Racial, Economic, & Environmental Justice Research Cluster

The Racial, Economic, and Environmental Justice (REEJ) Research Cluster will work with the newly established Urban Institute for Racial, Economic, and Environmental Justice to examine racial, economic, and environmental inequalities, engage in transformative research, mobilize community-based efforts and encourage the design of practical social and economic solutions. REEJ’s central aim is coalition building, to remove barriers to success and uncover the ways in which the construct of race (and intersections of other identities with race) has led to cultural and structural disadvantage for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color.

Through local, state, national, and international partnerships, the REEJ Research Cluster and UIREEJ will address some of the Flint community’s key economic, environmental, and health challenges. We together will help support, expand, and focus UM-Flint’s public service initiatives, while centering its work on community-based, participatory research.

The work of the REEJ Research Cluster and the UIREEJ includes:

  • Examining the intersections of racial, economic, and environmental systems.  
  • Engaging in translational research to design practical solutions. 
  • Supporting community-led efforts to achieve a common vision.
  • Pursuing broad coalitions to identify and foster social determinants of success. 
  • Advancing public education, public-private partnerships, and civic engagement. 
  • Mitigating the manner in which the construct of race (and intersections of other identities with race) has impacted Black, Indigenous and People of Color.

Current Research Topics

Child Care

Provider Empowerment Program (PEP)
Provider Empowerment Program (PEP, PI: Toko Oshio), thanks to the generous funding from W.K.Kellogg Foundation, uses Human Centered Design, has made substantial efforts in supporting child care providers in Flint and in addressing the challenges and unmet needs that we have uncovered since 2018. PEP is providing both direct and indirect support such as PEP Texts — which include links to learning activities, healthy recipes, and other useful information for providers — are sent to 140 subscribers three times a week. We have an active social media presence including PEP website, Facebook page, and PEP YouTube Channel. As part of our work to help license-exempt and “Family, Friend and Neighbor” (FFN) child care providers gain access to systems that can provide support, PEP has identified state and federal policies that inhibit the participation of license-exempt providers in the child care subsidy system.

Child Care Network
Poverty Solutions at the University of Michigan
Michigan’s Children
Michigan Department of Education



Toko Oshio
Toko Oshio, Ph.D, studies child development, from infancy through youth, taking an ecological perspective which emphasizes interactions with people and environments. Her primary research interest is in the area of socio-emotional development of children and youth, and how development is shaped in contexts where crucial interactions happen, such as families, schools, and communities. She is originally from Japan, and has lived in the US as an immigrant for more than 20 years. Through her recent work leading the Provider Empowerment Program (PEP), she and her team have uncovered various unmet needs among Family, Friend, and Neighbor (FFN) child care providers in Flint and have examined the gaps in policies affecting FFN child care providers. Prior to PEP, she completed a study on undocumented and DACA recipient youth and their families in Michigan. She earned a Ph.D in Child Development at Michigan State University.

Toko is the leader of REEJ Research Cluster, if you have any questions or are interested in joining the cluster, please contact her at toshio@umich.edu.

Pamela Ross McClain
Nathaniel McClain



  • Nienhusser, H. K. & Oshio, T. (2020). Postsecondary education access (im)possibilities for undocu/DACAmented youth living with the potential elimination of DACA. Educational Studies, doi: 10.1080/00131946.2020.1757448
  • Nienhusser, H. K. & Oshio, T. (2019). Awakened hatred and heightened fears: “The Trump Effect” on the everyday lives of mixed-status families. Cultural Studies ↔ Critical Methodologies: Special Issue, 19, 3, 173-183. doi.10.1177/1532708618817872

Policy Briefs