A Summer of Learning for the 2021 Shapen Fellows

As part of the Center for Education, Research, and Advocacy (ERA), the Department of Education is so glad to have the 2021 Shapen Fellows to be part of summer research and learning. Thanks to the generous endowment from Juanita and George Shapen in loving memory of their son Greg, Howard Brown established our inaugural Shapen Public Health Fellowship class, hosting five undergraduate students from underrepresented communities.

In January of this year, the recruitment call went out to universities and colleges in the Chicago area, Northwest Indiana, and southwest Michigan. Out of 14 applicants, five students were selected based on their experience and powerful cover letters. The fellows, Andre Hall, Audrey Navar, Leslie Tovar, Tessa Volpe, and Sana Ali, have each partnered with departments across ERA for 10 weeks to collaborate on projects of their own creation. Below is a brief summary of each fellow’s project.

Sana Ali

Sana Ali worked with Tim Yang, the Director of Policy & Advocacy, on an advocacy project to address the issues confronted by LGBTQ immigrants. Her project included research around how public policy affects the health and wellness of asylum seekers and synthesized how LGBTQ immigrants are affected by policy. Sana submitted an abstract that was selected for presentation at ERA’s Midwest LGBTQ Health Symposium and hopes to interest a researcher in developing a study on the topic.

Andre Hall

Andre Hall has been working with the clinical research team, Kenyetta Sims, Ebony Warren, Patrice Collins, and Leo Leal, and has provided clinical research assistance, working on the closing of an HIV study and recruiting participants for a new PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis for HIV) study. He learned about informed consent, protocols, and inventorying supplies. Andre also had the opportunity to shadow research staff and clinical providers’ patient encounters, explored the administrative aspects of clinical trials, and learned about the organizations involved in clinical research on a national level.

Audrey Navar

Audrey Navar has been working with the Senior Advisor to Education, Kelly Ducheny, and the transgender and gender nonbinary surgical navigation team, Trisha Lee Riddle and Jalynn Palmer, to develop patient-friendly materials that explain the gender-affirming surgery process and answer the most frequently asked questions. Audrey decided on this project because, as a trans woman, she has experienced frustration in working with primary care providers who are not equipped to help her. Audrey’s research included distilling her research into two-page, eye-catching infographics that are quick and easy to read.

Leslie Tovar

Leslie Tovar worked with Eriika Etshokin and Nat Ross alongside members of the of the social and behavioral research team on the Four Corners project, which explores healthcare priorities of transgender and nonbinary people and research engagement strategies in the wake of COVID-19. She has developed a research question related to COVID-19 vaccine medical questioning and has provided important academic revision and citation updating to the Health Education About LGBTQ Elders (HEALE) Module 8: Primary Care Best Practices curricula.

Tessa Volpe

Tessa Volpe worked with Eriika Etshokin, Juan Rivera, Alondra Rodriguez, and Alison Butler-Cordova alongside members of the social and behavioral research team on a Covid-19 testing research project in the Latinx community that included weekly visits to Howard Brown partner Project Vida in the Little Village neighborhood to recruit research partners and participants. In addition, she has developed a research question on eating disorders in Latinx people living with HIV and has provided important academic revision and citation updating to the LGBTQ 101 and TGNC Essentials curricula.

We look forward to the future impact of our Shapen Fellows as they continue their careers!


  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.
This site is not optimized for Internet Explorer. Please consider viewing the site in a modern browser such as Edge, Chrome or Firefox.