REU: Community-Engaged Training for Advancing Health Equity

Join Us in Essential, Interdisciplinary Research To Promote Health Equity and Eliminate Health Disparities Among Underserved Populations

For information contact

Alexis Noah

Event & Program Associate

Funding Source

NSF 2150042

See Projects

2023 Health Equity REU students at the end-of-summer banquet.
2023 Health Equity REU students at the end-of-summer banquet.

Who should apply

Related fields

  • Anthropology
  • Child, Youth, and Family Studies
  • Communication Studies
  • Educational Psychology
  • Ethnic Studies
  • Nutrition
  • Political Sciences
  • Psychology
  • Public Health
  • Sociology
  • Other health related fields

In this program, each project has unique prerequisites. See project descriptions below for details.


Participation in the Nebraska Summer Research Program is limited to students who meet the following criteria:
  • U.S. Citizen or Permanent Resident
  • Current undergraduate with at least one semester of coursework remaining before obtaining a bachelor's degree

See Eligibility for more information.

How to apply

Follow the application steps to submit the following materials.

About the Program

The University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Minority Health Disparities Initiative (MHDI) administers the Health Equity REU, which is an interdisciplinary program aimed at conducting research into  understanding and reducing health disparities and in increasing and diversifying health researchers from minoritized and underserved populations. This project takes place under support of a pending  Summer REU grant from the National Science Foundation for research community- engaged methods for conducting health equity research. As part of that program, participating students will receive training in multiple community-engaged research approaches, including community-based participatory research (CBPR), social network and other decentralized community methods, community-engaged research in clinical settings, and community-engaged approaches with children. 

Based on these trainings, participants will learn how to design and conduct health disparities related research studies in order to employ these skills where possible in their summer research projects. Instruction will take place during the first week of the program and will be led by MHDI Core Faculty. Training will be used to enrich the students' experience during the subsequent 9 weeks. At the conclusion of the program, participants will present their research at the Summer Research Symposium poster session.


  • Competitive stipend: $6,000
  • Suite-style room and meal plan
  • Travel expenses to and from Lincoln
  • Campus parking and/or bus pass
  • Full access to the Campus Recreation Center and campus library system
  • Wireless internet access

Learn more about academic and financial benefits.


  • Department seminars and presentations
  • Professional development workshops (e.g., applying to graduate school, taking the GRE)
  • Welcome picnic
  • Day trip to Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium
  • Outdoor adventures
  • Research symposium

Mentors and Projects

Discrimination, Social Support, and Mental Health

This project combines data from approximately 250 Latinx residents of Nebraska focusing on their experiences of discrimination, the social support that may buffer against the effects of discrimination, and related mental health outcomes, which includes both mental health symptoms and prior treatment access.  Within this, we examined their preferred methods of help seeking and sought to evaluate acceptability of novel means of receiving help (e.g., digital tools).  These data also examine the role of traumatic event exposure.

Disaster-focused Mobile Mental Health

This study tested a mobile mental health intervention with victims of the 2017 hurricane outbreak. It utilized a large-scale randomized control trial design to test the effectiveness and use of the application. The app was designed to treatment depression, PTSD, sleep difficulties, and anxiety. The app represents a collaborative effort across multiple universities and potential projects would need approval from other members of the research team, but multiple avenues of data analyses are possible. 

Dr. Katie Edwards Educational Psychology

Family Assistance Project – Online

Prerequisites: We require that interested students have completed at least one methods course.

The Family Acceptance Project (FAP) is a rigorously developed family-based intervention for caregivers of SGMY as well as SGMY (within the context of their families) in the U.S. FAP, created by Dr. Caitlin Ryan, seeks to prevent myriad deleterious outcomes and promote PYD for SGMY in the context of their families, cultures, and faith communities. Designed to help families via caregivers to decrease rejection and to support and affirm their SGMY across systems of care, including in homes, schools, congregations, and various systems (e.g., behavioral health, foster care), FAP has primarily been delivered as an in-person intervention to date. This project proposes an online adaptation of the original curriculum and intervention. 

Dr. Katie Edwards Educational Psychology

Oaye Luta Okolakiciye: A Documentation and Evaluation Project

Prerequisites: We require that interested students have completed at least one methods course.

Although research documents the concerning rates of alcohol-related problems (ARPs), including hazardous alcohol use and alcohol-related consequences, among Indigenous populations (including the Lakota people in present day South Dakota), we still know little about how to prevent these problematic issues that devastate Indigenous communities. The proposed project aims to document and pilot evaluate a culturally grounded mentoring program for Lakota adults that seeks to prevent ARPs and promote holistic well-being via enhancing connection to Lakota culture, social connection, and healthy coping and life skills.

