Chez Veterans Center MSKC seed grants awarded

Vincent Lara-Cinisomo
Hedda Meadan MSKC

The Chez Veterans Center’s Military Service Knowledge Collaborative (MSKC), founded in 2018 to advance the creation and application of research that positively impacts well-being and quality of life during and after military service for service members, veterans, and their families, recently awarded its first seed grants to five Illinois professors campus-wide.

The Chez Veterans Center, under the leadership of Dr. Reggie Alston as Interim Director, awarded the grants, which are in the amount of $15,000. Dr. Alston was able to secure the funding awards from the College of Applied Health Sciences with the approval of Dean Cheryl Hanley-Maxwell. Projects will be funded for a one-year period, May 20, 2019 to May 20, 2020. A request for proposals was disseminated in January, and proposals needed to identify a problem impacting a military or veteran community and the proposal needed to articulate how the development of research addressing such problem might translate into actionable solutions for the community affected.

The five grantees are Dr. Graham Huesmann, assistant professor of Molecular and Integrative Physiology at the Carle Illinois College of Medicine, for his study titled, “MR Elastography as a Biomarker for Post-Traumatic Epilepsy.” Co-investigators include: Dr. Paul Arnold, Clinic Professor at the Carle Illinois College of Medicine and Dr. Aaron Anderson, Carle Foundation Hospital-Beckman Institute Postdoctoral Fellow. The community partner is the Carle Foundation Hospital.

Yulanda Curtis, assistant clinical professor and director of the Veterans Legal Clinic at the Illinois College of Law, for her study titled, “Examining the Associations of Housing Instability and Access to Legal Services among Previously Incarcerated Veterans.” Community partners include: VA Illiana Health Care System Veteran Justice Outreach Program and the Illinois Armed Forces Legal Aid Network.

Dr. Hedda Meadan, associate professor in the Department of Special Education-College of Education, for her study titled, “Partnering with Military Families via Telepractice: Empowering Caregivers and Enhancing Communication Skills of Children with Autism.” The community partner is the Military Families Learning Network.

Dr. Leanne Knobloch, professor in the Department of Communication-College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, for her study titled, “Healing in the Aftermath of War: Evaluating the REBOOT Combat Recovery Program.” Co-investigators include: Dr. Jenny Owens, founder and Outcomes Coordinator of REBOOT Alliance and Dr. Robyn L. Gobin, Assistant Professor in the Department of Kinesiology and Community Health-Applied Health Sciences (serving as project consultant). The community partner is REBOOT Combat Recovery.

Dr. Meghan Burke, associate professor in the Department of Special Education-College of Education, for her study titled, “Developing and Testing a Family Service Specialist Program for Newly Civilian Families of Children with Developmental Disabilities.” Community partners include: the Military Families Learning Network, The Autism Program of Illinois, and the Parent Educational Advocacy Training Center.

Grantees will also have the in-kind services of Dr. Jeni Hunniecutt, visiting research specialist at the Chez Center and coordinator for the MSKC program, to help identify key community stakeholders as well as assist with initiating and maintaining collaborative relationships with stakeholders throughout the project lifespan.

“I was thrilled to see the breadth and diversity of proposals for this seed grant competition,” Hunniecutt said. “It really speaks to the growing motivation across campus to not only do Military/Veteran-focused research, but to do so in a community engaged way. Something unique to this seed program was the requirement for proposals to highlight potential for community partnership. This is what the MSKC is about—it’s a framework to research with, not for Veterans. All of these projects are working with Veterans and community stakeholders on the ground to solve problems that are important to this community—whether it’s optimizing brain health, recovering from combat, intervening in homelessness, or supporting military families—what’s most important here is a research infrastructure that gives voice to those the research is designed to serve.”