause massive die-offs in natural populations throughout the state. If Canada Geese could be shown to be carriers of the virus on their feathers, then it might help explain the appearance of the virus in non-contiguous populations separated by great distances. Raymond states that, “Although ranaviruses are extremely prevalent worldwide, knowledge on their distribution patterns and ecological dynamics are limited.”

Gillian '19, Environmental Studies (CAS, HCOL)

Project Title: New Jersey State Parks: How Racial and Ethnic Identities Shape Connections with Our Natural Public Lands
Faculty Mentor: Patricia Stokowski (Environmental Program)
Community Partner: New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, Division of Parks and Forestry

In her own words:  After meeting with the superintendents of Belleplain State Forest, High Point State Park, and Cheesequake State Park, I scheduled days in each park that I would be tabling, interacting with visitors, and collecting surveys… While I collected surveys, I engaged visitors in conversations about the park and where they're from, which was been one of the most fascinating parts of the job. My field notebook... (filled) with themes from each day, anecdotes that have been shared with me, and non-participant observations I've made about recreation in the parks... I’m equally passionate about policy and the environment ... This research focused on understanding the social, political and economic factors that may impact access to outdoor recreation experiences for people of color.

Joscie '20, Environmental Studies (RSENR, HCOL)

Project Title: Saussurea Dorogostaiskii in the Horidol Saridag Special Protected Area, Mongolia: the ecological requirements of a critically endangered medicinal species
Faculty Mentor: Nathan Sanders (Environmental Program)
Community Partners: The Wolverine Foundation, Mongolia/Montana and the Ulaan Taiga Protected Area Administration (UTPAA)

Flowering “vansemberuu” are used in traditional Mongolian medicines, holding a distinctive place in economic and spiritual spheres. Due to livestock grazing, aridification, and overharvesting, this plant is endangered; due to its remoteness, understudied. Joscie’s research sought to follow the plant’s life history to help support the Ulaan Taiga Protected Areas Administration, the local administrative agency collaborating with her community partner, The Wolverine Foundation, in setting its management priorities. In addition, UTPAA requested a visual installation for their signage and pamphlets, which Joscie, a Studio Art minor, happily provided.

2018 Simon Fellows

Adrian '20, Environmental Studies (RSENR)

Project Title: Town Meeting Data Analysis
Faculty Mentor: Richard Watts, Director, Center for Research on Vermont
Community Partner: Vermont Institute for Government, Middlesex, Vermont

Adrian spent the past spring and summer focused on state-level politics, partnering with the Center for Research on Vermont and the Vermont Institute for Government and continuing the collection of Town Meeting Day data from around the state, a process that began more than 30 years ago by UVM faculty member Frank Bryan. Adrian’s Simon Award supported him through the summer where he analyzed the surveys collected from 35 town meetings, interviewed town officials, and prepared a presentation for community members about the vitality and continued importance of this unique Vermont political tradition.

Rachael '19, Geography (CAS)

Project Title: Proyecto de Apoyo Mutuo: Supporting the case of community led disaster recovery efforts in Puerto Rico after Hurrican Maria
Faculty Mentor: Meghan Cope, Professor of Geography, College of Arts and Sciences
Community Partner: Proyecto de Apoyo Mutuo, Mariana, Puerto Rico

When Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico in the fall, Rachael knew that she wanted to be part of the relief efforts, but realized her best contribution was to work with community leaders on a project of their design, not her own. That is how she came to work with Proyecto de Apoyo Mutuo, an organization helping to restore basic necessities to Mariana Humacao, a small barrio of just over 3000 residents. Rachael’s role was to help evaluate critical information about resources; as part of this she produced a participatory map of the area in the hopes that the analysis of the recovery from this storm will assist other communities recover from future hurricanes.

Claire '19, Human Development & Family Studies (CESS)

Project Title: Emerging Trends of Gender Inclusivity in Women's Centers: A Community-Based Research Project and Program Evaluation
Faculty Mentor: Nicole Conroy, Assistant Professor, Leadership and Development Sciences
Community Partner: UVM Women's Center

Currently, an emerging trend exists in university women’s centers to reconsider their missions and move toward greater gender inclusivity. The University of Vermont (UVM) Women’s Center identified the need to have a third-party assist in evaluating their services and programming as they consider refining their identity, mission, and vision, which serves as the rationale for this project. The aim of this project is to gather data on public knowledge, perceived accessibility, and effectiveness of (a) the Women’s Center, in general, and (b) victim advocacy, in particular. This study was conducted with 164 participants affiliated with the University of Vermont (i.e., students, faculty, staff, and recent alumni). Both strengths and areas of improvement were identified in several areas, including general knowledge and perceptions, location and physical space, programming and resources, barriers to utilizing, perceived accessibility and inclusivity, gender equity on campus, and the name of the Women’s Center. Research and practice implications are provided as a result from this study.

