Primary Research Focus
To improve the health of underserved youth and American Indian communities through research featuring prevention, intervention and evaluation.
Through leadership of the Collaborative Research Center for American Indian Health, research and various evaluation projects to improve the health of our region’s population. The Kenyon Lab has established a diverse network of various collaborations with academic institutions, health care organizations, research institutions, tribal partners and health program nonprofits. One of CRCAIH's aims is to build tribal infrastructure to do research, which improves community-based research with tribal nations. CRCAIH's second aim is to increase the amount of research in social determinants of health in American Indian health. Using strong team science principles, the collaboration collects, analyzes and utilizes data to make informed decisions about population health.
Adolescent/Young Adult Research
Her research determines various risk and protective factors for adolescent health and educational attainment, and applies this evidence to the design of culturally sensitive prevention programming and policy implications.
One driving goal of the Kenyon Lab is to help youth make a healthy transition to adulthood. Through research, lab members determine various risk and protective factors in adolescent health (e.g., reproductive health).
The next step in the translational research process is designing culturally relevant and responsive prevention programming, such as My Journey. These prevention programs help students develop skills to make healthy decisions, ultimately reducing their risk for sexually transmitted infection and teen pregnancy.
The Kenyon Lab also aims to increase the educational attainment of underrepresented undergraduate students through the Summer Undergraduate Research Experience (SURE). Using the Circle of Courage Model as a guiding Indigenous model to provide research internships and hands-on mentoring, SURE students come away from the experience with greater research skills and increase their chances for graduation and attending graduate school. This prevention program helps inform the lab’s research as well, as we have expanded this research to explore how college students’ social networks either reduce or exacerbate their risk for dropping out.
About the Kenyon Lab
Lab Projects and News
Transdisciplinary Approaches to American Indian and Rural Population Health Research
The major goal of this project is to create a pipeline to move junior investigators to principal investigators competitive for external funding, while maintaining a focus on multidisciplinary teams, community-based research and impact on health. Role: Project lead (July 1, 2017-May 31, 2022).
Collaborative Research Center for American Indian Health
The Collaborative Research Center for American Indian Health (CRCAIH) is designed to create a communication and infrastructure platform to bring together Tribal communities and health researchers, from a variety of disciplines, to work together in the development of cutting-edge transdisciplinary research to address the significant health disparities experienced by American Indians in South Dakota, North Dakota and Minnesota. Role: Principal investigator (Sept. 26, 2012-July 31, 2019).
REU Sites: Social-Behavioral Research Training in American Indian Community-Based Projects
Through the partnership with Sinte Gleska University, we host the Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) site give undergraduates hands-on research experience and training. Role: principal investigator (June 1, 2016-May 31, 2019).
Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI) and Teen Pregnancy Prevention Initiative
Sanford Research leads the evaluation of the GPTCHB program implementation of evidence-based curriculum with youth in four Tribal Nations across the Great Plains region. Role: evaluation director (Oct. 1, 2016-Sept. 30, 2021).
Volunteers of America – Healthy Marriage and Relationship Education Program
Provide evaluation for the Healthy Marriage and Relationship Education initiative held at the VOA-Dakotas. Implementing the PREP program, they will reach a diverse population of clients. Role: evaluation director (Sept. 30, 2015-Sept. 29, 2020).
Meet the Kenyon Lab Team
Michaela Seiber, MPH
Senior Research Specialist
Michaela Sieber leads the Regulatory Knowledge Core within the Collaborative Research Center for American Indian Health (CRCAIH) and the Research Ethics and Dissemination Core (READ). She also manages the CRCAIH online blog. Her projects focus on promoting ethical research in minority communities, specifically tribal communities in the Great Plains area. Other projects involve assisting researchers with disseminating culturally or community tailored research results. She earned a master’s of public health from the University of South Dakota (2016) and a bachelor of science from South Dakota State University.
Tracey McMahon, MS
Research Project Manager
Tracey McMahon’s research focuses on educational persistence, sexual health, and culturally informed approaches to promoting health and well-being. She is responsible for coordinating all aspects of the research process and assists in developing and evaluating public health interventions.
McMahon joined the Kenyon Lab in 2010 and is currently working on a project exploring the role of social support in educational persistence among Native students and a summer undergraduate research experience and retention program for underrepresented students. McMahon received her master of science in rural sociology from South Dakota State University (2010).
Char Green-Maximo works on the evaluation of two evidence-based sexual education curriculums. She collaborates with tribes to understand the data collection and research process. She designed a toolkit for our tribal partners that walk them step by step in the evaluation processes. After data collection, we run different analyses and provide detailed reports to show how well the curriculum is working with their youth. She is the program coordinator for the Summer Undergraduate Research Experience (SURE). She helps recruit and select summer interns and plans their summer activities.
Melissa Buffalo, MS
Senior Research Specialist
Melissa Buffalo leads the community engagement efforts in supporting tribes to build tribal research infrastructure with the Collaborative Research Center for American Indian Health. She also supports the Research Ethics and Dissemination Core (READ), which is part of the CoBRE project. Buffalo joined Sanford Research in 2015 and is currently supporting the five CRCAIH tribal partners in South Dakota, North Dakota and Minnesota in building research infrastructure and building tribal capacity. She also provides training on American Indian history and culture and intergenerational trauma. She earned a bachelor of arts from the University of Minnesota (2002) and a master of science from South Dakota State University (2011).
Alyson Becker, MPH
Senior Research Specialist, Clinical Research Specialist
Alyson Becker writes IRB protocols, works with partnering programs to develop tracking systems and measures to meet their goals, runs data analyses with partnering programs, and creates reports for information dissemination back to the programs and communities. She provides evaluations for VOA-Dakotas, Relationship University; Sinte Gleska University, Tiwahe Glu Kini Pi “Bringing the Family Back to Life” and Native Connections; Great Plains Tribal Chairmen’s Health Board, STI TPPI; CDC DDPI grant of South Dakota DOH. She earned a master’s of public health from South Dakota State University (2016).
Jessica Heinzmann, BA
Senior Research Specialist
Jessica Heinzmann assists with managing projects, report writing and evaluation surveys. She is a website and social media administrator, leads coordination of a large annual conference, and assists with grant writing and manuscript preparation. Her projects include the Collaborative Research Center for American Indian Health, which helps build tribal research infrastructure and promotes transdisciplinary research to improve American Indian health. She earned a bachelor of arts with a double major in economics and social science from the University of Minnesota, Morris (2003).