Dr. Katie Edwards Educational Psychology

Peaceful Means

Peaceful Means’ mission is to eliminate sexual violence among Indigenous peoples. We fervently believe that through our Indigenous-led work that every Indigenous child can reach adulthood without being sexually violated. Our initiative is located on the Pine Ridge Reservation, home to the Oglala Sioux Tribe, which shares geography with South Dakota and Nebraska. The office is currently planning for implementation and evaluation of a culturally adapted version of IMpower (an Empowerment Self-Defense program) with all K to 12 youth (5,000+) on the Pine Ridge Reservation. 

Dr. Katie Edwards Educational Psychology

Sexual Assault Among Sexual Minority Men: Strong, Thriving, and Resilient Men’s (STAR-M) Project

Sexual Assault Among Sexual Minority Men is a research project to better understand sexual assault experiences among sexual minority men in the U.S., including cis and trans men and transmasculine people, to inform affirming prevention and response efforts. Almost half of sexual minority men experience adult sexual assault victimization in their lifetime, and as many as 30% of sexual minority men report lifetime adult sexual assault perpetration. Although rates of victimization and perpetration among sexual minority men are alarmingly high, even when measured over short periods of time, little research has examined risk and protective factors for adult sexual assault victimization or perpetration. 

Dr. Katie Edwards Educational Psychology

Teen Connection Project

Prerequisites: We require that interested students have completed at least one methods course.

Transgender and other gender minority youth (TGMY) experience high rates of psychosocial (e.g., depression, teen dating violence) and behavioral health (e.g., substance use) problems, which are rooted in experiences of gender-related minority stress (e.g., peer and family rejection, internalized transphobia). This project aims to complete feasibility and pilot testing of a synchronous, group-delivered eHealth mentoring and skill-building program (i.e., Teen Connection Project) for TGMY ages 14 to 17 that focuses on evidence-based skill-building components (e.g., social-emotional skills) designed to reduce psychosocial and behavioral health problems in this population.

Dr. Katie Edwards Educational Psychology

Preventing Sex Trafficking Among Racially/Ethnically Diverse High School Students

The purpose of this project is to prevent sex trafficking among racially and ethnically diverse high school students in Des Moines, Iowa. Researchers and community partners will collaborate with Des Moines Public Schools to deliver the READY to Stand Curriculum™ to high school students and school personnel and evaluate its effectiveness. Multiple evaluation methods will be used to measure program impact.

Dr. Patrick Habecker Rural Drug Addiction Research Center, Sociology

Substance Use and Public Opinion in Nebraska

Prerequisites: Completion of a statistics course from a social or behavioral science field.

In the United States, substance use and its associated health risks have traditionally been considered an urban and coastal problem. However, rural areas and those in the Midwest have seen a recent increase of HIV, hepatitis C, and deaths from overdoses. In response we have developed several projects focused on the state of Nebraska.

This project looks at statewide surveys of the general population to assess prevalence of substances, attitudes and stigma towards people who use drugs, and attitudes about public health services for people who inject drugs. Students can draw from Nebraska focused data or look at national datasets such as the TEDS or NSUDH to develop their own projects on rural substance use.

Executive Control and Adolescent Health Trajectories

Prerequisites: Incoming students should have had at least one methods or statistics course OR prior experience in research.

This project examines the interplay between specific aspects of cognitive development (particularly executive control), key health behaviors (e.g., diet, sleep, physical activity, substance use), and health outcomes (including mental and physical health) in a longitudinal study design. The project involves a community longitudinal sample that was originally recruited in preschool and followed throughout childhood and adolescence, with rich repeated measures of cognitive abilities, select health behaviors, home and neighborhood environments, mental health, and physical health.

Dr. Lorey Wheeler Nebraska Center for Research on Children, Youth, Families and Schools

Sociocultural Influences on Youth’s Health and Educational Outcomes

Prerequisites: We require that interested students have completed at least one research, methods, or statistics course OR have prior experience in research.

Health and educational disparities result in serious public health problems for large and growing subgroups of families in the U.S. Dr. Wheeler’s research primarily focuses on immigrant, Latinx, or Indigenous subgroups in the U.S., who are at risk for exposure to systemic marginalization and resulting stressors (e.g., discrimination, acculturative stress), in addition to economic hardship, poverty, school dropout, and work that requires little formal education, all of which further threaten health and well-being. There is a need to understand resilience-based mechanisms that may help promote and support positive health and developmental outcomes, which are key for developing successful programming that supports health and educational equity for marginalized populations. Dr. Wheeler’s projects center not only on health and educational equity but also equity in the application of methods.