Emily '19, Political Science (CAS)

Project Title: Reducing Racial Disparities in Youth Justice: A Program Evaluation
Faculty Mentor: Pablo Bose, Associate Professor of Geography, Director of Global and Regional Studies
Community Partner: Association of Africans Living in Vermont, Burlington, Vermont

In her own words:  Much of modern state and federal government social services are provided through contracts and grants with human service nonprofit organizations (NPOs). Significant research has explored how government bureaucrats alter and effectively create public policy through their implementation choices. I argue that NPOs also alter public policy through their implementation of government contracts and grants. Through an in-depth single case study of a Vermont New American-serving NPO, I explore how the organization both conforms to government standards of accountability and alters or resists government policy restrictions that would have a negative effect on the community. I find that the case study NPO alters public policy by integrating new grants into existing programming and by using information asymmetry to expand program scope and client eligibility standards. However, the NPO is limited in their autonomy to negotiate changes in programs regardless of the quality of the relationship with a government funder and there is trend towards increasingly strict accountability requirements that may further limit NPO policy influence.

Emma '19, Ecological Agriculture (CALS)

Project Title: How does plastic mulch affect Swede midge emergence patterns?
Faculty Mentor: Deborah Ellis, Associate Professor of English

Community Partner: Intervale Community Farm, Burlington, Vermont

Emma asked a straight forward question about the damage done to local crops by a recent pesky invader, Swede midge, a fly that attacks one of Vermont’s favorite crops -kale! The damage these insects inflict is difficult to mitigate by small-scale producers and organic farmers, like the Intervale, because they commonly do not have the space to use crop rotation as an effective practice. The work of Emma and her faculty mentor, Dr. Yolanda Chen, is a vital resource. The results of their work on ground cover to control midge hatchings produced workshops for local farmers, and helped to contribute to a management pamphlet available to farmers in Vermont and New York.

2017 Simon Fellows

Peter '20, Film & Television Studies (CAS)

Project Title: Short Web Series for New Refugee Welcome Center
Faculty Mentor: Deborah Ellis, Associate Professor of English
Community Partner: City of Augusta, Maine

In his own words:  This summer, in my hometown of Augusta, ME, I embarked on a documentary production unlike any sort I had done before. My goal was to create a piece that would illustrate the recent wave of immigration from the Middle East to small town America (using Augusta as an example), and to contextualize it by exploring Augusta’s past, and to consider the possibilities of what’s next for my hometown. Production involved interviewing “New Mainers” (newly settled Maine immigrants) about their experiences leaving their homes (e.g. Iraq, Syria), and adjusting to life in Augusta. I titled my piece, “From Away”, a phrase commonly used in Augusta when referring to those not born there, like my own mother, who is from Denmark. I interviewed many “Old Mainers", including the Mayor, City Manager, and a local reverend; I interviewed historians from Old Fort Western. I also interviewed the co-founders of World to Table, a new Maine NGO with the mission of creating spaces in small towns where people of different cultures may come together to share different foods, and ideas.

Angie '18, Social Work (CESS)

Project Title: “"Chopped Cheese" or the "Cheese Burger on Sub Roll": An Alternative Perspective to Food Deserts in the Inner City of New York”
Faculty Mentor: Daniel Baker, Associate Professor of Community Development and Applied Economics
Community Partner: West Harlem Environmental Action, Inc. (WE ACT for Environmental Justice)

From a classroom course titled, “World Food, Population and Sustainable Development”, to a service learning trip to the Sacred Valley of Peru, to undergraduate research training in content analysis of restaurant menus, Angie developed the necessary skills to pursue her passion for food systems and their operation in her hometown. Here she reflects on her summer in NYC:

My project was looking at food systems through the lens of institutional racism engrained in the system. I went to over 50 small food stores and supermarkets to develop a range of prices for produce, fish, and meat in Uptown, New York City. I surveyed in the Bronx, Harlem, and Washington Heights. I looked at who owned the stores, what languages were spoken there, where people bought their food, and more. I surveyed over 60 people about the distance they traveled to their local, small food stores, where they tended to buy their food from, and much more.

Harrison '18, Ecological Engineering Design (CALS)

Project Title: Vertical Nutrient Gradients at the Sediment-Water Interface in Vermont Stormwater Management
Faculty Mentor: Eric Roy, Assistant Professor of Environmental Sciences
Community Partner: Green Infrastructure Collaborative

In his own words:  My goal going into the project was to deepen our understanding of how the physical and biological characteristics of stormwater ponds affected their potential to improve water quality of water flowing out of the pond. I began the summer mostly working in the field and really enjoyed it from the start. The phrase “stormwater ponds” may not sound too inviting, but a few of the ponds in our study were actually quite beautiful. I found it hard to complain when I was floating in the middle of a pond on a sunny day taking dissolved oxygen measurements.
Although my research was separate from [the graduate student supervisor], I was seamlessly integrated with the team from the start. Collecting samples, taking measurements, and taking note of changes in pond biology made me realize how much work goes into producing even the smallest amount of viable data. While research can be arduous at times, the challenge makes the reward of producing quality data that much sweeter.

