With funding from the MacArthur Foundation, IGPA and its collaborators are designing and testing programs to better meet the health and wellness needs of youth from systemically marginalized Chicago communities of color.


The Citizen Scientist Journaling project seeks to capture the small and large costs of COVID-19 and the coping mechanisms used by individuals and communities, especially those most affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The goal is to create a public digital archive of how Illinois residents are managing socially, emotionally, and economically using a citizen/community scientist approach.

Citizen scientists are community members working with scientists to create new knowledge and any Illinois resident can participate. Multifaceted information is collected to highlight the complexity of the impacts of COVID-19 on real people’s lives and provide personal accounts of their experiences, to produce critical insight into social, mental, and economic costs to individuals, families, and communities.

As part of this pilot project, community members from across Illinois have shared their experiences about how they are affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and shutdown and the strategies they used to cope with the stress and grief associated with the pandemic. The personal experiences they share can highlight issues that need to be addressed in terms of:

  • Health

  • Economics

  • Social Safety Nets

  • Discrimination

  • Public Policy

We hope to learn more about the key factors that make people more vulnerable and resilient to the impacts of COVID-19. We also hope that others may find these experiences and any coping strategies helpful and will continue to provide updates with how this process is going.

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In The News

Making an Impact

Citizen Scientist Journaling Project Leads to MacArthur Foundation Support

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At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Ruby Mendenhall and Robin Fretwell Wilson organized the Citizen Scientist Journaling project to better understand how Illinois residents managed socially, emotionally, and economically during the initial lockdown and beyond. The project asked 16 Illinois residents to journal once a week for six months about how they were affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and shutdown and the strategies they used to cope with the stress and grief associated with the pandemic. These “citizen scientists” represented a diverse set of communities and experiences, and their journal entries offer a statewide impression of how COVID-19 changed...


Wave 10: Dec. 2

Since May, as one component of the IGPA Pandemic Stress Indicators, a panel of three sets of experts have periodically shared their opinions about pandemic policies. Specialists on economics, public health, and/or vulnerable populations from across Illinois have generously agreed to provide regular perspectives on various pandemic policies. In answering the surveys, all panelists provide only their personal views and do not offer official positions on behalf of their respective institutions. The 10th wave of the Pandemic Stress Indicator Expert panel survey was launched on Dec. 2, and we received 19 responses. The focus of this final consultation of 2020 concerned, in large part, COVID-19 vaccines and plans to implement a comprehensive vaccination program. Respondents were asked how they would prioritize the distribution of vaccine doses at this early stage, while scarcity and logistical challenges of distributing the vaccine loom large. We asked who should determine the priority sequence for vaccination, offering five response options (the president, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention “(CDC”), governors, local officials, hospital and clinics) plus “other.” Nearly every respondent chose the CDC, with only one preferring sub-national decentralization of the decision (“governors”) and one selecting “the FDA—the entity actually doing it”. [1] We next sought our respondents’ views about who should receive the vaccine first, by listing 10 groups (randomly ordered) and asking for rankings, from 1 (highest priority) to 10 (lowest). Table 1 reveals near consensus that those first in line should be hospital employees working directly with COVID-19 patients. The next highest rankings, in a near tie, were hospital workers not directly in contact with COVID-19 patients and employees at long-term-care facilities. Congregate care facilities have been hot spots for COVID-19 spread throughout the U.S., so it is probably not surprising that residents of long-term care facilities came next. Respondents exhibited less agreement on the remaining groups, as the relatively close clustering of means over the fifth through 10th items in Table 1 reveals. A different dimension of priority is how available vaccine doses will be distributed across and within states. In regard to the latter, we asked, “Within Illinois, do you expect that the procedure for allocating vaccine doses across regions/counties will be fully transparent?” Respondents were quite evenly divided and unsure: five said yes, four no, and 10 opted for maybe or not sure.

Meet Our Citizen Scientists

Kristopher Harden

Northern Illinois Region

Karen Morris

North Region

Loida Perez

North-Central Region

Rachel Rambach

West Central Region

Leo Lacy

West Central Region

Jacob Hill

West Central Region

Victoria O'Dell

West Central Region

William Nicholson

Southern Region

Patrick Scates

Southern Region

Joyce Catchings

East-Central Region

Diamond Iman Rainey

East-Central Region

Emma L. Marshall

East-Central Region

Jacquelyn B. Frank

East-Central Region

Emma Vosicky

West Suburban Region

Marquis Sewell

Chicago Region

Lloyd DeGrane

Chicago Region

Julio Cesar Colon

Chicago Region


Ruby Mendenhall


COVID-19 Task Force Member

Ruby Mendenhall is a Professor of Sociology, African American Studies, Urban and Regional Planning, Gender and Women’s Studies and Social Work at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She is an affiliate of the Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology; Women and Gender in Global Perspectives; the Cline Center for Advance Social Research; Epstein Health Law and Policy Program; Family Law and Policy Program; the Institute of Government and Public Affairs.