Ruby Mendenhall

Ruby Mendenhall

Primary Affiliation : Co-Lead, Equity, Justice, and Human Flourishing Working Group; COVID-19 Task Force

Kathryn Lee Baynes Dallenbach Professorship in Liberal Arts and Sciences, College of Liberal Arts & Sciences | University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

Skill Highlights

Mixed Methods

Interdisciplinary Research

Communiversity Science

Democratizing Health Innovation

Innovative and Creative (Design, Art, and Poetry)

Featured Work

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Evaluating Genomic Differences among Black Mothers Living in High-and Low-Stress Environments. Granted by the University of Illinois Campus Research Board. Co-PIs: Ruby Mendenhall, Gene Robinson, Brent Roberts, and Sandra Rodriguez-Zas - $25,148
This line of research intervenes in the under theorization of the social determinants of health and health disparities for Black mothers with a focus on the excessive daily reporting of violent crimes and the ripple effects of the violence on the mothers’ bodies, minds and spirits (Henderson, Scott and Mendenhall, 2016). More so, my work documents the cultural resources that enable some Black mothers to transcend their circumstances and successfully raise children (Mendenhall, 2018).
Chicago Earned Income Tax Periodic Payment Pilot Implementation Evaluation. Granted by the City of Chicago Office of the Mayor and the Center for Economic Progress. PI: Ruby Mendenhall. Co-PIs: Christopher Larrrison, Lizanne DeStefano, Ilana Redstone Akresh, Karen Z. Kramer, Andrew Greenlee, Flavia Andrade, and Kevin Franklin. January 2014 – November 2015 - $145,922
Original funding of EITC was in Boston and Champaign in 2006. Because of the my research record in this area, my team was selected by the City of Chicago Office of the Mayor and the Center for Economic Progress to do an evaluation of a pilot program called the Chicago Earned Income Tax Credit Periodic Payment Project (Amount: $145,922).
Investing in Enduring Resources with the Earned Income Tax Credit. PI: Jeffrey Kling, Co-PIs: Kathy Edin, Prudence Carter, Ruby Mendenhall and Mignon Moore. Accepted by the Ford Foundation - $850,000.



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; and the Institute for Computing in Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences. Mendenhall is the Associate Dean for Diversity and Democratization of Health Innovation at the Carle Illinois College of Medicine.

Mendenhall’s research examines how living in racially segregated neighborhoods with high levels of violence affects Black mothers’ mental and physical health using surveys, interviews, crime statistics, police records, data from 911 calls, art, wearable sensors and genomic analysis. She also examines Black mother’s resiliency and spirituality. She examines the role of the Earned Income Tax Credits (EITC) in social mobility, health outcomes, and the medicalization of poverty. She is interested in how families use their EITC to secure affordable and safe housing. She studies the effects of racial microaggressions on the health and sense of belonging of students of color who are on predominantly white campuses. She also employs big data to recover Black women’s lost history, using topic modeling and data visualization to examine over 800,000 documents from 1740 to 2014. She is currently directing the STEM Illinois Nobel Project, funded by NSF, which provides unprecedented access to computer science and other STEM fields. The Nobel project is also a pathway program to medicine. The Nobel Scholars will be trained to become high school youth Community Health Workers and Citizen Scientists. 

Early Head Start Program, Chicago, IL. 

Infant Specialist Team Supervisor of The Ounce of Prevention Fund, 1996 – 1998. 

Supervised home visitors who worked with teenage mothers in the Robert Taylor public housing community to increase their self-sufficiency (through education and employment), and to improve their children’s developmental outcomes.  Evaluated children suspected of having developmental delays.

The Ounce of Prevention Fund, Chicago, IL. 

Public Policy Fellow for the Kids Public Education and Policy Project, 1994 – 1996. 

Provided technical assistance to Chicago communities as they planned for and implemented the federally funded Family Centered Services Initiative.  Participated in legislative work and advocacy around welfare reform and early childhood education.  Researched community initiatives and programs for children and families; identified service gaps and recommended possible improvements.  Participated in the development of an Early Head Start proposal and co-chaired a grant writing team.

