Engaged Leaders Fellowship Applies Research in the Bronx


Engaged Leaders Fellowship works with CCEL. (Courtesy of Fordham CCEL Blog)

About a year ago, Edward Kim, FCRH ’22, transferred to Fordham from a school in Los Angeles. Within his first months on campus, he was struck by the “semi-permeability of the campus” and the fact that Rose Hill felt like “an oasis in the Bronx community.” He wanted to do something to help bridge the gap between students and local Bronx residents.

Last semester, Kim was finally given that opportunity after being accepted into Fordham’s Engaged Leaders Fellowship program. The program, which works in collaboration with Fordham’s Center for Community Engaged Learning, encourages students to apply research methods in order to bring epistemic justice to the Fordham campus and Bronx community.

Cohorts meet bi-weekly and create community-based research questions around which larger-scale projects are formed. Kim was placed into a cohort with three other Fordham students with similar goals, including Benjamin Madeiros, FCRH ’22, Jackson Lewis, FCLC ’23 and Colin Billings, FCRH ’23.

The team decided to create a research study that examines the disparities between Fordham students’ perceptions and the realities of homelessness in New York City. After facing multiple setbacks due to COVID-19 the team is currently in its final stages of collecting and analyzing data.

Last week, the team distributed an electronic survey that asked Fordham students various questions about their perceptions of homelessness in New York City. In the coming weeks, the team will perform interviews at the 30th Street Men’s Shelter in Manhattan to gain a better understanding of the realities faced by New York City’s homeless population.

“Our goal is to find how we could successfully change the perception of Fordham students to match the realities of the situation of homelessness in the city,” said Billings.

The team plans on presenting the results from their project at the Fordham Undergraduate Research Symposium in April 2022. They hope that the presentation will create conversations that compel Fordham students to take action and become more involved in their community.

“We hope that the research influences future leaders who are coming out of Fordham, so they have a better understanding of the people they’re serving,” said Kim.

Although Fordham promotes a few different organizations to get involved with in the Bronx community, Kim suggested that Fordham add a service-learning requirement to the core curriculum. He believes this would help to push students out of their comfort zones and learn through experience.
“In our research we see that people just aren’t aware of things, which is understandable, but empathy is something that needs to be cultivated through experience. Epistemic privilege is something that comes from being well placed in life,” said Kim.

Over the coming month, the team hopes to finalize the analysis of their results. Billings said that the team works extremely well together and will continue to divide the final steps of the project around “whatever suits each of their individual strengths best.”

For example, Billings said they relied heavily upon the fact that Lewis was the only team member based at Lincoln Center. For that reason, Lewis played a stronger role in securing contacts and organizing interviews at the 30th Street Men’s Shelter.

Billings also said the CCEL played an important role in the project by providing financial resources and incentives for survey participation. “The team also worked tangentially with Dean Parmach to send out various communications,” said Billings.

While the team is looking forward to presenting their results at the Fordham Undergraduate Research Symposium, they’ve already deemed the project a success in terms of the skills they’ve been able to gain through their research.

Billings said, “The opportunity has been a great learning experience that allowed [him] to carry out formal academic research for the first time.”

Students with similar research ideas or goals should visit the page on the Engaged Leader’s Fellowship on the CCEL website, which offers information for current and prospective students looking to get involved in the program. Check out their Instagram page @fordhamccel for the latest updates.