We All Live Here

Our communities are becoming increasingly diverse just as we have developed the unprecedented technological ability to study health and human behavior. The things we can learn and the ways we can use that knowledge to help people thrive are revolutionary.

Despite these advances, many children in Central Texas aren’t thriving.

Children enter the world with tremendous potential, but early adversity can derail it. Although everyone experiences hardships, extreme or prolonged exposure to stress can lead to lifelong challenges. Those stressors can include poverty, family separation, exposure to toxins and pollution, violence, or experiencing discrimination.

For many children, these adverse childhood experiences take a serious toll on their biological systems, increasing

the chance of physical and mental health problems as well as school difficulties, unemployment, and even a shorter life expectancy.

However, despite the experience of adversity, some children will thrive — what we call resilience. We don’t know all the reasons why some children are more resilient than others, but access to supportive relationships can play a protective role.

What else may shield children from risk so they all can thrive?

To find out, we’re doing things differently. We’re meeting families in their homes and neighborhoods. We’re welcoming them as engaged, contributing community scientists — finding answers to their questions and sharing results with them in real time.

Annual Report

Flip through our interactive FY20 annual report and browse our network map to learn more about the progress we’ve made to date.

Our Goal: Community-Engaged Research

When scientists want to learn about a group of people, they design a study so they can observe those people over time. But the tried-and-true way of designing these studies has some pretty big limitations.

Here’s why: Scientists recruit people to participate in a study. They may ask questions or collect biological samples. Then, they seem to disappear. There’s a gap between when scientists have results from a study and when participants find out about those results, if ever.

Additionally, many groups, especially the most vulnerable among us, are underrepresented in traditional research, which means we often lack data that accurately reflect our varied communities. Whole Communities–Whole Health wants to change this.

Our goal: Make sure that the most cutting-edge advances in behavioral and health science reach the children and families who need them the most.

Our Plan: Bringing Science Home

Traditional research studies take “snapshots” of people’s lives at different points in time. Those snapshots give us information, but it’s incomplete. That means we might make incorrect assumptions or develop policies and programs that are not helpful. By sitting down together with our community members, we hope — over time — to learn what questions and concerns they have about their children’s health and how we can partner with them get answers so they can make meaningful changes in their children’s lives within days or weeks, not years.

We will share access to technology, experts, and community resources that, when combined, help us build a more complete view — a movie, compared to a snapshot — of the factors that affect a child’s wellbeing. Using science to transform lives is the beacon that will guide the work of Whole Communities–Whole Health.


Community-Centered Research

We’re designing a five-year cohort study with communities in eastern Travis County to understand more about the physical, environmental, and emotional health of families facing systemic injustices. These smaller projects and initiatives are moving us toward our mission to rethink the way science and society work together to understand and address health inequities.

Meet the Team

Whole Community–Whole Health brings researchers and advisors together from wide-ranging backgrounds across UT and Central Texas.

Read full bioGigi Awad

Gigi Awad

Associate ProfessorDepartment of Educational Psychology

My work explores how prejudicial attitudes and ideology affect attitudes towards ethnic minorities generally and within specific domains such as the workplace and higher education.

Read full bioSarah Kate Bearman

Sarah Kate Bearman

Assistant ProfessorEducational Psychology / Psychiatry

I’m a child clinical psychologist, and my research focuses on the implementation and dissemination of effective mental health interventions for traditionally underserved children and families.

Read full bioDarla Castelli

Darla Castelli

ProfessorKinesiology and Health Education

My background is in exercise physiology and pedagogy, and my research focuses on how physiology and metabolism affect cognitive health in children and emerging adults.

Read full bioFrances Champagne

Frances Champagne


My research explores how life experiences lead to behavioral and neurobiological variation through epigenetic factors, particularly early exposure to stress, toxins, nutrition and social environment.

Read full bioKaren Johnson

Karen Johnson

Associate ProfessorNursing

As a public health nurse, my research experience includes tracking and addressing health and social disparities among adolescents from historically marginalized groups.

Read full bioKerry Kinney

Kerry Kinney

ProfessorCivil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering / Population Health

I’m trained as an environmental engineer focusing on human exposure to contaminants in the built environment (homes and schools) and health outcomes such as childhood asthma.