Lily '18, Environmental Studies (CALS)

Project Title: Lake Champlain Sea Grant Research
Faculty Mentor: Kris Stepenuck, Extension Assistant Professor of Watershed Science Policy and Education
Community Partner: Lake Champlain Sea Grant Program

The EPA classified Lake Champlain an “impaired waterbody”, a status impacted directly by the phosphorus coming into the lake from nonpoint sources, including urban storm water runoff. A lifelong sailor and lover of Vermont’s “great lake”, Lily found a partner and research objective that allowed her to put her passion into action.

This summer I did research with the Lake Champlain Sea Grant. I helped with the Raise the Blade and Blue BRV [research projects]… The purpose of the Raise the Blade campaign was to assess whether mowing lawns at three versus two inches would change the lawn and soil health and increase water infiltration on site. The intent was to back up the current outreach recommendations of the campaign on low input grounds care to help mitigate storm water runoff with data sources from [ten local business] partners.

Foram '18 Psychological Sciences, (CAS)

Project Title: Upward Bound: Introduction to College Studies
Faculty Mentor: Antonio Cepeda-Benito, Professor of Psychological Sciences
Community Partner: University of Vermont Upward Bound

Foram uncovered a need that her research could address by doing one simple thing –asking the question, “What will be most beneficial for the students?” Below she details her experience:

This summer I received the Simon Public Family Research Fellowship to conduct community-based research for the Upward Bound program at UVM. My research entailed developing, facilitating, and evaluating the implementation of a course that would academically, socially, and holistically prepare students for college life. My daily task before the program involved connecting with faculty within the program as well as supporting organizations to create a curriculum... verall the class was a successful pilot project. Through final evaluations I found that most students enjoyed the course and felt they had gained tangible tools to help them succeed in college. There were several evaluations indicating students found the time management class the most valuable.


2016 Simon Fellows

Lucy '18
Environmental Studies

Project Title: Condon Community Garden
Faculty Mentor: Walter Poleman, Director of the Green House Residential Learning Community; Senior Lecturer, Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources
Community Partner: Swan Valley Connections

Condon, Montana is a town of less than 500 people in a remote area 90 miles north of Missoula. While a beautiful location, the challenge for people who live there is access to fresh, whole food to supplement diets that are built substantially around hunting and fishing. For many, keeping a personal garden is not possible on their rented property and during an extremely short (less than three month) growing season. Lucy’s community garden project began in the summer of 2016, with the building of an extensive literature review, preparing interview questions, and laying the groundwork for a feasibility study. During the fall, she participated in a semester long, community-based conservation course hosted by Swan Valley Connections in western Montana, taking her spare time to acclimate to the area and better understand the local population. Lucy explored the needs of the community, through interviews and surveys. These tools allowed her to gauge the likelihood that people unaccustomed to utilizing public or cooperatively held resources, would utilize a community garden as both a means of food production and a social gathering space. To this end, Lucy provided an initial study and analysis to assess the local demand and community’s commitment to participating. With positive first steps, they have turned to the second step of developing a management plan to make sure that as they break ground, it will be a sustainable practice into the future.

The following is Lucy’s reflection of what this opportunity has meant to her education:
There are an incredible number of college programs available to students looking to study abroad, but this one stood out to me for many reasons. In my search to find an enriching experience to complement my Environmental Studies major and Forestry minor, I stumbled across the Landscape & Livelihoods program with Swan Valley Connections in northwest Montana and was immediately drawn to the emphasis on studying ecology and conservation in the context of rural communities in the United States. Prior to this program, I understood the health of social and ecological systems to be inextricably linked. While many of my peers traveled to far-off countries to look at conservation issues, I was compelled to find a program that taught me more about natural resource management in my own vast country. It wasn’t until I was immersed in the L&L semester, however, that I realized communication to be at the heart of our most complex socio-ecological issues. I was humbled to have the opportunity to have tribal members, ranchers, loggers, foresters, sawyers, conservationists, and natural resources government officials as teachers within this program, and in some cases to have most of them sitting at a table. This program did not advocate a one-size fits all solution to conservation challenges, but rather enlightened me to the hard work and constant work of collaboration that conservation demands, the complexities of policy and nuances of community-based conservation. In an era where political beliefs and academic backgrounds greatly divide our country and our world, this program was an incredibly humbling and eye-opening experience that taught me the importance of truly listening, starting at the community level.

Sven '18
Applied Mathematics

Faculty Mentor: Lesley-Ann Dupigny-Giroux, Professor and Chair of the Department of Geography
Community Partner: Vermont Agency of Transportation

The intended goal of Sven’s project was to target three different methods for generating precipitation estimates that best represent observed rainfall to better inform the decision making of the Vermont Agency of Transportation (VTrans).  The need for improved prediction is great, because the decisions VTrans makes determine where and how bridges are built or replaced around the state. After recent extreme variances in the weather (i.e. Tropical Storm Irene), the state Climate Office, led by Sven’s faculty mentor, Lesley-Ann Dupigny-Giroux, explored opportunities to join forces to better the state’s hydraulic engineering. It was the manipulation of vast amounts of data where Sven’s background in mathematics and coding allowed him to assess the differences among extreme precipitations estimates, create maps of various studies conducted by VTrans, and compare the relationship between the extreme events and damage to existing structures. The summer research created the foundation to expand his interests in the fall semester, where he realized the impact of vagaries in data modeling methods across state lines. Now he is working on “smoothing” the differences in order that we can share hydraulic data on a region-wide basis –taking his Simon award and building impact beyond the Green Mountain State.

