Alana is inspired to do work that engages community members and leaders in efforts to reduce racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic health inequities. She says that Michigan is known for this engaging work, saying, “I came to here because I wanted to work with outstanding faculty who are leaders in the field of community-based participatory research. While there aren’t many scholars in this field of study who focus specifically on the Latino community, the culture at Michigan is thoughtful about the issue and has resources that can open doors to work in partnership with leaders in the Latino community.”
At U-M, she’s involved in a Rackham interdisciplinary workshop called the Coalition for Interdisciplinary Research on Latino/a Issues (CIRLI), hoping to break down the invisibility of Latinos on campus and creating space to connect with other graduate students with a mutual interest, sharing work together and creating broader dialogues about issues affecting Latinas/os. “Being involved in CIRLI as a member and graduate student leader helps fill spaces in things that felt lacking in my academic environment. I hope to leave having changed the space on campus for Latinos. After BBUM, the conversations are expanding. The sense of invisibility of Latinos on campus isn’t an issue we alone face. There are platforms, channels and conversations happening now that weren’t before. I think U-M leadership has a different attitude now towards change.”
Alana currently focuses her community involvement at U-M, in Washtenaw County, and through other identity-based networks, being an active participant in the community she hopes to affect. “CIRLI brings opportunity for education, involvement and awareness of issues through workshops, film screenings, meetings and lectures. They invite different people to the table to create a larger dialogue and open new ideas and topics.”
For her dissertation research, Alana works with the Healthy Environments Partnership to understand and address social and environmental influences on racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic inequities in cardiovascular disease risk through a community-based participatory research (CBPR) approach. Her research broadly examines the influence of racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic inequities on the health of marginalized populations, with a focus on Latino health. “I hope my research adds complex dialogue to the issues and leads politicians and community leaders to discuss policy change. “
Alana’s research is layered with a complexity of issues facing the Latino population in Detroit, which includes immigrants and US-born Latinos. As just one example, she says, “I am surprised by how many women are affected by the state law that denies driver’s licenses to persons who may lack documentation – this is something that is unique to Michigan and profoundly affects the Latino community. It affects not only mobility, but also problems like mental health, the condition of marriages, and the ability to see family and is a major life stressor for many. The effects on cardiovascular health are compounded by the variety of issues faced by this population.” Her advocacy in Detroit is focused on creating an impact in the long-term. She continues, “Now, I’m focused on creating balanced, empirically strong research that hopefully will be published in several peer-review journals that can be taken to community leaders and policy makers.” She’d like to join with community leaders, state representatives and discuss her findings.
As a 2014 inductee into the Bouchet Honor Society, Alana serves as an example of scholarship, leadership, character, service and advocacy modeled by members of this esteemed society for students who have been traditionally underrepresented in the academy. She says, “This is a good networking opportunity and community of scholars to be a part of. I want it to be important.”