Nell Gabiam and Scott Feinstein awarded National Science Foundation grant


Nell Gabiam and Scott Feinstein have been awarded a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to study the integration of Ukrainian refugees into the United States.

Gabiam, associate professor in the Department of World Languages and Cultures, and Feinstein, associate professor in the Department of Political Science, will serve as co-principal investigators on the project. This work is a collaboration between the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and the College of Engineering. Cristina Poleacovschi, assistant professor in the Department of Civil, Construction and Environmental Engineering, will lead the project as principal investigator.

The NSF will fund the project through October 2023.

The $50,000 grant was awarded from the NSF’s Smart and Connected Communities division through the Civic Innovation Challenge (CIVIC). CIVIC is a collaborative effort between the NSF, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Department of Energy.

According to the NSF website, CIVIC is a research and action competition that accelerates foundational research and emerging technologies into communities through civic-engagement research. CIVIC funds project that have the potential for lasting impact in communities, as well as the potential to be scaled and implemented in other communities.

NSF Project details
With the World Bank estimating that there will be over 140 million global climate refugees by 2050, it is imperative that scholars and practitioners develop flexible and scalable refugee integration models. The US government has responded to contemporary external displacement resulting from Russian aggression in Ukraine by announcing a policy of accepting 100 thousand refugees.

This trans-disciplinary project across political science, anthropology and engineering will analyze the determinants of Ukrainian refugee integration in the Midwest region, a critical facet of which is the refugee housing services. Refugee housing provides the foundation for stability and a return to normalcy, but is often substandard and underfinanced.

Despite initially supportive public sentiment towards displaced Ukrainians, numerous contextual factors (e.g., minimal federal funding, varied concentrations of Ukrainian-heritage communities, transitory news cycles, national identity, cultural and political divisions) suggest significant geographic and temporal variation in refugee housing. These characteristics outline the need to identify flexible decision-making tools that could facilitate the provision and management of housing in ways that best benefit refugees while also adapting to constraints. The dynamic character of this crisis is in keeping with the logic of CIVIC because it bridges the gap between essential resources/services and community needs and requires a short timescale.

The project goal of assessing the role of housing on Ukrainian refugee integration will be aided through co-production of knowledge with refugees and genuine civic partnerships with refugee organizations. This study provides a framework to understand how encounters with housing organizations and local communities define refugees’ position in US civil society.

For additional information, please visit the NSF award site: