2020 Dean's Research Associates

Meet the 2020-2021 Dean's Research Associates!


Ashlee Barnes
School of Social Work

I am a community psychologist committed to producing research that promotes equity and systemic change. As an interdisciplinary scholar, I conduct community-engaged, policy-relevant research that integrates theoretical frameworks and methodologies across psychology, social work, and criminal justice. My research program broadly focuses on promoting racial and ethnic equity for vulnerable youth populations. Specifically, my two interrelated areas of research include: (1) designing strengths-based approaches to offender assessment and rehabilitation and (2) developing and testing interventions that aim to eliminate racial/ethnic disparities in school-based disciplinary practices. I collaborate with juvenile court and school administrators who recognize the extensive effects of trauma and desire to promote positive youth development. Notably, the completion of my research has been supported by competitive grants and fellowships and has led to publications in reputable scholarly journals such as Criminology and Public Policy. I am excited to move my research program forward by building relationships with community partners, faculty, and students interested in developing approaches to increase access, equity, and opportunities for vulnerable youth.

Reason for Applying

When I learned about the Dean’s Research Associate Program, I was not only impressed by the goal to promote inclusive excellence but with the carefully developed strategies to build a pipeline to support traditionally underrepresented scholars. Several factors contributed to my decision to apply to the Program. I recognized that building relationships with the Program’s prestigious mentors and the skills that would be acquired from the CSS Development Institute would strengthen my research program. I also recognized that if I was invited to join the College of Social Science, it would afford me the opportunity to give back to my hometown community by conducting research in the Detroit area. Finally, as a Spartan, I had the privilege of being educated by some of the best scholars in the nation within the College. Given that the goal of this role is to transition to a tenure-system position, I was thrilled about the prospect of a making long-term commitment to building a diverse, equitable, and inclusive learning environment.

Ashlee Barnes has successfully transitioned into the tenure stream.


Lekie Dwanyen
Human Development and Family Studies

I am a doctoral candidate in the Department of Family Social Science at the University of Minnesota. My research broadly centers on family-level adjustment and wellbeing in communities affected by war and organized violence. I am invested in understanding and addressing psychological and relational health in war-affected resettled families, as well as families in post-conflict settings. Much of my research thus far has examined psychological, relational, and community health, as well as cultural strengths among resettled Liberians affected by up to 14 years of civil war. I have co-authored and published peer-reviewed articles, invited entries, and book chapters in Family Process, Contemporary Family Therapy, The Journal of Prenatal and Perinatal Psychology and Health, The Handbook for Systemic Family Therapy, and The Macmillan Encyclopedia of Intimate and Family Relationships, and Interdisciplinary Approach. I am also a Co-Editor of an open-access textbook titled, Immigrant and Refugee Families: Global Perspectives on Displacement and Resettlement Experiences (2nd Ed.). I am passionate about service and honored to currently serve as the Chair of the Board of Directors for the Minnesota Trauma Recovery Institute, among other service and outreach commitments.

Reason for Applying

I applied to be a Dean’s Research Associate because I was excited by the opportunity to continue cultivating my research, teaching, and service interests, while receiving support and mentorship from highly skilled, esteemed, and leading scholars, both within my field and other fields represented by Michigan State’s academic community. I also value opportunities to engage in interdisciplinary contexts, thus was attracted to the cohort model and engagement of faculty from various programs in the College of Social Science. Along with professional development, I look forward to contributing to diversity, equity, and inclusion through my work and commitments at Michigan State.

Lekie Dwanyen has successfully transitioned into the tenure stream.


Rebecca Karam


I am a doctoral candidate at the City University of New York-Graduate Center in the Department of Sociology. My work examines how ethnic and racial minorities navigate their place in America’s racial hierarchy while accounting for the increasingly salient role of religious identity in these processes. My dissertation project is entitled “Making Muslim Americans: Parenting Practices, Parochial Schools, and the Transmission of Faith Across Generations in Metropolitan Detroit.” This ethnographic and interview-based project examines the intergenerational transmission of religion and parenting strategies among second-generation Muslim American adults. Despite Islam being widely stigmatized in contemporary America, I find patterns of upper-middle-class Muslim Americans assimilating socioeconomically without losing their religious identity. In 2019, I was awarded the Eastern Sociological Society’s Candace Rogers award for my paper "Becoming American by Becoming Muslim," later published in Ethnic and Racial Studies. I have authored a forthcoming chapter in Arab Detroit which explores suburban parenting styles among American born Arab Muslims. I currently serve as a board member and web coordinator for Arab American Studies Association. 

Reason for Applying

I applied to the College of Social Science Dean’s Research Associate Program at Michigan State University because I am impressed by the institution's dedication to fostering diversity, equity, and inclusion in the academy. As an Arab American woman and first-generation college graduate, I am sensitive to these issues and I look forward to growing as a more effective educator, researcher, and scholar within this scholarly environment. 

Rebecca Karam has successfully transitioned into the tenure stream.

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Meghan Wilson
Political Science

I currently serve as a Research Fellow for the Race and Capitalism Project at University of Chicago.  My research lies at the intersection of public policy, urban development, and race analyzing critical questions regarding how public institutions, and those influenced by these institutions, imagine themselves in the future. As a scholar and resident of urban cities, one of those critical questions guiding my work is: Are there black people in the financial futures?  As a critical race scholar focused on worldmaking, I seek to reimagine the urban spaces inclusive of black and marginalized bodies being key political and financial players. My book project centers public finance and urban development through a critical race and political economy framework, it examines how state and local governments think about the ever-present realities of budget deficits and crippling debt loads, absent new long-term revenue streams. Specifically, I consider the implications of cyclical financial distress on cities with higher populations of racially marginalized people, as well as, the ways public policy has been racialized in urban development. 

Reason for Applying:

As a young researcher, I always saw MSU as a place focused on tangible social change and community mobility. The Dean’s Research Associate Program provided me with the perfect opportunity to take part in the long history of change and growth at MSU. The program is curated as a space to develop the next generation of scholars across disciplines and identities. It was important to me that any institution that I joined shared in my commitment to ensuring not only the immediate success of junior faculty, but also the long term success of a diverse faculty. The program is the ideal space to transition into MSU, the tenure stream, and the life of a top tier researcher. 

Meghan Wilson has successfully transitioned into the tenure stream.