Strage Prize 2015 with Sonali Rajan

| February 26, 2016

The Strage Junior Faculty Prize committee honors Sonali Rajan as the 2015 Strage Prize recipient. Since 2012, Dr. Rajan has served as the Assistant Professor of Health Education in the Department of Health and Behavior Studies at Teachers College, Columbia University. At TC, her work has focused chiefly on identifying patterns of risk behavior among youth, in-school health education program development and implementation, and the use of bioinformatic methods to synthesize valuable data related to youth health and academics and how these areas are affected by individual, community, and school-level factors.

As both a researcher and Girls on the Run coach and curriculum designer, Professor Rajan has a vested interest in the link between health and learning. Nowhere is this more evident than her latest paper: “Gun Possession among American Youth: A Discovery-Based Approach to Understand Gun Violence.” In collaboration with Dr. Kelly Ruggles, the paper aims to better understand and visualize the behavioral factors associated with gun possession among adolescents. Through novel discovery-based computational methods, the study analyzes over five million unique data points collected over the course of ten years from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System, the country’s largest and most comprehensive public health datasets on adolescent behavior.

The findings reveal the complexity of behavioral factors, beyond mental illness alone, that influence gun possession among adolescent youth. As a result, Rajan and Ruggles redefine and open the conversation around an important topic that had been subject to a Congressional moratorium on federal funding since 1996.

The video was produced by EdLab at Teachers College. Support for this production and publication of this video is made possible by the Strage Junior Faculty Prize, established in 2009 by Teachers College alumna Alberta Strage and her husband Henry to recognize junior faculty achievement. Alberta also serves on both the President’s Advisory Council and the International Advisory Council for Teachers College. We appreciate both their generosity to Teachers College and support for the work of our junior faculty.

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This blog post was co-authored by Jackie Heltz