More than a dozen UNCG undergraduates have made a big impact in the Greensboro Montagnard community in the last two years.

The Montagnards (also known as Dega) supported U.S. forces during the Vietnam War, and have suffered political persecution and violence in the region ever since. Since the 1980s, Guilford County has welcomed many hundreds of Montagnard families. Their healthcare needs are a concern. UNCG, in collaboration with Guilford College and NC A&T State, is making a difference through community-engaged research – and the day-to-day outreach work is often led by undergraduates.

“These kids will mentor and train each other. They get it done,” says Dr. Sharon Morrison, UNCG associate professor of public health education and research fellow at UNCG’s Center for New North Carolinians.

The students collect hair and saliva, explained Jalisa Horne, a nutrition major who graduated in December. “Everyone helps out with the biological measures.” The students use the hair and saliva to detect cortisol, indicating the level of stress. Stress can be an indicator of health issues.

They give the results to each participant, so they can take their results to a health professional. High cortisol levels, high blood pressure or the results of a survey the students helped create can show reason for concern.

Branda Mlo, a senior public health major, worked with Horne to develop some of the survey regarding hypertension.

“I did not know I wanted to do research till I did this project,” Mlo said. After graduation, she plans to continue work with the Montagnard community.

The project’s level of undergraduate participation is unprecedented at UNCG, says Dr. Sudha Shreeniwas, associate professor in Human Development and Family Studies and research fellow at UNCG’s Center for New North Carolinians.

A common goal unites all the undergraduates involved – a desire to make a real impact in the world, through engaged research.

See the full story on UNCG undergraduate research in UNCG Research Magazine.



Story by Mike Harris, University Relations
Photography by Martin W. Kane, University Relations