Cool County Children’s Hospital, Chicago, IL. 

Occupational Therapist (Staff member, Supervisor, and Consultant), 1986 – 1993.

Managed the pediatric occupational therapy unit.  Provided training on child development and evaluations. Conducted developmental assessments on children using the McCarthy Scales of Children’s Abilities, Gesell Developmental Appraisal, Denver Screening Test, and Reflex Evaluation. Chaired interdisciplinary teams, which developed comprehensive treatment plans for premature infants and children.  Provided therapy to children, birth to 18 years of age with various disabilities: cerebral palsy, prematurity, autism, failure to thrive, meningitis, spinal cord injury, blunt head trauma, Shaken Baby syndrome, and Down syndrome (trisomy 21).

Northwestern University, Evanston, IL; Ph.D. in Human Development & Social Policy, 2004. 

Dissertation: Black Women in Gautreaux’s Housing Desegregation Program: The Role of Neighborhoods and Networks in Economic Independence.  Dissertation Committee: Greg Duncan (Chair), Carol Lee, Marjorie Faulstic Orellana, and Phillip Bowman. Reader: James Rosenbaum

University of Chicago, Harris School of Public Policy, Chicago, IL; M.P.P with Honors, 1994.

University of Illinois, Health Science Center, Chicago, IL; B.S. Occupational Therapy, 1986. 



Designing Resiliency & Well-Being Lab

The Carle Illinois College of Medicine Health Maker Lab in partnership with Carle Foundation Hospital and STEM Illinois is launching a new maker node to decrease health disparities and promote health equity by addressing the social determinants of health.

Health Make-A-Thon

Event to democratize health innovation by having community members, faculty, staff, and students submit their ideas about health and wellness to the annual competition. Ten winners will receive $10,000 worth of resources and training to actualize their idea.

Personal Protective Equipment

Co-leading effort of more than 300 volunteer community members to make 1,500 gowns for Carle and OSF Health Care

Faculty Advisor for Medical Students

Produced a 14 minute documentary about the first (2019) College of Medicine Community Health Fair

Communiversity Wellness Center

A STEM-Illinois Initiative that provides the Urbana-Champaign community with a respite physical space, access to pre-med (and other health careers) pathways, and stress reduction activities (e.g., meditation, dance, and art)

STEM for Chicago Youth

Chicago-based component of STEM Illinois (Chicago Pre-College Science and Engineering Program (ChiS&E)): A STEM-Illinois Initiative that provides intensive Saturday programs to foster accelerated learning in science and mathematics for first and second graders.


STEM Fest and nine STEM Saturdays: A STEM-Illinois initiative that provides hands-on STEM-based activities for children and their parents.

Community Art Gallery

A STEM-Illinois Initiative that provides a space to display art and cultural artifacts produced by faculty, staff, students, community members, and artists-in-residence

New Wellness Center

Plans to Create New Wellness Center for Community, December 19, 2019.

Recent Publications

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2021: Press Release Video for Centering Youth's Health and Wellness: Designing a Third Reconstruction and Chicago Renaissance Grant:
2021: Harris School of Public Policy Minorities in Public Policy (MiPPS) Alumni Award.
2021: LAS Dean's Distinguished Professorial Scholar. This award is given by the Dean of the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences to faculty that have shown exemplary scholarship and teaching amongst those being promoted to the rank of Professor.
2019: Op-ed Project's Public Voices Fellowship.
2019: Nominated for Leadership award by the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus Foundation
2021 Pearl Birnbaum Hurwitz Humanism in Healthcare Award


Policy Work

Policy Work

Centering Youth’s Health and Wellness:  Designing a Third Reconstruction and Chicago Renaissance

Professors Wilson, Mendenhall, and others are now working to expand the Citizen Scientists approach through...
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Policy Work

Uniting Through Writing: A Project at U of I Teaches Illinois Residents to Reconnect through Journals

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Policy Work

If you aren’t White, Asian or Indian, you aren’t an engineer

Race and gender disparities remain a challenge in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education....
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