MESA Group Receives Grant for Breaking Study

The MESA Group has received a research grant to investigate the different impacts of COVID-19 on overlooked migrant populations as well as the minimal research on vaccine confidence in those populations. “We proposed a novel interdisciplinary mixed-method design to identify, model, analyze, design and validate narratives of vaccine confidence,” said Dr. Asya Cooley.

The grant has been funded by the Vaccine Confidence Fund and is around $200,000.

Skye Cooley, Ph.D. will be the Principal Investigator (PI) alongside Robert Hinck, Ph.D. of the US Air Force’s educational system. Assisting the pair in their upcoming five months of research will be Co-PI Juwon Hwang, Ph.D., Co-PI Asya Cooley, Ph.D., Jared Johnson, Ph.D. who is an expert in migrant and marginalized communities in addition to being fluent in Spanish and his knowledge in interviewing, Pablo Aguirre who is a data scientist, graduate student Kelli Norton and two undergraduate students, Campbell Clark and Matthew O’Brien will assist in the study as well. 

Dr. Hwang joined the faculty at the School of Media and Strategic Communications in August and is already making a splash in research. “Dr. Hwang is a Co-PI on the grant,” stated Dr. Asya Cooley. “She will lead the initial phase of the project, building a database of posts authored by members of the US migrant community using Facebook Graph API,” Dr. Cooley added. Dr. Hwang will work closely alongside Pablo Aguirre gathering data and Dr. Hinck to conduct narrative analysis. “I believe my previous, and current, works will greatly help the progress of the study,” said Dr. Hwang, “I’ve gone a long way to understand the motivations and barriers of decisions related to preventive measures.” Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr. Hwang investigated what factors push people to get newly developed vaccines during the H1N1 (Swine Flu) pandemic. Dr. Hwang is looking forward to focusing on populations that are typically underrepresented, “It is most important to specifically focus on underrepresented populations, which I am mostly looking forward to.”

The group participating in this study is most looking forward to understanding and “addressing the problem of the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 among marginalized populations,” said Dr. Asya Cooley.

The MESA Group has worked on funded projects in the past four years which total to over $600,000. Two of which focused on examining narratives concerning migration in media, migrant communities and with migration stakeholders in the US, Mexico and the Northern Triangle. In addition, the MESA Group has published multiple academic articles and books exploring and advancing the narrative theory, said Dr. Asya Cooley.

Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, Glen Krutz said, “The College sought the brightest researchers on pandemic issues. We brought in an incredible team of scholars. I’m thrilled that they’re already having an impact on research here at OSU. Dr. Hwang is proving the perfect catalyst to trigger explosive growth for the already productive MESA Group.”

To learn more about the MESA Group, visit