President's Global Innovation Fund: 2017 Awardees

Name: Kavita Ahluwalia


Title of Project: A Global Learning Laboratory for Oral Health Step 1: A Planning Grant to Create a Kenya-Brazil Cross-National Collaboration in Support of Research, Education and Policy

Oral diseases are among the most common chronic diseases experienced by adults and children. Left untreated, they can result in pain, tooth loss, and quality of life declines such as difficulty eating and speaking, which in turn can lead to nutritional deficits, difficulty socializing and lost school and work days. While the morbidity associated with oral diseases can easily be mitigated through good daily self-care, knowledge and performance of daily self-care is often suboptimal in resource poor areas. Furthermore, oral diseases can impact a broad array of medical outcomes, but they are often excluded from health policy frameworks and poorly funded. It is therefore vital that oral disease prevention and management is integrated into public health and infrastructure decisions at all levels. The goal of this planning proposal, which builds on an existing collaborative established through the PGIF-funded, “Children’s Global Oral Health Initiative,” is to bring together stakeholders from Kenya and Brazil, both of which have increasing rates of oral diseases, and unequal access to care, to lay the groundwork needed to develop a comprehensive framework for oral health policy, prevention and management in low and middle-income nations. We will work with the Global Centers in Nairobi and Rio de Janeiro to bring together academic, research, policy and clinical partners who will use community-participatory methods to develop a cross-national learning laboratory which will be used to leverage expertise, develop collaborative oral health policy, planning and funding targets, and bring visibility to oral health needs. We anticipate that this work will be critical to informing oral health policy and programming in other low and middle income countries with similar needs, and we will explore the possibility of expanding the work to additional Global Centers including Mumbai and Amman. 


Name: Charles Armstrong


Title of Project: Educational Exchange with Scholars from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea
This one-year planning project will explore educational exchange, collaboration and training between faculty of Columbia University and scholars from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK, North Korea) in the form of lectures, workshops and collaborative research coordinated at the Columbia Global Center in Beijing, China. Columbia’s main partner institution in the DPRK will be Kim Il Sung University in Pyongyang and will focus on the natural sciences, including biology, neuroscience and environmental science. The project will begin with an exploratory visit by four Columbia faculty members to Beijing and the DPRK in the fall of 2017 to meet with scholars, students and university administrators North Korea, with a follow-up visit in the spring of 2018. The goal of the project is to establish regular programs of exchange for North Korean scholars and students in Beijing and eventually at the Columbia campus in New York.            





Name: Mamadou Diouf

Title of Project: African Ethnographies, African Philosophies: Theorizing from the Continent Nairobi
This project builds on existing collaborations between IAS and institutions in West and North Africa and France to explore innovative approaches in researching, writing, and teaching theory and methodology in an African context through summer seminars to be held at the Columbia Global Center in Nairobi (with the possibility of including the Center in Tunis at a later date). It brings together faculty and students working within disciplines across Arts & Sciences in the fields of history, anthropology, philosophy, political science, urban planning, and literature, and in doing so, encourages all participants to think across these disciplines and between the social sciences and humanities to generate new approaches and ways of thinking about African philosophy and epistemologies as well as issues of urban space, politics, religion and citizenship. These conversations and activities will take place within the context of summer seminar that will include Columbia faculty and students as well as faculty and students in Kenya. Additional scholars and students from Nigeria and France will join these summer seminars with the use of external funds. These seminars will last 10 days and will be held in June or July at the Global Centers in Nairobi. Modeled after a summer program that the IAS is sponsoring this June in Nigeria, these workshops will be taught collaboratively by Columbia and local faculty, and will instruct students in theory and methodology that privileges an African lens and includes a hands on opportunity to learn practical ethnography based research skills in various local field sites. All activities will be planned in collaboration with our colleagues in the Philosophy Department at the University of Nairobi who coined an innovative approach to fieldwork on African philosophy, and our colleagues at the Technical University of Kenya and local activists working on urban projects throughout the city.


Name: Tanya Ellman

Title of Project: Men Matter: Male Engagement in HIV Services in Kenya
While men have more power, privilege, and influence in many societies, men’s health outcomes are substantially worse than those of women, and this disparity manifests in the HIV/AIDS epidemic.  Though tremendous strides have been made globally in access to life-saving HIV treatment, men have lower HIV testing rates than women, and treatment coverage among men lags behind that of women.  Even on treatment, men have worse clinical outcomes compared to women, with significantly higher mortality.  “Men Matter: Male Engagement in HIV Services in Kenya” will utilize an interdisciplinary team to conduct formative research with men living with HIV and health care workers who provide care to this population in order to garner their perceptions on barriers and facilitators to engaging men in HIV care.  Project findings will be disseminated at a learning workshop at Columbia Global Center in Nairobi, Kenya to elaborate on their relevance to advancing men’s health more broadly.  As HIV care has transformed health care delivery in much of the world by developing a chronic care model where none previously existed, lessons learned on enhancing men’s engagement in HIV services will substantially accelerate efforts to control the HIV epidemic and may help improve men’s use of other health services and health outcomes more generally.



