Research Projects

  • New URI Voting Poll

      Faculty Collaborators Include: Emily Lynch (Political Science), Ying Xiong (Communications), and SSIREP Director Julie C. Keller. 

    The University of Rhode Island (URI) recently partnered with the voting firm, YouGov, to provide insights into Rhode Islanders’ attitudes towards key state issues such as public education, trust in the government and elections, media consumption, and etc. This poll is the beginning of the Rhode Island Survey Initiative, a newly launched effort from URI researchers to assess public opinion across Rhode Island. The motivation for this initiative rose from a lack of regular polling info specific to Rhode Island and the issues influencing the state. The goal of this project is to publish one poll surveying a wide variety of matters that impact those in the state each year. The data from the surveys will be helpful to researchers, policy makers, and others interested in learning about where Rhode Island stands on key topics. 

  • Refugee Vaccine Study

    Faculty Researchers Include: Dr. Julie C. Keller, PhD; Dr. Steven Cohen, DrPH; Dr. Mary Greaney, PhD; and Dr. Erica Liebermann, PhD.

     The University of Rhode Island’s Julie C. Keller, Steven Cohen, Mary Greaney, and Erica Liebermann were awarded a pilot grant from SBE CCC (Social, Behavioral, & Economic COVID Coordinating Center) to investigate COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy among refugees in Rhode Island. The aim of this study is to explore healthcare access challenges and factors contributing to vaccine hesitancy, as well as identifying sources of misinformation about the COVID-19 vaccine. The research team will employ a community-engaged mixed-methods approach to address gaps in existing research and increase understanding of the unique vulnerabilities faced by refugees. With refugees at increased risk of COVID-19 infection, hospitalization, and death, this study has the potential to inform public health policy and increase vaccine confidence in this vulnerable population


  • Inclusive Housing Project: South Kingstown, RI

    Faculty Researchers Include: Richard McIntyre, PhD, Robert W. Widell Jr., PhD, Dr. Skip Mark, PhD, and Dr. Shanna Pearson-Merkowitz, PhD.

    The South Kingstown Housing Authority (SKHA) and the University of Rhode Island (URI) recently collaborated on a project that evaluates the history of public housing in South Kingstown, examines national best practices for building public housing that fosters socioeconomic mobility and community integration, and crafts a vision for the future. 

    Click here to read Inclusive Housing Project – Top Line Report , New Directions in Public Housing , and an article written March 27, 2023 here.

  • Genesis Center Greater Providence Healthcare Career Pathways Evaluation

    News — Genesis Center

    Drs. Skye N. Leedahl, Karen McCurdy, Nilton Porto, Sue K. Adams, Jessica MacLeod, and Shanna Pearson-Merkowitz

    Along with students Maddy Green, Emma Pascuzzi, and Avery Beatty, the project team have evaluated a program to help low income adults improve their employment outcomes. The Genesis Center is leading The Greater Providence Healthcare Career Pathways partnership, which is part of the Governor’s Workforce Board (GWB) Real Jobs Rhode Island (Real Jobs RI) Initiative.  The Genesis Center provides an array of services for low-income adults, including adult education and workforce development opportunities, while also supporting over 50 children in high quality early childhood education and care services.  As part of the Real Jobs RI Initiative, the Genesis Center’s healthcare career trainees and the early learning center are receiving enhanced financial support in hopes that programmatic improvements will lead to higher rates of training completion, better employment outcomes, higher quality instruction, and increases in quality instruction and staff retention. The SSIREP research team conducted an evaluation of the Genesis Center’s Real Jobs RI partnership including: 1) an evaluation of the healthcare career pathways training and financial support, 2) an evaluation of the impact of resource allocation on the Genesis Child Development & Learning Center.

  • Exploring the Information Needs and Habits of Rhode Islanders

    Shanna Pearson-Merkowitz, Yinjiao Ye, Hillary Leonard, Renee Hobbs

    Citizens can make good decisions about their communities only when they possess timely, relevant and useful information that helps them make decisions. How does the local news media support the information needs of the people who live in the communities they serve? What are perceptions among citizens about the availability of credible, high quality information? This study will examine the state and context of the Rhode Island local news media marketplace and how the availability of news aligns with the perceived needs of Rhode Islanders for local information.  The SSIREP research team will explore the range, type and availability of information that Rhode Islanders access in the context of decision-making for daily and community life. We will use several methods for approaching different aspects of this research question, including focus groups with Rhode Island residents, a large-N survey, interviews of news producers, and a content analysis of local news. This project has been funded by the Rhode Island Foundation. As part of the first component of this research, SSIREP conducted a survey of 600 Rhode Island residents about their views of the state and local news landscape including their Coronavirus and pandemic related local news. 
    Read the full report here.

