Honor student and faculty member collaborate to improve HIV education – VCU News


Mamo, a rising junior Honors College student majoring in political science with a concentration in civil rights, is attending the Honors Undergraduate Summer Research Program to help research how to do just that. Mamo was paired with Eli Coston, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies at Virginia Commonwealth University College of Humanities and Sciences, to work collaboratively on the research.

The focus of the project is simple: what is currently being done to inform people about HIV and what could be improved. Together, Mamo and Coston examine sex education programs in place in schools and communities, as well as their specific approach to educating people about HIV.

“Working with a professor on a one-to-one basis for a full-scale, full-scale project is something that often can’t happen until the upper-grade classes, so having that experience of developing a full-scale project has been really enlightening,” said Mamo said. “Collaborating with someone like Professor Coston, who has specifically done research and advocacy on LGBTQ+ issues, has made the project work very well.”

Prior to this project, Mamo had studied inclusive education in secondary schools, where he found that including LGBTQ+ topics and perspectives in social studies, arts, and sex education lessons makes schools a better environment for the mental health of LGBTQ+ students.

This project was a good fit with Coston’s research interests, which focus on the inequalities and disparities that LGBTQ+ people experience in healthcare.

“I think Isaiah’s project is extremely important because it takes a holistic approach to HIV prevention,” Coston said. “There is a lot of research on specific programs that aim to reduce HIV transmission, but this project is about integrating evidence-based practices to generate a comprehensive set of recommendations.

By the end of the summer, Mamo and Coston hope to have a list of suggested types of programs and programs they think should be implemented in schools and communities to better educate people about HIV. .

“I would also like to make an orientation note and use that to potentially do things like lobby with my search results and suggestions,” Mamo said.

Coston believes this project has the ability to unlock a new way to educate and raise awareness about HIV. “I believe this project has the potential to change the way we think about service delivery and engage the community in sexual health efforts to better serve LGBTQ+ people,” Coston said.

Mamo said her advice to undergraduates debating the possibility of getting involved in research is simple: “Do it! »

“If you have a topic that you may have learned about in a course and want to investigate further, [the Honors Summer Undergraduate Research Program] is a great opportunity to work closely with faculty in a way that expands what you learn in class,” Mamo said. “I would also say be open to meeting new people and professors, because a big part of HSURP is working with a professor and participating in workshops with your peers in the program.”

And similarly for Mamo, Coston encourages faculty to hire undergraduate students for summer research projects as part of the program.

“I would say it’s a great opportunity to be really inspired by what our students are doing and what they can accomplish,” Coston said. “Let them run with their ideas and see what they come up with. Our students are incredibly capable, so give them guidance when they need it, but be open to the possibilities they imagine with their projects.


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