Office of Research

Group of students and faculty posing for photo with certificates

Congratulations to all the poster awardees and to the IPE Committee for a great afternoon celebrating research in the college at the 2024 IPE Poster Presentation.

CHHS Office of Research and Innovation

At the College of Health and Human Services, we engage in a range of health services research. From technology-driven behavior change programs to mindfulness-based stroke recovery models, faculty, staff and students are working together to develop new ideas and solve community needs.

Thanks to our award-winning faculty, the College of Health and Human Services have also been awarded funding for research from the National Institutes of Health each year for the past decade. With assistance from students and graduate students alike, this funding has a direct, positive impact on the health and welfare of people who live in Michigan and beyond.

We are proud of our research and service accomplishments, and as a student here, you will work with faculty members on research and scholarly activities to make a significant contribution to health and human services disciplines. 

Latest Awards- Fall 2023

  • Dr. Michelle Suarez (Occupational Therapy) - Youth Mental Health Interprofessional Networking and Workforce Development (Y-MIND), Resiliency Center, & Eastside Youth Strong 
  • Dr. Benjamin Brady (Healthcare Services & Sciences) - Behavioral Health Workforce Education and Training Program & Opioid-Impacted Family Support Program/Project (FUTRE)
  • Dr. D'Jaris Coles-White (Speech, Language & Hearing Sciences) - Preschool Autism Communication Education (PACE)
  • Dr. Maureen Mickus (Occupational Therapy) - Health Careers Opportunity Program 
  • Drs. Dawn Anderson & Robert Wall Emerson (Blindness & Low Vision Studies) - Orientation and Mobility: Facilitating Learning and Improvement of Proprioception (OMFLIP) & CVI Training for Effective Teaching of Students with Visual Impairments

2024 Bronco Innovator's Challenge

ORI is pleased to announced the 2024 Bronco Innovator's Challenge. This challenge allows undergraduate students the opportunity to hone their product or business idea through a series of workshops and an eventual pitch where our judges award funds to help accelerate the project. This is a challenge, not a competition! Every team is eligible for funding, not just the top-ranking teams.  Applications are due on 1/12/2024 on InfoReady.  

Fast Facts for 2020 - 2021

  • $6.4 million Awarded through fourth quarter of 2021

  • 85 Journal articles, 2 books, and 11 book chapters published

  • 58 Presentations and 22 posters presented

  • 50 Grant applications submitted by 17 researchers

Student Research Highlights

Aiding Local Classrooms

Under the direction of the Resiliency Center at the Unified Clinics, occupational therapy students assist teachers and staff at local, underprivileged elementary school. Working together, WMU students are able to ease the stress of teachers while giving valuable, one-on-one time to elementary kids who are struggling or academically falling behind.

Serving Rural Communities

CHHS students across multiple disciplines examined examples of interdisciplinary workforce development programs in non-urban Southwest Michigan. With the use of digital telehealth tools, they expanded access to social work and case management for residents in rural areas. 

Addressing Medication Errors

Doctoral student in the Interdisciplinary Health Sciences PhD. Program collaborates with faculty at WMed and the University of Michigan School of Medicine to address pediatric medication errors in EMS. Using augmented reality devices, they hope to find new methods in decreasing incorrect medication dosage for children.  

Surveying Life Satisfaction

During the COVID-19 pandemics, occupational therapy students sought out the participation and life satisfaction of older adults.


Student Projects

Student Projects

  • Fall prevention culture 
  • Blood pressure and hypertension 
  • Geriatric populations  
  • Human postural sway and falling 

And more!

Student Funding

Finding funds to support your research is a critical part of conducting research. Especially as a graduate student! Learn what can be offered to you.

Faculty Research Support

We are actively seeking ways to

  • Provide pre-award and post-award support
  • Expand research capabilities
  • Increase scholarly productivity of college faculty

If you need assistance in any of these areas or in something else research related, please contact us.

Faculty Highlights


Dr. Robert Bensley (School of Interdisciplinary Health Programs), for over the past 20 years, has been the principal investigator on over 330 grant funded projects totaling over $21 million. Most of these are technology-driven behavior change programs, with the largest being an omnibus project funded by 32 states and 15 Indian Tribal Organizations that supports parent-child feeding behavior change with clients associated with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children. During that time, Dr. Bensley and his team have delivered over 10 million internet-based, parent-child feeding nutrition education lessons and continue to deliver close to 1 million additional lessons per year. The reach of this project impacts approximately 5% of all children living in the U.S. under the age of 5 years. From this delivery model they have conducted numerous research projects, with the most recent focusing on user engagement factors that impact behavior change.

Dr. Elyse Connors, Ph.D. and team (Blindness and Low Vision Studies) have been researching medication management and vision rehabilitation therapy.  Their research has examined packaging and access to printed label information for persons with visual impairment, with the goal of safer medication management and development of best practices for persons with vision loss.   Their research also examined the roles and functions of  Vision Rehabilitation Therapies and changes in these roles over time. There is a great shortage of Vision Rehabilitation Therapies across the world, and the discipline faces challenges in visibility and recruitment. This research intends to address these challenges better so that all adults with vision loss can receive the quality services they need to live independently with vision loss. 