Name: Katherine Ewing

Title of Project: Religion & the Rise of Populisms: Difference, Dissent, and Tolerance
This two-year project will involve regional conferences at the Columbia Global Centers in Paris and Amman, with a concluding workshop in New York, to think comparatively about the rise of the “new populism,” a term increasingly used across the globe to characterize recent political trends in which leaders mobilize social groups for political action through emotionally compelling messages of economic uplift, nationalism, the wresting of power from entrenched elites and the protection of a way of life. The project will focus on populist movements in Europe, the Middle East, and the United States. The conferences will consider the distinct local histories of various forms of populism, focusing particularly on the role of changing media in political appeals to publics that are constituted through religious, economic, ethnic, and class imagery. We will draw together an interdisciplinary group of scholars from Columbia and other universities, as well as journalists, people in government, and religious leaders, who will investigate comparatively the various forces that come together to produce “populist” movements, focusing on the role of religious and ethical claims in mobilizing a politically powerful electorate in the name of populist goals.


Name: Ruth Finkelstein

Title of Project: Generativity in deprived urban contexts? Older Adults’ experiences in slums in Mumbai, Nairobi, and among Haitian immigrants in New York
Societies around the world are growing older rapidly, though this change is more advanced in industrialized countries than in low and middle-income nations. There is evidence from research that older adults, if they have the requisite capacity and opportunities, will engage with, and seek to support, younger generations and that such engagement will enhance capabilities of the young and well-being of the old.
However, this research on the “generativity” of older adults has been based largely in industrialized societies. Our proposal requests a planning grant to shift the grounds of this thinking in two ways, by adopting a more ‘inclusive’ group based and context specific approach. We will interrogate the notion of ‘generativity’ in three different and ethnically diverse urban contexts, including specific slums in Nairobi, Mumbai, and among Haitian immigrants in Brooklyn. In this way our project will contribute to focusing scholarly attention on knowledge production on aging and also contribute to framing new categories and protocols for testing theories and practices in the global South. The Columbia Global Centers in Mumbai and Nairobi will guide this thinking and advise on the state of the field, and our longstanding colleague Isabella Aboderin PhD and the APHRC based in Nairobi will help us to further specify the variations on generativity. We aim to convene collaborative consultations with scholars and stakeholders, to develop teaching modules, and will provide a full study design to submit for federal and international funding.


Name: Sarah Knuckey

Title of Project: Mental Health and the Psychological Impact of War on Individuals, Families, and Communities in Yemen: A Project to Advance Research, Services, and Advocacy
A 25-year-old in Yemen today has already lived through 15 major conflicts and wars. The current civil war in Yemen has resulted in more than 10,000 deaths, displaced more than 2.8 million people, and left close to 20 million people in need of humanitarian assistance. However, public attention to the ongoing humanitarian crisis is minimal, and there is even less focus on mental health services, conditions, or impacts, despite the extreme suffering civilians experience daily. 
This project is an interdisciplinary and transnational partnership between Columbia University human rights and public health professors and students and Yemeni civil society. It seeks to study mental health in the context of the armed conflict in Yemen, to bring mental health concerns into Yemen’s peace and reconciliation processes, and to strengthen recognition of the right to mental health in Yemen and internationally. The partnership will also develop and use novel approaches to assess the right to mental health in emergency and armed conflict settings. 
In bringing together Columbia faculty and students with colleagues from Yemeni civil society and Columbia’s Global Learning Center in Amman, Jordan, this project aims to fill a significant gap in knowledge about the linkages between conflict and mental health in Yemen, yielding data that will have important implications for advocacy, policy and practice. The project will produce locally-owned data on the state of mental health in Yemen, and the results will be used to formulate evidence-based policy recommendations, which will lay the foundation for Yemeni civil society to engage with policy makers on post-conflict reconstruction efforts to advance the right to mental health.