  • URI Engaging Generations Cyber-Seniors digiAge Pilot Project

    Dr. Skye Leedahl

    The URI Engaging Generations Cyber-Seniors Program, run by Professor of Human Development & Family Science Dr. Skye Leedahl, helps older adults learn digital skills through intergenerational interactions with URI student mentors.  The program builds critical communication, critical thinking, and teaching skills for the students in the process of helping Rhode Island older adults become tech-savvy. Since 2016, the Cyber-Seniors program has served 1,100 older adults, with 250 URI students providing over 3,000 hours of assistance.

    The COVID-19 pandemic has sharply increased the need for older adults to gain digital skills to help address social isolation, so the program is expanding capacity with a pilot project where up to 200 Rhode Island older adults will receive an iPad, a hotspot if they lack internet, and mentoring on how to use their devices. The final report for the pilot project is now available. An Appendix with all materials created is available upon request to Dr. Leedahl,

    The Program is now expanding state-wide. Please see the program’s website for further information:

  • Age-Friendly Rhode Island & Census Outreach

    Drs. Skye Leedahl and Erica Estus

    Dr. Leedahl (SSIREP Fellow; Associate Professor of Human Development & Family Studies and Political Science) and Erica Estus (Clinical Professor of Pharmacy) have partnered with the Census Outreach team and Age-Friendly RI to develop a protocol for URI and Rhode Island College students to make calls to adults 60+ (one of the hard-to-reach census groups) to mention the importance of the census and encourage them to fill it out.  During the calls, the students also provide individuals with contact information for resources through the Rhode Island Office of Healthy Aging.  These calls are designed to improve access to important resources while also helping to address concerns of social isolation among older adults during the pandemic. Dr. Leedahl is also taking part in the Age-Friendly Rhode Island Social Isolation Workgroup, and together this group of experts in aging services, government, and academia are working to identify innovative ways to ensure older adults, including those in nursing homes and assisted living, can stay socially connected.  They are working on ideas to help increase access to technology for those living in nursing homes or assisted living and those living in the community with lower incomes & to provide TV, radio, and web-based programming to increase access to resources.

  • Latinx and H2B Tree Workers In New England
    Dr. Julie Keller: Leading Researcher, Associate Professor of Sociology
    Matty Accinno: Research Assistant, URI ’23 Senior and Tree worker

    The tree care industry is a labor-intensive field that requires physical strength and endurance, and Latinx workers have made significant contributions to this industry. In many regions of the United States, Latin American immigrants have found employment in the tree care industry due to the demand for manual labor. In some cases, these workers have brought with them traditional tree care techniques and cultural practices from their home countries, helping to enrich and diversify the field. It’s important to note that the tree care industry, like many manual labor industries, can be hazardous, and workers in this field face significant risks, including the risk of injury from falling from heights or being hit by falling limbs. As a result, proper training and safety measures are crucial to ensure the well-being of these workers. Dr. Keller and Matty Accinno have developed a survey that aims to measure the socio-economic benefits of the H2B program for Latinx tree workers in New England while also placing importance and understanding on health, safety, and the camaraderie within the industry. This research can inform policies on healthy workplaces in Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and beyond.

  • Together RI Analysis

    SSIREP fellows Skye Leedahl, Melanie Brasher, and Shanna Pearson-Merkowitz and students Travis Doumaney and Kristin Sodhi analyzed responses from The Rhode Island Foundation’s Together RI event. (more…)

  • Real Jobs Rhode Island: a detailed analysis for Rhode Island’s Department of Labor and Training

    SSIREP fellows Shanna Pearson-Merkowitz, Skye Leedahl, and Aaron Ley, and students Bridget Hall, Kristin Sodhi, and Marissa DeOliveira conducted an analysis of The Real Jobs Rhode Island program for the Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training. (more…)