Below is an excerpt of the presentation he gave at the Student Research Conference at the University of Vermont: Title: Streamgage Prediction in the Northeast   The USGS has an online tool, called Streamstats, that uses regression equations built from previous data to make these predictions. One thing that stands out is often times these equations will change when state lines are crossed. The goal of this project was to see if the way the equations are bounded (by state lines) seems to yield a pattern of inconsistency. In other words, can all the predictions be looked at across multiple states and visualized using GIS technology to show that this method of choosing a regression equation for a site is somewhat backward? The idea is that if nature does not pay attention to state boundaries, why is that we are using these boundaries to predict natural events. We peer into data and prediction for something that is extremely variable and thus needs to be looked at carefully. The results below are from a relatively small set of a much larger network, but if the groundwork can be laid then maybe more and more of these studies will yield information that will change the way we think about state boundaries and natural events in general.

Simon '17
Environmental Studies

Project Title: Transportation Infrastructure Planning in the Tengis-Shishged region of Mongolia
Faculty Mentor: Patricia Stokowski, Professor of the Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism in Rubenstein
Community Partner: The Mongol Ecology Center (Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia)

Following a summer-long internship, Simon had a strong relationship established with his community partner, the Mongol Ecology Center, an international NGO created to improve practices in Mongolian National Parks. As Mongolia seeks to provide enhanced access to its natural places, the NGO acts to guide the country in the development projects, protect the ecological functions, and be mindful of traditional nomadic lifestyles. Access to these remote areas means road building, and a lack of thorough infrastructure planning threatens the delicate balance between natural and cultural resources. Into this balance, Simon brought a background in geographic information systems (GIS), a mapping tool designed to gather, store, analyze, and present spatial data. He gathered available maps of current roads, territories of nomadic herders, natural resources, animal migration paths –anything that could be impacted by the expansion and enhancement of roads. Then he went back into the field for a summer of “ground truthing” (checking the actual locations of features using the satellite technology. Not just anyone is adapted to life on the Mongolian steppe, but Simon brought wilderness experience on three continents –and in the South Pacific! –to bear on his summer in a yurt, the round tents used by the nomads.

His field work involved a GIS assessment of current road networks (gravel, dirt, sand, dry stream beds, etc.) in conjunction with important natural habitats and cultural landmarks (both of a social import to local populations and those of economic value for their mobile lifestyles). Second, he conducted a series of interviews with community leaders from diverse backgrounds and with diverse constituencies to find the valued resources to different groups. Then he overlayed the new information onto existing maps, analyzed best routes, and created a proposal for future transportation networks. In the end he delivered his proposal to local Mongolian officials outlining two possible passes into the valley where his research focused.
Simon’s research in Mongolia was highlighted by University Communications in March 2017 in an article titled, “Map to Mongolia". After graduating in December 2016, Simon has accepted a job with the National Parks in Yosemite.

Portrait of Emma '16

Emma '18

Project Title: Social Benefit Analysis of Refugee Specific Urban Agroecology
Faculty Mentor: Pablo Bose, Associate Professor of the Department of Geography
Community Partner: New Farms for New Americans

2015 Simon Fellows

Nate '16
Public Health (Individually Designed Major)

Project Title: Vaccine Coverage in Vermont and the Chittenden County Schools: Effect of Exemptions and Provisional Acceptance on Vaccine Coverage and Health Outcomes
Faculty Mentors: Beverly Wemple, Associate Professor of the Department of Geography & Jeanne Shea, Associate Professor of the Department of Anthropology
Community Partner: Vermont Health Department

Numerous vaccine preventable diseases are spread through close proximity and in densely populated situations, like schools. Numerous factors affect the rate of transmission of vaccine preventable diseases, however, it is widely accepted that the most important factor in preventing outbreaks of vaccine preventable disease is a high vaccine rate. The purpose of Nate’s research project this summer was to identify low or high vaccination rate clusters in Vermont schools (kindergarten through 12th grade) using ArcGIS to identify “hotspots” where the Vermont Health Department might use more effective strategies to distribute vaccines or other educational resources.

Nate’s career goal is to become a public health researcher. By participating in this research project he developed a number of skills: an ability to enter a community and develop relationships with partnering organizations and individuals in order to achieve a greater goal; how to develop understandings among a variety of constituents; and how to structure a scientific study, gather data, and communicate findings. Finally, this research contributed to the essential building blocks that will lead to his Honors Thesis, by identifying the location of schools where he will perform interviews that will act as case studies to exemplify the spatial data provided by his GIS mapping.

Nate is currently on a Fulbright Fellowship in Norway (fall, 2017).


