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Student Laura Ziemer wins award for project in Mexico

MSW student Laura Ziemer won the 2010 Ron Hyatt Public Service Award.

The Hyatt Rotary Public Service Awards are sponsored by the Chapel Hill Rotary Club and administered by UNC’s Carolina Center for Public Service. The award supports innovative public service projects that exemplify the motto of Rotary International, “Service above Self.”

Ziemer is conducing a summer project in Mexico, as independent study under professor Sheryl Zimmerman’s guidance, entitled “Women’s Support Groups for Stress and Depression: The Mujeres En Solidaridad Apoyandose (MESA) Project.”

In response to the identified problem of a high prevalence of depression but no mental health resources, this project will teach an intervention aimed at improving the mood and self-esteem of Mexican women whose husbands have immigrated to the United States. Specifically, the proposed summer project will, in several rural Mexican communities, accomplish the following aims: (1) train local women (known as promotoras, meaning “health promoters”) to conduct support groups in their local communities; (2) evaluate the impact of support group participation on participant stress and self-esteem; and (3) obtain information while the promotoras are being trained, so that this training can be better understood and used more widely. The ultimate goal is that by participating in support groups women will be able to cope with stress in a more positive manner, which will enhance their mental health and quality of life.

“There was great competition for this year’s award, which speaks to the importance of Laura’s project,” said Zimmerman. It will be conducted in collaboration with students and faculty from the School of Medicine and Zimmerman. Melissa Grady is Ziemer’s advisor.