Portraits taken of people who inject drugs taken as the Translational Coordinator & Commuications Director for a large NIH/NIDA grant entitled  “Injection Risk Networks in Rural Puerto Rico” — 2014-2019

My professional engagement & scholarly research continues to thrive. My work can best be grouped into two areas: 1) the application of strategic thinking for large scale branding, marketing and engagement, 2) the application of design thinking and transition design approaches to large systemic societal problems (“wicked problems”) in the hopes to create a more sustainable future through the creation of broader impacts in scholarly research.

Academically, I continue to apply design thinking and trasitional design processes to scholarly NIH and NSF research as a faculty collaborator. Transitional Design acknowledges that we live in society is undergoing large systems-level transition and argues that designers need to play a key role in the process. Transitional Design is complementary to, and borrows from, other design approaches such as design for good, design for social change and design thinking.

I continue my social activism work by designing and curating the Nebraska Appleseed Art + Justice Poster Show. It is widely believed that many of our anti-drug laws have racially disfavored African Americans and low-income communities. While recent bipartisan legislation begins to reform some of the sentencing laws that have wrongly and disproportionately harmed African-Americans – my poster, “A Threat to Justice” is a call to action, a reminder, and a rally for America to remember Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. words, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” My poster this year, “A Threat to Justice” won a Gold Medal and the Judge’s Choice Award at the AIGA Nebraska Show Design Competition.

As the Communication Director for the Rural Drug Addiction Research Center (RDAR) we had a tremendous amount of work to do in our first year of the grant. We created brand identities for RDAR and well as the Rural Health Cohort (RHC). We launched a rich website featuring news, events and grant opportunities. We tied in all social media with a YouTube page, Facebook page, and Twitter stream. In November we hosted our first National Conference on Drug Addiction at the Wick Alumni Center. We had guest speakers from across the country as well as across the Midwest. We held a networking dinner in the Elephant room of Morrill Hall. We had approximately 100 attend the conference. All communications were done through MailChimp and across our digital channels. In addition, we host a monthly seminar in the new RDAR conference room. All seminars are promoted and recorded so that healthcare providers from across the state can attend all talks. The talks are then placed on UNL’s Media Hub and on our RDAR YouTube channel. Site: rdar.unl.edu

2019-20 Accomplishments

  • AWARD: Gold Medal and Judge’s Choice Award, AIGA Nebraska’s Show Competition, “Injustice for Anyone is Injustice for Everyone”
  • GRANT ACTIVITY: Rural Drug Addiction Research Center. As the Project Translation, Dissemination and Communications Director, I created an identity for the Rural Health Cohort including logo, signage, uniforms and business communication materials. For the Center, I created a logo, website, organized and put on a National Conference, video stream bi-monthly seminar speakers, created social media channels, posts for getting the message out. Meeting and networking with drug addiction researchers, service providers and mental health professionals from across the country. Site: rdar.unl.edu
  • GRANT ACTVITY: Worlds of Connections (SEPA). As the Communication Director for Worlds of Connections (SEPA grant promoting emerging careers in science for underrepresented minority communities to support diversity in bio-behavioral and biomedical careers, our first two years were very busy. We created an externally focused brand identity (Winner of AAF’s Addy Silver Medal for the logo); launched a website, created promotional material like postcards, research posters, bookmarks, t-shirts, booth displays. Facilitate communication across research teams. Hosted summer workshop with LPS teachers to provide feedback on curriculum. Site: www.worldsofconnections.com
  • GRANT ACTIVITY: HATCH & Central Dogma In an effort to establish more grant partners on campus, I teamed with Marc Libault and Rajib Saha on a number of grants. They all center around the translation of complex scientific ideas to lay audiences. Rajib’s Hatch grant is to illustrate a series of children’s books. Libault’s Hatch grant is to brand, and create a series of animations that explain the scientific complexity of his work to middleschool children to promote STEM education.

Past Research Activity

  • AWARD: 2019 Silver Addy for Worlds of Connections Identity
  • AWARD: 2018 Silver Medal for Best Poster for Rural Addiction: A Backyard Reality from the American Insitute for Graphic Arts (AIGA)
  • AWARD: 2018 Junior Faculty Achievement Award in Research & Creative Activity from The University of Nebraska ~ Lincoln
  • PUBLICATION: 2018 Medicine Anthrolology Theory “It gives you nothing but it takes away everything”  photo ethnography as a lens onto the experiences of people who inject drugs in Puerto Rico by Roberto Abadlie, Colleen Syron, Carmen Ana Devila and Angelica Rivera-Villegas
  • GRANT ACTIVITY: Indigenous Pathways of Substance Use and Mental Health through Early Adulthood.
  • GRANT ACTVITY: The Rural Epidemic: Stories of Addiction.
  • GRANT ACTIVITY: Immersive Educational Game Simulations to Enhance Understanding of Cor-Water-Ethanol-Beef System Nexus.
  • GRANT ACTIVITY: Injection Risk Networks in Rural Puerto Rico.


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