Rachel '16

Project Title: Development of a "Traffic Enforcement Scorecard" for Walk and Bike Safety in Vermont
Faculty Mentor: Sheila Weaver, Senior Lecturer in the Department of Mathematics & Statistics
Community Partner: Local Motion (Burlington, Vermont)

Analyzing traffic citations may bear significantly upon the safety for people walking or biking in urban environments, and creating safer streets for everyone is Local Motion’s mission. They needed a means by which to accomplish the analysis and in walked Rachel. As a third year stats major, Rachel had the necessary skills to advance the mission of her community partner and find a practical means to exercise her math legs.

One of the key obstacles facing public safety oriented organizations is the relatively low priority that police departments place on walkers and bikers. Research in major metropolitan areas has shown that one way to raise the awareness of public officials to the dangers of their non-motorized citizenry is to provide scorecards for departments based on the number of citations they write for traffic infractions that are more likely to endanger people on foot or bike. By looking for statistically significant trends in tickets for jaywalking (pedestrian), riding through a stop sign (cyclist), and failing to signal (driver), the project hoped to suggest how effective local laws have been at maintaining or increasing safety for everyone sharing the road.

What Rachel found was that the data are even more complicated than her initial efforts could reveal, but undeterred, she has decided to continue her work into the fall to build a clearer picture of local and state laws. In addition she will be creating a series of visual aids (i.e., graphs and plots) to be used by her community partner in their efforts to create a more healthy and safe environment for everyone on Burlington’s streets.


Alyssa '17
Elementary Education

Project Title: The Benefits of a Mindful Learning Program on Elementary School Students and Teachers: A Case Study on the Center for Mindful Learning Initiative
Faculty Mentor: Shana Haines, Assistant Professor in the College of Education and Social Services
Community Partner: Center for Mindful Learning (Johnson, Vermont)

The study that Alyssa worked on took place at an elementary school in a high-needs, increasingly diverse school district in Winooski, Vermont. Three years ago this school district, with a generous grant from the Vermont Community Foundation, was able to pilot a mindfulness curriculum brought about by the Center for Mindful Learning. The current study sought to explore the benefits of this mindfulness program on students, teachers, and community members in the district.

During May and June, Alyssa worked side-by-side with seven UVM faculty members, participated in approximately twenty-five classroom observations, and interviewed teachers and staff at the nearby elementary school. Working with skilled professors from her college was an incredible experience in collaboration. When it came to data collection, her faculty mentor modeled professional interview procedures and protocols and then allowed her to conduct her own interviews. By being on a large research team Alyssa was able to learn the importance of communication between the researchers, the schools, and the community partner. She learned how to stay extremely organized during the entire research process, and took responsibility for maintaining the files where the team housed audio recordings, notes, cover sheets, and relevant literature. By working closely with her professors, Alyssa elevated her own learning experience and ultimately the results that she could have obtained had she been alone.

This summer benefitted by her future career plans as a general or special educator. Alyssa found it extremely beneficial to be able to spend an extended amount of time interviewing and observing classes at a school district similar demographically to that of a school that she hopes to work in. The integration of mindfulness into classrooms (particularly with elementary aged students) is on the rise; therefore, having the opportunity to see it at work in classrooms, and to examine both the benefits and difficulties of its use will be enormously beneficial when it is time for her to have a classroom of her own.


Charlie '16
Environmental Studies (concentration: Sustainability Studies)

Project Title: Using Messaging Techniques to Understand Perceptions of Act 148 and Composting
Faculty Mentor: Brendan Fisher, Associate Professor in the Gund Institute of Ecological Economics
Community Partner: Sustainability Program, City of Burlington, Vermont

Vermont Act 148 (Vermont’s universal recycling and composting law) mandates residents to sort their organic waste from their non-organics in order to divert thousands of tons of methane-producing food waste from going to the landfill. The implications of this law include selling this once-wasted material as a commodity, putting more money in the Vermont economy; decreasing waste sent to the increasingly-shrinking space in Vermont landfills; and, significantly decreasing the state’s greenhouse gas emissions. However, as this law will affect residents in their homes and change daily routines of Vermonters, it faces certain challenges in order for the successful implementation. Inevitably, Vermonters’ attitudes of Act 148 and the practice of composting will be a critical leverage point in a smooth transition into a state of universal composting.

Charlie spent time developing and carrying out an experiment which sought to use a number of behavioral economics techniques in order to measure Burlington residents’ perceptions and attitudes of residential composting. Specifically he manipulated the text on an information sheet about the residential composting components of Act 148 into four different groups: the control group was neutrally framed, as information appears on the Chittenden Solid Waste District website; the negative group received information framed with an emphasis on consequences of not complying; the Vermont group received neutral information that also primed the social identity of Vermonters as “leaders of positive innovating change”; and the Vermont positive group had information emphasizing the benefits of complying and priming their Vermont social identity. The information sheets were mailed to 4000 residents of Burlington with a survey to measure their attitudes.

