Sara Gundersen, Ph.D., Theresa Kessler, Ph.D., RN, ACNS-BC, CNE, and Julie Peller, Ph.D., are recipients of the 2019–2020 Wheat Ridge Ministries–O.P. Kretzmann Fund grants for Research in the Healing Arts and Sciences. The grants, $10,000 each, provide the opportunity for Gundersen, Kessler and Peller to continue their research and significantly contribute to society.

“In addition to serving as talented teachers and dedicated mentors to their students, Valparaiso University faculty are accomplished scholars whose work advances their disciplines and benefits our larger community,” said Mark L. Biermann, Ph.D., provost and executive vice president for academic affairs. “Grants such as this afford our faculty the opportunity to dedicate resources to their scholarship, make an impact that extends well beyond the Valpo campus and enhance their own knowledge base to grow as educators and scholars.”

Gundersen, associate professor of economics, will explore and evaluate the relationship between membership in Ghana’s Pentecostal churches and attitudes toward domestic violence. In the past, she has discovered that women in these churches have lower levels of empowerment due to their decision-making within the household, despite the fact that this branch of Christianity is argued to be beneficial for women.

Kessler, professor of nursing and Kreft Endowed Chair for the Advancement of Nursing Science, will continue her research on freshmen in college who struggle with depression. The aim of this study is to develop a grounded theory for understanding adjustment to university life and the unique experience of college freshmen living with depression. Kessler’s goal is for health care providers and college communities to learn how to prevent depression and assist freshmen as they navigate the social and structural processes of being a first-year college student.

Peller, professor of chemistry, will be working to effectively address the environmental injustice experienced by residents living in the highly industrialized areas of north Lake County, Indiana, who are overly burdened by pollution. Her goal is to create a healthier living environment for these residents.

The Wheat Ridge Ministries–O.P. Kretzmann Memorial Fund for Research in the Healing Arts and Sciences supports research that has practical applicability to physical, spiritual and mental health issues. To be eligible for this grant, research proposals must focus on the analysis, diagnosis and/or cure of physical, spiritual and mental health problems.