Name: Don Melnick

Title of Project: Causes, Consequences, and Prevention of Wildfires in Chile
Chile is on fire. More than 500,000 hectares of wildfires have affected cities, towns, and rural areas, including Chile’s national parks and reserves. Scaled to the U.S., it would be as if 16 million acres were burning. The social, economic, and health impacts of these fires will be severe. Hence, there is a real need to understand the causes and consequences of these fires, and implement innovative approaches to preventing them from taking place. The aim of this research is to get a strong picture of (a) the climatic and anthropogenic causes of these fires, (b) the ecological and socioeconomic consequences once they occur, and (c) how we will apply The Rainforest Standard Protected Area Credits™ (RFS|PAC) system, a science-based financial mechanism, to incentivize their prevention. To do this Columbia University (CU), through its Center for Environment, Economy, and Society (CEES) and its Global Center in Santiago, Chile, and Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile (UC), through its Department of Ecosystems and The Environment in Santiago and its Center for Local Development in Villarrica, will deploy a team of researchers from CU, UC, and other U.S., Chilean, and Canadian universities, who are leaders in wildfire assessment and modeling, below and above ground ecology, forest and biodiversity conservation, sociocultural and socioeconomic analysis, and environmental policy and climate change adaptation. An essential part of this collaboration will be the implementation of the RFS|PAC system, designed by CEES, as an innovative tool to provide long-term sustainable funding for comprehensive, best practices forest management, including fire prevention, in two adjacent protected areas of temperate rainforest in southern Chile. The demonstration of the RFS|PAC as a fire prevention mechanism will serve as a model to be replicated throughout Chile, and other countries where fire has become a major driver of deforestation.


Name: Susan Pedersen

Title of Project: Enhancing the Research Component of the Columbia/Barnard/GS History Major
Senior theses are the most significant independent work students can do in their majors. For historians, such projects require not only training in research skills, but also access to source materials that are often far removed from New York. Our project supports highly motivated undergraduates at Columbia and Barnard with stipends and intellectual mentorship as they pursue research in European libraries and archives. We guide students as they formulate their potential thesis topics, and, with the assistance of Columbia University Libraries, offer advice on relevant sources and methods. In July, participants convene for a workshop at the Global Center Europe to discuss their progress with Columbia faculty. The project directors introduce the students to the senior thesis as a genre of scholarly writing, and consider issues related to the logistics of historical research.  We devote the vast majority of our time to discussions of each student’s project, on the basis of proposals circulated in advance. In addition to these group sessions, we meet in pairs with each student to give more specialized guidance, raise additional questions, and address any unresolved concerns before they return to the archives. To date, student participants in the program have written award-winning senior theses based on archives in the U.K., France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, Poland, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Russia.


Name: Gisela Winckler

Title of Project: Dust, Climate and Health Impacts: past-present-future
Dust plays multiple roles in the climate and environmental system. It actively influences climate (e.g., through blocking solar radiation or fertilizing the ocean), and it feeds back on the climate system (e.g., by accelerating melting of glaciers due to darkening the glacier surface). Third, exposure to fine particulate matter of natural or anthropogenic origin has tremendous impacts on human health, including increased risk for human morbidity and mortality. Elucidating the role of dust in human and ecosystem health requires an interdisciplinary approach involving scientists from the earth, climate, atmospheric, agricultural, public health, modeling and other science disciplines. 
I will organize a workshop at the Columbia Global Center in Santiago de Chile that will bring together earth scientists and public and environmental health scientists from Columbia University and from the Chilean science community to discuss the societally relevant problem of climate and health impacts of dust and other aerosols of natural and anthropogenic origin. The workshop will be designed to allow for a productive exchange between Columbia University-based scientists from Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory and the Mailman School of Public Health, respectively, and our Chilean counterparts from three key Chilean universities (Universidad de Chile, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, and Universidad de Concepción). The workshop will serve as a platform to connect a diverse group of scientists from the earth and public health science community from both countries and stakeholders with the aim to develop specific areas for scientific collaboration related to climate and health impacts of dust and to develop seeds for enhanced collaborations, including ways in which mutual student and early career researcher involvement can be fostered.


Name: Debra Wolgemuth

Title of Project: African Nutritional Sciences Research Consortium: Laboratory-based PhD Training in Nutritional and Agricultural Sciences in East Africa
The African Nutritional Sciences Research Consortium (ANSRC) is a consortium bringing together academic and research institutions across the East African region with the goal of developing a model multi-institutional, Africa-based PhD level training program in basic nutritional and agricultural sciences that will promote intra-Africa collaborations, enhanced sustainability, and meaningful interactions with Columbia faculty and graduate students. ANSRC seeks to build a PhD program in basic laboratory research that will greatly expand training opportunities and facilities beyond that available at any single institution. ANSRC will establish curricula and laboratory training, monitor research projects, establish Centers of Excellence within which the research activities will be enhanced, and as a consortium, decide the quality of the dissertation to merit a PhD degree for individual students at their host universities.  ANSRC will not just offer laboratory based training for academics sake, but will link graduate students’ training to a “path to action” wherein students will be conducting basic research relating to public health problems in East Africa.  ANSRC will also strive to establish private – public interactions, to ensure that their research projects enhance local economic development. ANSRC is distinct in that it will coordinate two interrelated laboratory training tracks: one in basic human nutritional sciences and one in agricultural sciences.  Thus, long-term capacity building in human nutrition will be linked with agriculture and food production.