The exciting and unexpected results that Charlie is still analyzing with his faculty mentor, Dr. Brendan Fisher, contradict the expectation that the Vermont and the Vermont positive groups would have more positive attitudes about Act 148 and composting. The initial findings suggest that these two groups had significantly more negative perceptions and attitudes of the new law. Overall this experience, made possible by the receipt of his Simon Fellowship, taught Charlie about the necessary steps to implementing a behavioral science experiment, how to find pose questions and find answers to crucial issues that have direct policy implications for our state. In effect, he learned how to uncover preconceived notions and anecdotal evidence by using research as his tool.


Anna '16
Gender, Sexuality, & Women's Studies

Project Title: Safer Sex Education for Empowerment
Faculty Mentor: Mary Burke, Lecturer in Gender, Sexuality, & Women's Studies and in the Department of Sociology
Community Partner: Living Well, Center for Health and Well Being (University of Vermont)

Part of the mission of Living Well is to create opportunities for accessing information, identifying resources, developing skills for making healthy choices. A vital area that the program wanted to develop was a sustainable peer education program. Anna’s past experience involving peer to peer engagement and her desire to have a positive and lasting impact made her the perfect candidate to help the Center.

Using a model of positive sexual health education to create an empowered student population is not a summer’s long project, but both Anna and her partner understood that the research she performed was intended to lay the groundwork for a larger, more comprehensive approach to improving student concepts of sex, sexuality, healthy relationships, and personal health. So Anna, in close collaboration with a nurse practitioner, collected a large amount of recent research on sexual education programming. She designed lesson plans for a student-led mentoring program, one that will be easily managed by full-time staff in the Center as the student population grows, graduates, and moves away. In Anna’s words, “my generation of young adults has had minimal exposure to safer sex education…In order to break the silence around sexual violence and stigmatized sexualities, sexual wellness must be approached from a holistic health perspective.” With her research and lesson planning complete, Anna is looking forward to implementing the peer-led program this coming year.

Erika '16

Project Title: Mapping American Childhoods: Early 20th Century Vermont
Faculty Mentor: Meghan Cope, Professor of the Department of Geography
Community Partner: Center for Digital Initiatives, UVM Libraries

Building off faculty interest in the lives of children in urban environments and the sociological and geographical information stored in raw form (not transcribed much less digitized) in the Special Collections of the Bailey/Howe Library at the University of Vermont, Erika conceived a project that would allow for easy, public access to these rich resources. The records in question referenced the abandonment and placement of children in the late 19th and early 20th centuries from an orphanage in Burlington. This vastly under-studied population –poor and socially marginalized children –and their experiences in a turn-of-the-century city, allow for the examination of the city’s practices and public discourses surrounding the care of poor children.

Throughout the digital mapping project, Erika learned a tremendous amount about managing large volumes of archival documents and data. The bulk of this project involved transcribing demographic, geographic, and general descriptive information form the Home for Destitute Children admission records, in effect developing a database for further analysis. Once created, she was able to perform ethnographic coding and geocoding to create a searchable database for the public. The maps that were developed demonstrate significant trends of placement and contribution for towns in Vermont. By focusing on several children’s narratives, Erika was also able to give voice to a largely marginalized population.

The most significant lessons she learned involved handling the inevitable gaps in the data, finding effective approaches to dealing with the gaps, and managing large volumes of data. The best way to solve issues surrounding incorrect or missing information proved to teach the lessons of fundamental archival research –find other supporting primary documents to enhance and support one’s analysis. Regardless of her future graduate school interests, Erika will be able to apply these essential skills.

2014 Simon Fellows

Morgan '15
Community and International Development (Concentration: Public Communication)

Project Title: Women Helping Battered Women Initial Name Change Research
Faculty Mentor: Shoshonnah Inwood, Assistant Professor of Community Development & Applied Economics
Community Partner: Women Helping Battered Women (Burlington, Vermont)

Morgan assisted Women Helping Battered Women (WHBW) to negotiate the renaming and rebranding of their organization.  Women Helping Battered Women is an agency that serves survivors of domestic abuse in Chittenden County.  WHBW has evolved into the largest service provider for survivors of domestic abuse in Vermont. In addition to providing emergency shelter and housing advocacy, WHBW offers a 24-hour hotline, legal advocacy, programs for children, help with employment, support groups, and many educational outreach programs.  WHBW attempted a name change in 2011, but were unable to complete the process. Using her background in public communications and calling upon eighteen months providing direct service to survivors, Morgan came to understand and appreciate the diversity of individuals accessing the services. It became apparent that the name of the agency was simply not representative of either the staff or service users, and in many ways was hampering their efforts to provide support that is inclusive of all potential survivors’ cultural identities. 

Morgan facilitated meetings with several service agencies in Burlington that recently rebranded, including The Pride Center of Vermont, ANEW Place, and HOPE Works, to identify their processes and get suggestions as to how to move forward with a name change.  She organized an internal name change committee, and opened a dialogue with the WHBW Board of Directors. In addition, the Vermont Energy Investment Corporation, which has had a longstanding relationship with WHBW, has agreed to provide the marketing assistance necessary for this rebranding to be effective.  This fall Morgan is compiling demographic statistics of service users, continuing her work with the board and the staff, and helping WHBW realize a new vision for themselves.

