ASU project receives $10,000 to study isolation, loneliness

Students and faculty were given a grant to look at the effects of isolation

Students and faculty from the Hugh Downs School of Human Communication received a $10,000 grant from Tempe City Council to study loneliness and isolation.

The grant is a part of the newly established Connector Award, which awards local groups and organizations a grant to fund their project idea to tackle the cost of loneliness.

Data will be gathered through questionnaires, surveys and interviews during Storyscope sessions, which is an ASU project coordinated by volunteers who gather and tell personal stories.

Jennifer Linde, a principal lecturer and director of online learning and co-founder of the Storyscope project, said the goal of the group is to connect ASU with the larger community through stories. 

"Even though we are a big, busy, active campus, people still do face isolation and loneliness in the ASU community," Linde said.

Linde is involved in the I-4C Research Collaborative, which is a research initiative in the Communications school that focuses on promoting civil and creative communication and will analyze the data from the Storyscope project. 

Linde said this is the first time ASU has been given a grant to conduct research on isolation. 

Storyscope has partnered with local organizations and communities, like Unity of Tempe, to promote a safe space for storytelling.

John Genette , a civil communication research fellow and co-founder of the Storyscope project, said the story circle, the format of the storytelling, is a tradition through different cultures that has been passed down for centuries. 

“Our feeling is that story circles help build a sense of community by fostering inclusiveness,” Genette said. "Our underlying mission is to make people’s feelings included, to make people feel like their voices are heard, that their authentic stories can be told without being judged."

Kim Van Nimwegen, community outreach manager for the Tempe Community Council, said this is the first year the award has been given out. 

"We are really hoping to learn about what we can do to support people and to connect the partners that we fund to one another," Van Nimwegen said.

Van Nimwegen said the focus on anxiety, depression and other mental health concerns surrounding isolation affect all generations.

"Loneliness spans the whole spectrum," Van Nimwegen said. "There are students in our community that are still feeling very isolated." 

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