Drs. Wall Emerson and Dae Kim (Blindness and Low Vision Studies) have conducted a series of studies examining the biomechanical and ergonomic factors that affect detection of hazards (e.g., drop-offs, obstacles, and sudden changes in waling surface texture) with the long cane. Detecting these hazards reliably with the cane is important because missing them may result in tripping, loss of balance, and/or falls and consequent fall-induced injuries. Findings from studies have helped cane users and orientation and mobility specialists—blind rehabilitation specialists who teach visually impaired individuals how to get around safely and efficiently—select appropriate cane techniques and cane designs in accordance with the cane user’s characteristics, availability of training time, and the nature of the travel environment. 


Faculty Research Activities Report

Information for this report was gathered from data faculty members submitted to the Faculty Activity Reporting System in October 2023.  This report focuses on books, book chapters, publications, and presentations. Details for each product are provided when possible.

Presidential Innovation Professors

Presidential Innovation Professors

Dr. D'Jaris Coles-White (Speech, Language and Hearing Sciences) and Dr. Ann Chapleau (Occupational Therapy) were recognized as Presidential Innovation Professors in 2020 and 2021. Read more.

Mich Health Endowment

Two Faculty Awarded Michigan Health Endowment Fund

Drs. Cassie Lopez-Jeng (School of Interdisciplinary Health Programs) and Steven Eberth (Occupational Therapy) received a grant totaling $412,612 from the Michigan Health Endowment Fund through the Healthy Aging Initiative 2021.

Their project, "Cultivating Falls Prevention Culture by Intelligent Learning," will teach an evidence-based behavior change model to health care employees in nine county medical care facilities across Michigan.

WMU's Office of Research and Innovation

Looking for researchers and faculty recognized on the university level? Interested in services we can't provide? Learn about what other internal assistance can be offered to you!

Faculty highlights

Faculty Research and Creative Activities Award (FRACAA) for 2022-23 Academic Year

Dr. Carrie Barrett, PT, DPT, NCS, (Physical Therapy) will conduct a feasibility study to investigate a new model for physical therapist initial evaluation of geriatric populations who have had mild traumatic brain injury. The goal of this research is to investigate the comparative athletic model of medical treatment, and test similar measures of monitored cardiovascular demand, proprioceptive, and vestibular function in geriatric populations with mild traumatic brain injury.  This research study demonstrates interprofessional collaboration with medical physicians. The study will actively engage undergraduate and graduate students to assist with study data collection, data analysis, and dissemination.

Dr. Alessander Danna-dos-Santos, Ph.D., PT, (Physical Therapy) will conduct a study aiming the implementation of methods of autonomous recognition of higher risks of falling based on characteristics of human postural sway. This study is part of a long-term agenda aiming to improve our ability to recognize and quantify the development of higher risks of falling in the elderly population as well as those suffering from neurological traumas and conditions. This particular study will allow the introduction of methods of artificial intelligence on recognizing abnormal parameters of postural behavior while standing up. (Learn more about Dr. Alessander Danna-dos-Santos's centralized research facility here.)

Dr. Lori Gray, Ph.D., (Program Director for Holistic Health) has been awarded a FRACAA grant to conduct a pilot study to further develop her mindfulness-based stroke recovery model. Her group curriculum model is designed to improve engagement in stroke rehabilitation and levels of emotional resiliency in stroke survivors. The longitudinal vision of this program of research is to promote and strengthen the long-term individual recovery efforts and outcomes in this neurologically unique health population.  This research study will be conducted in interprofessional collaboration with a neurological institute in Kansas City, Missouri.  

Dr. Shannon McMorrow, Ph.D., MPH, (Public Health) proposed a study designed to elevate the voices of and generate data about the health experiences of adult Central American immigrant women and native-born women in Belize, Central America. Using the qualitative method of Photovoice,  textual, photographic, and descriptive demographic data will be collected through a series of photovoice meetings. The overarching goal is to gain insight from the study population to inform health promotion, care, and support services and ultimately improve health equity for women in Belize. The study also has the potential to enhance integration and cross-cultural dialogue between participants. 

Dr. Karen Schieman, Ph.D., RN, and Jaime Rohr, MSN RN, (Nursing) will conduct a study on the use of exercise to facilitate symptom management of drug and alcohol withdrawal.  The long-term mission of this program of research is to increase the use of holistic approaches to assist clients with substance use disorder to relieve symptoms and promote long term recovery.  The research will involve several healthcare disciplines such as nursing, addiction specialists, therapists, and healthcare attendants. This study will actively engage graduate students to assist with study implementation and data analysis. 



Support for Faculty Scholars Award (SFSA) given during the 2022–23 Academic Year

Dr. Angela Groves, Ph.D. RN, (Nursing) will conduct a study on a peer (dyadic) support model to improve blood pressure among African American women with hypertension. The long-term mission of this program of research is to promote and improve low-sodium diet practices and blood pressure control to reduce health disparities in this population.  Also, this research study demonstrates interprofessional collaboration with a local registered dietitian. This study will actively engage undergraduate and graduate students to assist with study implementation and data analysis.

Dr. Maria Roche-Dean, Ph.D. RN., (Nursing) will conduct a study to examine the feasibility of collecting hair cortisol concentration, an objective stress biomarker, among racial and ethnic minority nurses. Findings from her study will be used to inform future research on workforce development. Her project will include financial support for a WMU student.

CHHS Research Opportunities