Hannah '15
Community & International Development

Project Title: Vermont Farm to School Programming Grant Evaluation
Faculty Mentor: Jane Kolodinsky, Professor & Chair of the Department of Community Development & Applied Economics
Community Partner: Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets

Hannah partnered with the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets to produce more complete and precise implementation data for the Farm to School Program in the State of Vermont. By creating a standard evaluation protocol for all schools receiving grant funds, this project first involved a compilation and review of past research methods and practices, documentation of success and challenges experienced by schools across the state, and comparison of Vermont’s results with schools from across the country. The second phase of the project was a process evaluation of outputs among all 2014 implementation grantees. The outputs (what the schools have successfully added to their farm to school programs) will be determined based on the objectives and activities described in each grant proposal. Using the information gained from this research, Hannah was able to address the concerns that teachers, administrators, students, and community members had with their current program structure and evaluation in order to redesign what qualifies a Vermont school as "Farm to School." This new method was piloted and tested on the Vermont schools that received Farm to School grants in the past year, creating an opportunity for Hannah to continue her research and applying what was learned over the summer months into this coming year. These evaluations and research are of high importance and value to the Agency of Agriculture, Food & Market’s plan for future testing to be conducted during the 2014-2015 school year.

Hannah is pursuing a Master's in Food Systems at UVM.

Hannah '14
Environmental Studies

Project Title: Insect Netting Trellis Systems to Manage Spotted Wing Drosophila for Vermont Blueberries and Raspberries
Faculty Mentor: V. Ernesto Mendez, Associate Professor of the Department of Plant & Soil Science
Community Partner: Vermont Vegetable and Berry Grower's Association (VVBGA)

Hannah’s ongoing project involves the study of insect exclusion netting to prevent damage caused to ripe blueberries and raspberries by the invasive species, Spotted Wing Drosophila, or Drosophila suzukii. In collaboration with the VVBGA, she studies the feasibility and efficacy of various systems of insect exclusion netting, constructing and testing new systems, with the intention to create an outreach document for the agricultural community. Ultimately her designs will be made available online for free. She is interested in facilitating the communication between farmers about the best ways to hang, trellis, or support insect netting in an effective, inexpensive way that also considers horticultural practices, like mowing, irrigation, and harvesting. As part of this interest, Hannah developed an electronic questionnaire and provided it to over 200 berry growers in New England asking them to share best practices from their own experiences. She also made direct observation at two blueberry farms during the summer. In the fall, Hannah plans to continue observing at one additional farm, and to interview several more farmers prior to finalizing her conclusions and presenting to the VVBGA at their annual conference.

Esther '15
Global Studies

Project Title: Creating a Sustainable Food System: Gleaning, Empowerment, and the Spread of the Vermont Model
Faculty Mentor: Teresa Mares, Assistant Professor of the Department of the Anthropology
Community Partner: Salvation Farms

This summer Esther spent doing qualitative research on gleaning in partnership with Salvation Farms. Salvation Farms is a non-profit organization committed to reducing Vermont’s dependency on outside food sources, eliminating waste from Farm-to-Plate programs, and finding ways to encourage investment in Vermont’s local food system, all through the method of gleaning. Gleaning is the process of taking usable, but not sellable, food from fields either pre- or post-harvest. This food tends to be not as aesthetically pleasing, but is perfectly edible, essentially it is food that farmers cannot sell either at market or to a business. While Vermont has one of the most well developed gleaning networks in the country, largely due to Salvation Farms, it remains understudied as a potential way to reduce waste, dependence on foreign food, and food inequality. Esther’s work this summer involved participating in gleans and interviewing volunteers, volunteer coordinators, and prisoners at the Windsor Correctional Facility. All these constituents work with the Vermont Commodity Program processing gleaned food for resale. By the end of the summer, Esther finished the majority of her interviews with volunteers and coordinators; in September she began interviews with the prisoner cohort. The rest of the year she plans to use these interviews to examine both the qualitative and quantitative merits of gleaning as a viable practice for food recapture.

Jasmine '15
Social Work

Project Title: Evaluation of Reintegration of Abandoned Babies in Cambodia
Faculty Mentor: Susan Comerford, Associate Professor of Social Work
Community Partner: Angkor Hospital for Children (Cambodia)

The recently established social work unit Angkor Hospital for Children (AHC) in Siem Reap, Cambodia invited Jasmine to complete an evaluation of their procedure for cases of infants who have been abandoned at the hospital. AHC social workers, in collaboration with other NGOs in the area, place the babies in short-term foster-care, trace the babies' biological parents or other family members, provide services to the families, and when safe and appropriate, reintegrate the babies with their families and continue to provide follow-up assessment and support. This initiative to promote family-based care is due to the vast body of research revealing the dangers of placing young children in residential care institutions and the benefits of children being raised at home by family members. AHC's baby reintegration procedure is the first of its kind in that country.

