A research team from San Antonio will participate in a three-year national project to address concerns about the health and well-being of communities across the country. The local team will study and develop policy recommendations to enhance resilience among the LGBTQIA community in what researchers describe as a “hostile political environment.”

The Interdisciplinary Research Leaders program, led by the University of Minnesota with support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, brings together scholars and community leaders to help focus research in a way that can directly contribute to community health and well-being.

“This will be a good alliance,” Amy Stone, Trinity University associate professor of sociology and anthropology, said in a press release Wednesday. “We do come from different backgrounds in terms of our approaches and our networks, especially in regard to resilience, and this project is an attempt to bring more and different scholars into the conversation.”

Working with Stone will be Phillip Schnarrs, assistant professor of kinesiology, health, and nutrition at the University of Texas at San Antonio and co-director of the South Texas Consortium for HIV and STI Research; and Robert Salcido, board chair of the Pride Center and regional field coordinator for Equality Texas, a statewide LGBTQIA rights advocacy group.

All team members will receive $25,000 per year to support approximately one day per week working in the program while also maintaining their regular jobs. The program also provides up to $125,000 in funding to support projects, including graduate and undergraduate assistants. Stone, Schnarrs, and Salcido will receive ongoing mentorship and learning opportunities to enhance leadership skills.

Each year, the program chooses two themes, and applicants submit proposals for one of them. The 2017 themes are “youth development approaches for the prevention of violence and promotion of health” and “community and individual resilience and health.”

Stone, Schnarrs, and Salcido’s project is titled “Building a Stronger Community: Resilience Among LGBTQ+ People in South Texas.” As part of its research, the team plans to interview 75 people of different genders and races across South Texas, asking members how their communities build resilience. Resilience, itself a popular topic, will also be part of the research. Many times researchers assume they know what they are looking for, Stone told the Rivard Report, but the time and qualitative nature of this research could reveal something new about what resilience looks like.

Community involvement will be critical from the beginning, Stone said. Before research begins in March 2018, the group will consult a community advisory board to shape the research. “We are really hoping that it comes from questions asked by the community,” Stone said.

“We’ll be able to identify our current capacity, and where we lack as well,” Salcido said.

The research should help identify specific gaps between needs and resources, and nonprofit organizations can use the data to create programs or protocols as they work with the LGBTQIA population, Salcido said.

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Bekah McNeel

Bekah McNeel is a native San Antonian. You can also find her at her blog, FreeBekah.com, on Twitter @BekahMcneel, and on Instagram @wanderbekah.