Two new research projects related to humanitarian efforts are underway at Biola University this semester. The research projects, led by Cook School of Intercultural Studies professor Jamie Sanchez, and professor of modern languages, Julianne Bryant, are both made possible by grants from the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. The grants provide necessary resources for each project.

Sanchez is leading a team to develop a plan to research how displacement has impacted women refugees with a planning grant and Bryant’s team will explore how religion has influenced the spiritual and emotional care of people in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria with an initiative grant to execute the research.

While working for a missions organization last summer, Bryant helped facilitate missions groups who helped with post hurricane recovery efforts.

“As I was working with the churches I was inspired to do this project which is entitled, ‘Religion and the pueblo in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria,’” said Bryant. “The objective of the project is to determine how religion played a part in relief efforts by providing physical, spiritual and emotional care to the people of Puerto Rico.”

Her research will investigate how clergy have provided spiritual and emotional care for community members, how clergy and community members experienced spiritual and emotional care, and how church and community members provided spiritual and emotional care to each other.

The grant provides funding for a three-year project. Bryant spent six weeks conducting field work this past summer and will continue to collect both quantitative and qualitative data throughout this academic year. In 2020, her team will be analyzing the data and in summer 2021, Bryant will present the findings with her team in Puerto Rico.

Team members include Biola professor of sociology Eundria Hill-Joseph, professor of psychology at Northwestern College Melanie Nyhof and professor of psychology at Loyola Marymount University Jennifer Abe.

Sanchez’s team members including Biola professor of psychology, Laura Dryjanska, are all working to develop research in the area of the refugee studies. Sanchez will be using her grant to design a qualitative study research project.

“There isn’t much research that includes data from the refugees themselves, and even less so from women refugees. We decided to begin with a basic, yet important, inquiry of understanding how displacement has impacted women refugees,” said Sanchez.

As a qualitative researcher with an interest in refugee studies, Sanchez’s expertise fits well into this work. Designing the research includes conducting an extensive review of the literature, making contacts in various field sites where we will conduct research, and putting together a strong multidisciplinary research team.

“The staggering numbers of displaced persons around the world is a humanitarian crisis,” said Sanchez. “Furthermore, what we know is often about refugees, not always from the refugees themselves. I hope that by developing a research project that seeks to hear from the refugees themselves, we will understand a little more of their journeys. With understanding often comes compassion and action.”

By September 2020, the team will complete a study design including a literature review and will present their ongoing work at two conferences in order to receive constructive feedback and introduction to other sources for the project. They will apply to larger research grants that can fund the research project after the planning phase.

Team members include Dryanska and Professor of Psychology at Vanguard University Jacquelie Parke.

Written by Joya Jackson, media relations assistant. For more information, contact Jenna Loumagne, assistant director of media relations and strategic communications, at (562) 777-4061 or