SLS Faculty Sustainable Communities Teaching Awards, 2021: People’s Choice Selection

Teaching a service-learning course in Fall 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic seemed like an impossible task. However, the opportunity for students to reflect on what they did with and for communities during this extraordinary time is one that I could not pass up. I taught Sociology of Health and Medicine with a focus on the health inequities associated with COVID-19. The students who decided to stay in the course and take part of the service-learning challenge were creative and imaginative of how they could work with communities safely. Many students conducted their service learning virtually by doing various types of volunteer work, such as being an academic tutor through the organization Mind Bubble, writing thank-you letters to Atlanta healthcare providers with Hands-on Atlanta, developing on-line music lessons for patrons of the Covenant House, creating videos by reading children’s books for the United Way of Greater Atlanta Online Storytime, providing virtual assistance and disaster relief to people all over the U.S. with the American Red Cross, making masks for Grady Hospital Frontline Workers, building tool boxes for Habitat for Humanity, or answering calls for a COVID-19 Hotline with the Good Samaritan Clinic. Other students worked with communities in person using safety precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19, such as delivering meals through Open Hand Atlanta, planting trees with Trees Atlanta, packaging backpack kits with the Empty Stocking Fund, screening blood donors during blood drives with the American Red Cross, or working in various food pantries across Atlanta to address the increased risk of food insecurity during this time. The students engaged in these service-learning experiences (and others) and connected their learning with the course materials that focused on fundamental causes of health and illness. They also considered how their service learning aligned with the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals. From education and access to food to personalized assistance and protective masks, all things lead to issues of health. Indeed, shifts were made, but not surprisingly, Georgia Tech students were up for the challenge.

Contours and Constraints of an Autism Genetic Database. Scientific, Social and Digital Species of Biovalue (2018)

This paper examines the scientific, social and digital processes that shape multiple forms of biovalue evident in the development, participation and use of the Simons Simplex Collection (SSC), the largest autism genetic databases in North America. Based on interviews with SSC study participants and investigators, as well as a content analysis of a range of SSC materials, this empirical study makes visible the various contours of biovalue that are entangled between scientists who use this data for autism research, families who donate their blood and medical information to gain access to needed resources, and digital networks of exchange that make hybrid connections between and among these emergent biosocial communities. By examining the production of and interactions between scientific, social and digital forms of biovalue this paper highlights the constraints embedded within this heterogeneous assemblage to offer a critical account of the limits of the SSC and subsequent knowledge production. I contend that while the multi-dimensionality of biovalue built into the fabric of the SSC structure creates various contours of biovalue, it structurally constrains the types of production and knowledge flows that are allowed to be conceived and generated.


Autism Disparities: A Systematic Review and Meta-Ethnography of Qualitative Research (2018)

Racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic disparities associated with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are evident across many service domains including access to early assessment, diagnosis, and therapeutic interventions. To better understand the complex social and structural factors contributing to these disparities, this article offers a systematic review of peer-reviewed qualitative research conducted from 2010 to 2016 in the United States that investigates autism disparities experienced by marginalized communities. Based on these criteria, we identified 24 qualitative research studies and conducted an analysis using meta-ethnography and an intersectional interpretive lens. We identified three interdependent themes contributing to autism disparities, including familial, cultural, and structural barriers. Omissions in the literature were also evident, including a lack of research on underserved adults with ASD and the gendered inequities of caregiving. We discuss the implications of our findings and offer new questions that take an intersectional approach using qualitative research to investigate autism disparities.