Read full bioKarla Lawson

Karla Lawson

Clinical Assistant ProfessorSurgery and Perioperative Care / Population Health

I am an epidemiologist and clinical scientist with research exploring the prevention and clinical decision-making of child maltreatment, injury surveillance, and best clinical practices.

Read full bioMichael Mackert

Michael Mackert

ProfessorAdvertising & Public Relations / Population Health

My research focuses on using traditional and new digital media to provide effective health communication in areas such as tobacco cessation and opioid overdose prevention.

Read full bioZoltan Nagy

Zoltan Nagy

Assistant ProfessorCivil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering

As a roboticist and building scientist, I focus on smart buildings and cities, renewable energy systems, and the influence of occupants on energy performance.

Read full bioDavid Schnyer

David Schnyer

ProfessorPsychology / Psychiatry

My background is in clinical neuropsychology, and I specialize in applying multimodal neuroimaging techniques to study normal and impaired cognition, including aging, neurotrauma, and mental illness.

Sean Upshaw

Sean Upshaw

Assistant ProfessorStan Richards School of Advertising and Public Relations

My research interest consists of health disparity and communication in the context of visual information and persuasion with emphases on health message design and cultural representation. The primary focus of my research explores and explains what, how and why underserved populations in the United States engage with health messages.  

Ana Aguilar

Graduate Student ResearcherCommunication Studies

Sarah Kate Bearman

Assistant ProfessorEducational Psychology

Patrick Bixler

Assistant Professor of PracticeLBJ School of Public Affairs

Sheri Burson

Graduate Student ResearcherHealth Behavior and Health Education

Frances Champagne


Jason Choto

Graduate Student ResearcherEducational Psychology

Joshua Cone

Graduate Student ResearcherHealth Behavior and Health Education

Virginia Cumberbatch

Director, Community Engagement CenterDivision of Diversity and Community Engagement

Dominique Egger

Graduate Student ResearcherEducational Psychology

Niall Gaffney

Director, Data Intensive ComputingTexas Advanced Computing Center

Kelly Gaither

Senior Research ScientistTexas Advanced Computing Center

Sam Gosling


Suchitra Gururaj

Assistant Vice PresidentDivision of Diversity and Community Engagement

Paige Harden

Associate ProfessorPsychology

Karen Johnson

Associate ProfessorNursing

Christine Julien

ProfessorElectrical and Computer Engineering

Unmil Karadkar

Assistant ProfessorSchool of Information

Kerry Kinney

ProfessorCivil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering

Karla Lawson

Clinical Assistant ProfessorSurgery and Perioperative Care

Hannah Levin

Graduate Student ResearcherInformation Studies

Hongwan Li

Graduate Student ResearcherCivil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering

Nanshu Lu

Associate ProfessorAerospace Engineering and Engineering Mechanics

Michael Mackert

ProfessorAdvertising & Public Relations / Population Health

Zachariah Marrero

Graduate Student ResearcherPsychology

Segun Owotomo

Graduate Student ResearcherHealth Behavior and Health Education

David Paydarfar


Latrice Sales

Graduate Student ResearcherCurriculum & Instruction

David Schnyer

ProfessorPsychology / Psychiatry

Edison Thomaz

Assistant ProfessorElectrical and Computer Engineering
Read full bio

Paul Toprac

Associate Professor of InstructionComputer Science

Monique Vasquez

Graduate Student ResearcherSocial Work

Hannah Williamson

Assistant ProfessorHuman Development and Family Sciences

Dennis Wylie

Research ScientistCenter for Biomedical Research Support

Maggie Aguas

Home Educator LeadADVANCE

Diana Flores

WIC Community Engagement CoordinatorAustin Public Health

Rebecca Gomez

Parent LiaisonDel Valle ISD

Ellen Gonzalez

Reproductive Justice Birth Worker

Mia Greer

Chief Operating OfficerCommunity Coalition for Health

Barbara Soriano

Parent VolunteerDel Valle ISD

Aidé Sustaita

Parent LiaisonDel Valle ISD

Ashley Trimpey

Substitute TeacherDel Valle Independent School District

Clinton Leysath

Program DirectorWhole Communities–Whole Health

Paloma Gray

Communications CoordinatorWhole Communities–Whole Health

Shirene Garcia

Community Engagement SpecialistWhole Communities–Whole Health

Sarah Smith

Research Study CoordinatorWhole Communities–Whole Health

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