Laspa Center for Leadership: We Act Action and Research Grants 2017 Recipients Announced

The Laspa Center for Leadership at Scripps College has awarded five We Act Action and Research Grants for 2017. Each student recipient will execute a yearlong, self-designed project to “transform knowledge, passion, and ideas into action, demonstrate creative and effective problem-solving, create partnerships in the public or private sector, and produce outcomes that make a positive impact.” Throughout the summer, recipients will share project updates and photos on the Laspa Center blog. The students will also share their experiences at a leadership symposium upon their return to Scripps in the fall.

The Laspa Center was established in 2015 to support Scripps students who are interested in bringing the values of leadership, service, integrity, and creativity into action. The center provides students with opportunities to work closely with extraordinary leaders, especially women, in diverse areas such as art, science, business, education, media, government, and social entrepreneurship through strategic national and international partnerships and a visiting practitioners and scholars program.

The 2017 We Act Action and Research Grant recipients:


Sara Bryk ’18

Major: Human Biology and Sociology

Partner Organization: Granada Siempre Nuestra (GSN)

“My summer in Granada, Spain, will be divided among three primary activities critical to the region’s development: First, I will work with GSN, my partner nonprofit organization, to create opportunities for international students to study and engage with issues of post-conflict peace building and sustainable agricultural practices in Granada; second, I will spend 10 to 15 hours per week teaching English to community youth and adults; and third, I plan to do research for my senior thesis on public health and community building. Through participant observation and semi-structured interviews, I hope to better understand the community’s desired health ‘image’ or model, and consider how this image might be advanced or impeded by global forces.”

Noor Hamdy ’18

Major: Politics and Middle East and North Africa Studies

Partner Organization: Refugee Resettlement Team 2

“My research will focus on local area refugees’ access to institutional resources. My goal is to help refugees living in the Claremont and Upland areas have better access to institutional resources and create more effective, organized avenues of support for future area refugees. I will conduct research and then work with local organizations to share and implement my findings. My research approach will consist of dissemination of a needs survey to the refugee families to assess their urgent needs and requirements for living in the U.S., an analysis and report of the survey results, including recommendations, and sharing and implementation of the findings and recommendations with the appropriate institutions and/or community organizations.”


Erin Matheson ’18

Major: Biochemistry

Partner Organization: Columbia University Medical Center

“I am spearheading a clinical research project at Columbia University Medical Center’s Department of Pediatrics regarding vitamin D deficiency in obese children. I will work closely with Dr. Aviva Sopher on this research and create a database to record the data collected during the project. My goal is to design the database interface to be intuitive and accessible to all working on the project. My understanding of user experience (UX) and medicine will transform my knowledge, passion, and ideas into action at a prestigious university, leaving a lasting impact on a multiyear clinical study.”


Naomi Shroff-Mehta ’18

Major: Neuroscience

Partner Organization: Shimojo Lab, California Institute of Technology

“I will be an active member of a lab team dedicated to understanding ‘flow.’ Also known as ‘being in the zone,’ flow is a mental state of energized focus, complete involvement, and heightened enjoyment. This project will focus on how human brains interact to reach the flow state and will utilize a new music and body movement gaming paradigm as well as fMRI and EEG imaging techniques. Furthering our understanding of how human brains reach this flow state has the potential to develop advanced therapy and treatments in alleviating psychological personal trauma, a specialty I hope to continue researching in the future.”


Elise Thompson ’18

Major: Neuroscience

Partner Organization: Global Women’s Water Initiative (GWWI)

“I will work on an assessment of the Global Women’s Water Initiative project implementation in Uganda and will write a report looking at local women’s contributions to the WASH (water, sanitation, hygiene) sector in the region. GWWI takes a unique approach to water access by utilizing local resources and empowering local Ugandan women to become WASH technicians, teachers, and social entrepreneurs and to become leaders in local government and NGOs. As a neuroscience major and pre-health student, I will be analyzing the impacts of women WASH providers on the social dimensions of disease and illness.”