Gracie Mikol ’22

Gracie Mikol is a current Junior at the University of Notre Dame, and will graduate in the spring of 2022. She is in the Mendoza College of Business as a management consulting major with an innovation and entrepreneurship minor and a sustainability minor. Gracie is also a member of SCNO (Student Consulting for Non-Profits), Adopt a Family Christmas, and the co-vice president of Transpose Dance Collective. She founded the nonprofit Fueled By Kids in 2016 to provide meals to food-insecure children.

Fueled By Kids is fighting against COVID-19 by helping to assure that students whose families were already food insecure or have become food insecure because of COVID-19 have a guaranteed source of food all week long. Children who live in homes that suffer from food insecurity face a high amount of uncertainty in their everyday lives which can prevent them from focusing on school work. Fueled By Kids attempts to relieve that uncertainty by making sure that these children have a guaranteed source of food all week long. Fueled By Kids works with the Manchester School District to identify and pass out bags at public elementary schools on Friday afternoons, combined with the National School Lunch Program, which provides students from low-income households with free or reduced breakfast and lunch at school, Fueled By Kids’ weekend food bag assures these students have two meals a day every day of the week. When COVID-19 became an issue in the Manchester area, the non-profit worked with the assistant superintendent to assure that its services would continue to be provided. Eight busses follow bus routes every weekday passing out bags of breakfast and lunch, bags go on the busses every Friday to continue to provide weekend food. The non-profit also increased its number of weekly bags provided to 600 from 400 to try to respond to the increased need for our services as a result of COVID-19.

“Notre Dame is focused on teaching us how to be leaders in not only business, but also in our communities. I started Fueled By Kids when I was in high school and what attracted me to Notre Dame was its commitment to giving back. I may not want to have a career in nonprofits, but Notre Dame is showing me how I can always keep giving back in my life. Our professors encourage us to find success in whatever industry interests us but also reminds us that to be truly successful we must use that success to help those less fortunate than us.” -Gracie Mikol

Yenupini Joyce Adams

Yenupini Joyce Adams is a visiting assistant professor of global health in the Keough School of Global Affairs. She also has an affiliation with Notre Dame’s Eck Institute for Global Health. Before coming to Notre Dame, Adams was an assistant professor in the WellStar School of Nursing at Kennesaw State University. She earned her PhD from the College of Nursing at Michigan State University and her bachelor of science in nursing from Calvin University in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Her clinical expertise is in maternal/newborn nursing (RNC-MNN). Adams is passionate about using research and community interventions to improve maternal health, promote safe motherhood, and decrease maternal mortality and morbidity among vulnerable populations in the United States and sub-Saharan Africa, where the burden of maternal mortality is most severe.

Adams’ research aims to address maternal health disparities that lead to mortality. She particularly examines factors, both patient and healthcare facility centered, that influence access to and quality of postpartum care among vulnerable populations. Under these broad research goals, she is currently pursuing two research tracks at the intersection of postpartum complications and maternal mortality: 1) maternity care providers’ knowledge, teaching and management of potential complications, and 2) women’s knowledge of and care-seeking for postpartum complications. Her research is guided by and contributes to the Three Delays Model originally developed by Thaddeus and Maine (1994). Adams’ future work will focus on developing interventions to improve postpartum outcomes. While Adams’ research focuses mainly on access to and quality of postpartum care, she has also done work on women’s preconception reproductive knowledge and other maternal health issues.

Adams has received research grants from national nursing organizations such as the American Nurses Foundation and the Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses and published in peer-reviewed journals in nursing such as Birth: Issues in Perinatal Care, Journal of Nursing Scholarship, and Journal of Obstetric, Gynecologic and Neonatal Nursing . She was the recipient of the 2020 New Investigator Award by the Midwest Nursing Research Society women’s health and transitions in childbearing research interest group. She was also a recipient of the AACN/Johnson & Johnson Minority Nurse Faculty Scholars Award by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (2013).

Otakuye Conroy-Ben ‘98

Otakuye Conroy-Ben is the first Lakota woman to earn a doctorate degree in environmental engineering. She has three degrees including a bachelor’s degree in Chemistry from Notre Dame, where she graduated in 1998. She serves as an assistant professor at Arizona State University and received the 2019 Technical Excellence Award from the American Indian Science and Engineering Society.

She was working with tribal communities to examine evidence of substance abuse in their wastewater when that public health concern was eclipsed by another: the coronavirus. It soon became clear that Conroy-Ben could apply her research to the emerging crisis and the federal calls for funding proposals to investigate the virus’ impacts. While there are many researchers who are interested in working with tribal communities, not many will not take the time to develop a relationship with them. Otakuye did take the time, and she is now leading two federal grants, one from the National Science Foundation and one from the National Institutes of Health. One project is aimed at analyzing wastewater infrastructure on reservations, while the other uses wastewater epidemiology to measure coronavirus levels in tribal communities where the pandemic has taken an outsized toll. Otakuye and her team look at those wastewater samples in order to determine how prevalent the virus is within a tribal community. They then pass that information on to tribal health administrators, who can use that information in a beneficial way by implementing public health measures such as mask mandates and gathering limits.

This research will not be limited to just this current pandemic. Otakuye’s methods of analyzing wastewater will be used to monitor a variety of different health metrics such as levels of substance abuse, the flu, and biomarkers for diabetes, a matter of particular concern for tribal communities.