With support from AHC social work staff and UVM social work professor Susan Comerford, Jasmine interviewed six families whose babies had been abandoned and since reintegrated, as well as staff members and short-term foster caregivers. Information was gathered regarding the families' current conditions as well as their opinions of the strengths and weaknesses of the procedure. Several specific recommendations were given in the final report and presentation, which Jasmine delivered to the staff of AHC and a collaborating NGO, and at The Asia Pacific Congress of Arts and Sciences 2014 Conference (University Utara Malaysia). The social workers at AHC are currently implementing these recommendations, including designing a new follow up procedure to ensure the families are receiving the services they need in order to promote their children's long-term safety and well-being.

2013 Simon Fellows

Katie '15
Political Science & English

Project Title: Exploring and Analyzing the Political Engagement of Young Vermont Women
Faculty Mentor: Frank Bryan, Professor Emeritus of Politcal Science
Community Partner: Vermont Commission on Women

Katie partnered with the Vermont Commission on Women (VCW) to examine the factors limiting young women’s participation in the election process as citizens and ultimately as possible candidates running for elected office. During the summer she interviewed two contrasting groups of young women (ages 18-30) - those who were actively engaged in local level civic organizations or politicians at the state level, and those who were not participating in the political process beyond voting. Through her interviews she sought to find the critical decision points at which women might move towards or away from becoming political leaders. Her data and analysis will become part of the VCW’s plan to develop new initiatives to promote political engagement of young women, recognize their political aspirations, and encourage them to seek and win elected office. These efforts are spearheaded by former Governor Madeline Kunin, who is Katie’s community partner, and her research is supported by Professor Frank Bryan, Department of Political Science, an expert on Vermont politics. Katie may well become will become one of those young women leading Vermont in the years to come.

Maddie '14
English & Gender, Sexuality and Women's Studies

Project Title: A Collaborative Art Project with Women Helping Battered Women
Faculty Mentor: Kathleen Schneider former Professor of Art and Art History
Community Partner: Women Helping Battered Women (Now titled Steps to Recovery)

Maddie combined her love of art and her long-term volunteerism with Women Helping Battered Women to bring art-based classes to the women seeking shelter from domestic violence.  A result of her work was the production of promotional murals promoting safety and support for women in the workplace in Burlington, Vermont. Through her programming development, Maddie provided art instruction and materials to women and children at the shelter as a way for them to explore their emotions and to encourage the process of healing from trauma. She worked with a social worker from Women Helping Battered Women, received advice from an art therapist, and artistic direction from a UVM art professor, Kathleen Schneider. Maddie will continue to arrange activities that can be used by support groups sustainably.  As a result of her work she has formed a clear intention to pursue a master’s degree in social work after graduation.

Sammie '16
Global Studies and Geography

Project Title: Assessing the Efficacy of Various Outreach Methods for Promoting Use of Active Transportation Options
Faculty Mentor: Luis Vivanco Professor of Anthropology
Community Partner: Local Motion

Sammie’s project was to assess the effectiveness of different ways of promoting alternative forms of transportation, such as biking.  Her work involved interviewing people about alternative forms of transportation as outlets for recreation and to address social and community needs.  Her research project was done at the behest of her community partner, Local Motion, in consultation with her faculty supervisor, Professor Luis Vivanco.  It seeks to understand the transportation issues surrounding this quickly developing area of the state. She planned to conduct interviews at outdoor events at the beginning of the summer, at a time when it rained a great deal. Her work slowed considerably. She learned that research work does not always go as planned and has found alternate events through the summer and fall at which she will continue to gather enough data to allow her to draw sound conclusions.  So her work is incomplete at this date.  Ultimately her report will inform the Chittenden County Regional Planning Commission in its effort to help reduce single-occupancy vehicles and traffic congestion and promote more sustainable transportations models.

Sammie is currently in Kyrgyzstan pursuing a Fulbright Fellowship (Fall, 2017). 

Sabrina '14

Project Title: The Effect of Wind Disturbance on the Diversity of Insect Populations in Vermont
Faculty Mentor: Kimberly Wallin, Research Associate Professor of Forestry
Community Partner: Forests, Parks & Recreation (Chittenden County, VT)

Sabrina’s goal is to determine the best practices in the post-disturbance salvage harvesting of forests. One of the least understood forms of weather-related damage in Vermont is the increase in forest destruction during severe windstorms. These events are called “blowdowns.” After a blowdown, forest managers are asked to recommend that landowners salvage the harvest or allow the deadfall to degrade naturally, but few studies have looked at the benefits of one plan over the other. Sabrina’s research examined an aspect of this area of concern. She first completed GIS mapping of fifteen blowdown sites selected by her community partner, Chittenden County Forests, Parks and Recreation. Realizing that preserving biodiversity in addressing blowdowns is an important issue, Sabrina, working with her faculty advisor, Professor Kimberly Wallin, collected insects from traps as well as data on vegetation and coarse woody debris.  Her results to date have been encouraging but Sabrina intends to continue her work into the fall season.

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Contact FOUR Director:
Ann Kroll Lerner
Phone: 802-656-5532
University Heights South, Suite 009

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