Rice University

Rice University Center for Civic Leadership

2019 ASB Trip Descriptions

2018-19 ASB Trips

After the Storm: Rebuilding Communities through Food 

Grace Wickerson & Sarah Bradford                                              

Hurricane Harvey, described as a “once in a lifetime” storm, devastated much of Harris County, dumping 56 inches of rain in the Houston area in just a week. This catastrophic disaster not only destroyed homes, but also disrupted local food systems. These disruptions were both short-term, like interruptions in food distributions, and long-term, like grocery stores serving whole neighborhoods being destroyed. The areas with the worst flooding had the most severe destruction and were also some of Houston’s poorest areas.

One year later, Houston has charged forward in its recovery efforts and much of the city has recovered. And yet, the poorest, most-affected neighborhoods are still struggling to rebuild, and their stories are largely ignored. New Orleans, like Houston, suffered an immense disaster that disproportionately affected minority groups. Thirteen years after Hurricane Katrina, majority black neighborhoods like 9th Ward still feel the effects of the storm. Some communities still lack access to a grocery store and families are still struggling to recover financially with many still not having a home to return to. Unique to New Orleans though, recovery from Katrina generated a massive wave of social entrepreneurship and activism. Across the city, community organizers are actively working to rebuild their communities and livelihoods.

Through this ASB, we will investigate disparities in how communities recover from devastating natural disasters through the lens of food access. On this trip, we will be working with and learning from organizations focused on social entrepreneurship, urban agriculture, and food access in New Orleans, Louisiana. 



HealthiHER: Exploring and Untangling the Complex Web of Social Factors Contributing to Maternal Mortality 

Anna Margaret Clyburn & Raj Dalal

The WHO defines maternal mortality as “the death of a women while pregnant or within 42 days of termination of pregnancy...from any cause related to or aggravated by pregnancy…”

Since the 1980s, there has been a global push for initiatives to decrease maternal mortality. Thereafter, 157 out of the 183 countries in the UN reduced their maternal mortality rates. The U.S. was not one of these countries, and Texas remains one of its worst offenders. In fact, Texas had to be analyzed separately because its trends were so markedly different from the rest of the country. Following this discovery, Texas has been found not only to have a maternal mortality crisis, but also a crisis of data collection inadequacies. Within this already complex framework, race, income, and other social factors contribute to health outcome disparities and serve as additional confounders. For this reason, understanding trends in Texas’ maternal mortality has become an even more confusing task, but one that we as Rice students remain dedicated to undertaking.

Should you choose to accept this challenge, our ASB will take you to Austin, Texas, the birthplace of state legislation to investigate maternal mortality. Our trip aims to untangle the complexities of the Texas maternal mortality crisis by visiting the Capitol, hospitals, and grassroots organizations to encompass a wide variety of perspectives on this issue and on women’s healthcare as a whole. Here you will learn to serve as an advocate, an educator, student, and an active citizen all at once!



Head Above Water: Examining Water Justice Through a Community-Based Approach

Mitra Mirpour & Ivan Hurtado

In the United States, millions of people do not have access to clean, safe, affordable water. Beyond just for drinking, water has a diverse range of uses from survival and culture to agriculture and industry. Among those who lack access to water, marginalized communities such as Latinx, Native American, and homeless populations have historically faced barriers to fulfilling this basic necessity. This intersection between environmental and social problems has placed water at the center of a new social justice discourse. Our framework for water justice recognizes the right of every individual to clean, safe water while also incorporating the specific cultural and socioeconomic needs of these communities in their struggles for clean water.

Our ASB will be traveling to Albuquerque, New Mexico. Our pre-trip education will focus on the backgrounds of the communities and the systems in place that prevent them from accessing clean water. When in New Mexico, we will work with local community organizations that organize Latinx and Native American communities around water injustice. Our hope is that by engaging with communities and individuals who regularly face water-related obstacles, we can develop our understanding of water justice and define our role as allies to highlight the urgency of addressing this issue.



LatiNO BARRIERS: ImmiGRANT DREAMS - Exploring the Educational Access and Outcomes of Latino Immigrants

Carolyn Daly Serene Chen

Recently, with the family separation policy and attempts to repeal DACA, Latino immigrants have been in the media spotlight, though much of the political rhetoric has only furthered negative misconceptions about immigrants. In reality, immigrants are often systematically denied their rights.

Hispanic immigrants, especially those who are low-income, often face significant barriers in accessing quality education. Our ASB is traveling to Miami, FL, where 2/3 of the population is Latino, over 60% of people speak a language other than English at home, and over 50% of community members were born in a foreign country. In this diverse community which previews an America that is majority minority, our ASB will explore barriers to accessing quality education from both a cultural and policy standpoint. We’ll learn how to advocate for policy changes to improve the chances of these children getting an equal opportunity to succeed. On the trip, we’ll interact with students and community partners, including Americans for Immigrant Justice and the Children’s Movement, to understand the strengths and needs of this community. Ultimately, we want to understand how Miami’s unique bilingual and early childhood education programs have resulted in higher educational outcomes as compared to those of Hispanics nationwide.

