College Faculty Awarded Summer Impact Grant to Study COVID-19's Impact on Underrepresented/Under-Resourced Students

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Early studies have shown that students of low socioeconomic status, underrepresented races or ethnicities, and students identifying as female face even greater challenges and hardships brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic(McCormick, 2020).

CHHS faculty Drs. Lawrence J. Cheskin, Alison Cuellar, and Matthew Rossheim have received a Mason Summer Impact Grant to study COVID-19's impact on underrepresented/under-resourced George Mason University undergraduate students and their peers. The researchers will ascertain the social, behavioral, and psychological implications of the pandemic on students by conducting virtual semi-structured interviews and focus groups amongst 155 18–24-year-old Mason undergraduate students.

Students will answer questions about ethnicity, race, gender, socioeconomic status, and challenges they have faced before and during the COVID-19 pandemic. The students will also be asked about the impact these challenges have had on their personal goals, family, education, and health.

Findings will then be compared to those of students with financial stability and privileged settings.

Cheskin, Cuellar, and Rossheim bring extensive experience mentoring students and have unique professional backgrounds, offering a necessary multidisciplinary approach to the project. The team will include eight undergraduate and two graduate students who will conduct the participant interviews and present their findings at the Summer Celebration of Student Scholarship.

The study serves as a useful tool for Mason, and other universities, when creating online classes in the future and understanding how the community can better serve its underrepresented and under-resourced students. The public health impact of the study will allow for further implementation of interventions aimed at providing resources for students impacted by the pandemic, and, to this degree, several follow-up grant proposals are currently in progress. The team has applied for an ECMC Foundation grant to secure funding for a large-scale intervention.