Education should give every child an equal chance to succeed. Currently, our education system disenfranchises some of our population. We seek to learn how Miamians have been working to change that, and how we can advocate for similar changes in Houston.



Marginalized Minds: The Intersectionality of Mental Health and Homelessness

Kayla CherryMai Pham

Homelessness is not a new issue. Yet, it is one still misunderstood to be caused by laziness and reckless self-sabotage. Those experiencing homelessness bear the blame for depending on their communities’ emergency care and housing services, when the reality of the issue spirals much deeper beyond their control.

 A sliver of the public health database accounts for a large fraction of all costs. This sliver is the chronically homeless population, which cycles between substance abuse on the streets, treatment and temporary housing. Money pours out from these services in the form of short-term solutions that fail to address the true culprit of this population’s dependence—mental illness.

The American Psychiatric Association found that areas with higher levels of income inequality have a higher prevalence of depression. The other most common types of mental illness experienced by those who are chronically homeless include schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, often compounded by substance abuse. Of the various treatment models offered to this population, “Assertive Community Treatment” appears to most effectively recognize the mental health needs arising alongside homelessness. This model provides team-based, multidisciplinary treatment that addresses aspects such as therapy, social support, and employment.

Our ASB group endeavors to learn more about this holistic approach to breaking the cycle of mental illness and homelessness in New York City, which holds the largest homeless population of any U.S. city. By directly interacting with the community members in shelters, treatment centers, and beyond, we hope to learn more about the connection between two treatable issues.



Mind the Gap: Analyzing Barriers to Mental Health Care Access for Students

Amy Qin & Julie Thamby

Mental health complements physical development in that it forms throughout childhood and is characterized by certain developmental and emotional milestones. Successful development leads to healthy social development, effective coping skills, and positive interactions within households, educational facilities and communities. In contrast, deviations from expected development are defined as mental disorders. These disorders not only impact the life, growth, and productivity of individuals, but also impacts their immediate family and community. It is worth noting that students’ access to, and use of, mental health care face many types of barriers, depending on the age of students, their region, their sociocultural identifiers, and other factors.

Our ASB group will seek firstly to interact with all the different parties responsible for facilitating students’ access to care within the Houston community, including but not limited to primary care pediatricians, school counselors, medical school administrators, public health workers, social workers, and the students themselves. This will give participants the opportunity to engage critically with each cog in our mental health care system, thinking about how these parts interact with each other, what each is doing to bridge gaps and break barriers to care, and what problems continue to persist.

The most valuable aspect of this ASB is that participants are themselves stakeholders in the issue, which will hopefully lead them to examine the issue in a more empathetic and thoughtful manner and open their eyes to the barriers that their peers or even themselves may struggle with unseen.



Salud y Solidaridad: Understanding Healthcare Access in Rural Latino Communities

Arisa Sadeghpour & Orlando Cervantes

Rural portions of the United States have demonstrated worse health outcomes than urban locations. These result from lack of healthcare professionals ranging from nurses and primary healthcare physicians to specialists such as oncologists and X-ray technicians. These problems are compounded for Latinos living in the rural United States. They also have to deal with lack of cultural competency, lower healthcare insurance enrollment, and immigration concerns for some in these communities. Research has shown that Latinos are generally predisposed to various physical health problems such as diabetes and obesity. Additionally, a portion of the rural Latino population works in the agricultural sector, which can result in long term health conditions due to pesticide use, accidental injuries, and the harsh physical demands of their labor.

We will travel to the Rio Grande Valley of southern Texas to learn from and work with various co-educators. These co-educators will incorporate into the project the many seemingly different factors that converge on and influence health outcomes, including food systems, health literacy, housing, immigration, and education. Some of our co-educators includes professors at the University of Texas at the Rio Grande Valley, Proyecto Azteca, and the Hispanic Health Research Center. Furthermore, we seek to build a vanguardist cohort that is willing to challenge and develop each other’s perspectives on these and other social issues. If you seek to work with us, regardless of major and background, please apply!



Get Schooled: Exploring the Social Determinants of Children’s Health

Naimah Sarwar & Mira Dani

In many ways, education acts as “the great equalizer”-- granting opportunity to all groups, no matter their disadvantage… theoretically. But this doesn’t account for the social disparities that impact education itself. With this educational variability, inequity seeps its way into all aspects of life, include health outcomes. We often don’t realize how integrated systematic oppression affects the everyday lives of disenfranchised peoples when it comes to something as seemingly simple as going to school or getting a doctor’s appointment. This gap in health and education outcomes is even more exacerbated when we look at the youth population.

 Our trip aims to explore how educational disparities, residential disparities, and socioeconomic status become social determinants of a child’s health. Houston, as one of the most diverse cities in America, with lots of educational variability, and with a large and powerful medical hub, serves as a perfect location to learn about the various social factor that can affect pediatric healthcare. We want to explore why, even with one of the largest medical centers in the world, Houstonian children still face some of the worst health outcomes in the country.


Don’t boo, vote: Voting Rights and Mobilization

Brendan Wong & Rebecca Francis

In the past fifty years, the number of disenfranchised voters in the United States has tripled. Minority turnout in elections has decreased, and the gap between minority and white voters continues to grow. Voters between the ages of 18-35 make up 31 percent of the electorate, yet are often the least present at polling booths. These statistics don’t end here: too many Americans are either unable to vote, choosing not to vote, or somewhere in between.

Our trip will be traveling to Washington, D.C. to examine factors preventing eligible voters from getting to the booths and how they can be encouraged to vote more consistently. We will learn about how black, Latinx, Asian-American, and other minorities are disenfranchised, as well as visit organizations that are working to increase voter turnout in a variety of ways. Additionally, we will attend workshops to become better advocates for this issue. It is clear that U.S. citizens face a wide spectrum of challenges in exercising one of their most fundamental rights. However, it is not enough to merely understand these challenges. Through our trip’s engagement with voting rights and mobilization, we hope to gain a better understanding of why active participation for people of all backgrounds is key to shaping a future in which every citizen–regardless of race, ethnicity, primary language, or age–is confident in exercising the most fundamental tool enumerated to them: the vote.



Get Schooled on Disability: Examining the Stigma of Disability in Education

Margaret Todd & Emily Hwang

Around 20 percent of the US population has a disability and 13 percent of US public school students are disabled. The experiences students have in the educational system can shape the stereotypes and expectations they have for the rest of their lives, so the time in school is critical to studying the development of stigma. By looking at the stigma and labels that people place on students with disabilities, we will be able to see the barriers to succeeding in school and pursuing higher education. Disabilities have traditionally been looked at through their medical definitions, but we will learn to examine disability through our society and the stigma and discrimination that people and students with disabilities face.

We will begin our pre-trip education by learning about disability and its stigma in general and then move into discussing special education and the stigma in schools. On our trip, we’ll be driving to Austin and Dallas, TX. In these places, we will visit multiple types of educational systems, including schools with co-teaching models and schools that were designed to meet disabled students’ needs. We will also be examining the policy side of special education by visiting policy specialists in the capital of Texas. Ultimately, we want to challenge our participants to break down the stigma of disability within themselves and use their newfound knowledge to change the perception of disability at Rice.



Break the Silence: Intimate Partner Violence, Policies and Community Interventions

Jennifer Fu & Mahdi Fariss

According to the CDC 2010 National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, 1 in 4 women and 1 in 9 men are survivors of intimate partner violence (IPV). This means that in a standard classroom of 20 people, anywhere between 2 to 5 of your classmates could be victims of IPV. Although IPV has been a national health issue for decades, it has only recently come under research scrutiny. Traditionally termed as domestic violence, IPV specifically focuses on the psychological, emotional, and physical abuse perpetrated by an individual against their intimate partner, regardless of cohabitation or marital status. This issue permeates all walks of life, irrespective of race, class, sexuality, or gender. Yet despite its ubiquity, patriarchal forces and legal obscurity have largely shielded IPV from warranted scrutiny and remediation. Even now, there are only a handful of policies aimed at mitigating and providing resources for IPV victims. On our trip, we will explore whether policy does or can bridge the gap in effectively addressing IPV. If not, what other interventions are possible?

This ASB will explore IPV through community engagement with partners such as women’s shelters, non-profit legal advocacy organizations, and cultural organizations that specifically serve marginalized groups. We hope our participants will come away from this trip with more empathy, concrete knowledge of the nuances of IPV, and what impact they can make as advocates during their time at Rice and beyond.


HealthCARE or HealthSCARE: Refugees Within the American Healthcare System

Anchith Kota & Hannah Kim

Recent changes in administration have left refugees chronically underrepresented and unaccounted for. A combination of stringent immigration policies, gridlock, and harmful media rhetoric has left many refugees ostracized from the minute the cross the border. Unsurprisingly, this growing wave of centralization and xenophobia has left many refugees fending for themselves in a sociopolitical structure completely unfamiliar to them. This bleeds into refugee communities and their ability to maintain happy and sustainable lifestyles in the US, a task  impacted significantly by the hurdles faced by refugees as they navigate American health practices.

Our trip will learn about the intricacies of refugee healthcare in America’s modern Ellis Island: Clarkston, GA. We will discuss the complex socio-economic and cultural barriers that create inequality for refugees in five major aspects of healthcare: health screenings, mental health, nutrition, hospitals and insurance, and feminine hygiene and reproductive care. By interacting with a variety of clinics, advocacy organizations, and resettlement programs, we will explore the intersections of larger sociopolitical forces with the individual-level choices refugees have to make on a daily basis to even attempt to stay healthy in a foreign and unfamiliar new home.