The Wellesley Centers for Women is home to more than 50 individual research, education, and action projects. Some are short-term, specifically focused investigations, evaluations, and trainings. Others are part of larger, long-term initiatives addressing critical areas in the lives of women, children, and families. Our international collaborations strive to improve the lives of women and girls across the globe. Learn more about these important initiatives.

Below are ongoing Projects. View ALL projects (current and archived) or sort projects by topic of focus.

While depression is a common problem among adolescents, it can be a challenge to identify teens at risk for or suffering from depression. This program addresses this critical issue by providing school-based mental health screening to all students in designated grades and offering additional support to adolescents at high risk for depression and/or suicidal behaviors.

The program provides:

  • Resources that increase the school community’s mental health awareness and literacy, which serves as a prevention tool for adolescent depression
  • Two-level screening for students, including universal, self-reported screening for all students followed by in-depth interviews with students who are identified as high risk
  • Communication with parents/guardians about youth depression and resources
  • More significant follow-up (both immediate and long-term) for parents/guardians of high-risk teens
  • Referral access for all school families

Importance of Preventing Depression in Adolescents

The average age for the onset of depression is 15. Recent studies show that 13-15% of teens aged 12-17 have suffered at least one depressive episode, up from 8% in 2007. In addition, suicide is the second leading cause of death among adolescents in the United States.

There are several short-term and long-term consequences of adolescent depression. Short-term consequences include difficult family/peer relationships, impaired school and work performance, increased risk for substance abuse, and increased suicidal behavior. Long-term consequences include poor functional outcomes in adulthood, reduced life satisfaction, higher rates of suicide attempts, more psychiatric and medical hospitalizations, lower educational attainment, and more time out of work. Having a depressive episode in adolescence or young adulthood increases the risk of having an episode later on, making early prevention efforts of utmost importance.

Depression Prevention in Schools

Research indicates that prevention programs can reduce the incidence of both depressive symptoms and depressive episodes. Addressing depression and suicidal behavior in the school setting can be particularly effective. The 2021 Surgeon General’s report on youth mental health reports that educators are well-positioned to notice early signs of depression. Additionally, research shows that teens prefer to receive mental health services in schools, rather than in mental health specialty settings.

Dr. Tracy R.G. Gladstone

Dr. Gladstone is a senior scholar at the Wellesley Centers for Women at Wellesley College. She is also an assistant in psychology at Boston Children’s Hospital, an instructor at Harvard Medical School, and a research scientist at Judge Baker Children’s Center. For the past 25 years, Dr. Gladstone has focused her research on the development, implementation, evaluation, and dissemination of preventive interventions targeting depression in children and families. She is trained in a variety of different intervention approaches and has co-authored a number of peer-reviewed manuscripts reporting the results of her research. She has taken an active role in teaching about depression, prevention, and intervention in local, national, and international settings.

Watch: Supporting Adolescent Mental Health in the 'New Normal'

On October 27, 2021, the Wellesley Centers for Women hosted “Supporting Adolescent Mental Health in the ‘New Normal,’” a virtual Social Change Dialogue on how educators, parents, and school communities can come together to support mental health for middle school and high school students.

Panelists included Dr. Gladstone, WCW Postdoctoral Research Scientist Katherine R. Buchholz, Ph.D., Principal David Jordan, Ed.D., of Robert Adams Middle School in Holliston, MA, and School Psychologist Deanna Kanavas-DeRocher, Ed.S., LMHC, of Natick High School in Natick, MA.

  • Feedback from Parents and Educators

    “This was a wake-up call for us… it was life-changing.”

  • Feedback from Parents and Educators

    “I appreciate the fact that you are doing this for our children. I think this is a great conversation starter for me to talk to my children about depression... I wish there was a program like this when I was a teen.”

  • Feedback from Parents and Educators

    “I could not be happier with the thorough, thoughtful, supportive, and genuinely caring work you and your staff do for our students.”

  • Feedback from Parents and Educators

    “I hope all high schools have this amazing program and follow-up system in place.”


The Women's Leadership in Resident Theaters study examined gender representation in leadership and those “next in line” at theaters that were members of the League of Resident Theatres (LORT) during the 2013-2014 performance season. The study tracked a sizable gender imbalance among leaders in the field and articulated the structural barriers facing women aspiring to executive-level positions. The study’s release led to the formation of LORT’s Diversity Task Force, which has evolved into the LORT Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Committee. Since 2016, the number of female artistic and executive leaders at LORT theaters has increased, and many of these theaters, for the first time in their history, are being led by women, a handful of them BIPOC.

While the study primarily focused on gender representation, researchers also found a “virtual absence of women of color in regional theaters.” Since the study’s publication, the number of BIPOC leaders at LORT theaters has also increased, but representation remains low, particularly for BIPOC men. Analyzing the current racial and gender representation of leadership and barriers to entry will continue to illuminate both progress and challenges for LORT to consider in its future efforts to eliminate and dismantle oppressive systems and practices.


Following the methodology of the Women’s Leadership in Resident Theatres study, this study will investigate the identity-specific barriers (e.g., personal, cultural, systemic) connected to leadership positions and influence in LORT theaters. To do this, current executive leaders and next-in-line leaders at LORT theaters will be surveyed and interviewed. In addition, the study will expand upon the work of the original study by including discussions with senior staff members, trustees, search committee members, and executive search consultants. In order to fully assess the systemic barriers encountered by people seeking leadership positions in the American theater, all parties involved in the hiring process must be fully assessed, particularly the handful of executive search firms that hold disproportionate influence on the executive search process for a majority of LORT’s member theaters.

Desired Outcomes

The study aims to increase awareness of persisting racial and gender inequities for artistic and executive leaders and those that aspire to such positions. It will provide recommendations designed to guide changes in the development and selection of a robust and diverse slate of candidates for leadership positions at LORT theaters as well as other arts and cultural organizations.

Asian American adolescents are facing unprecedented risks to their mental health. They are living with high levels of anti-Asian hate and violence fueled by references to COVID-19 as “the China virus.” Physical assaults against Asian Americans skyrocketed by 145% in 2020, and 80% of youth report being bullied or verbally harassed.

Linda Charmaraman, Ph.D., is involved in the BOBA Project, a study that will fill a critical gap in the science of how discrimination affects Asian American adolescent mental health. The study is funded by the National Institutes of Health and led by Dr. Cindy Liu, director of the Developmental Risk and Cultural Resilience Laboratory at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and Dr. Tiffany Yip of Fordham University.

Charmaraman and her colleagues are following 350 Chinese American adolescents, their Chinese heritage parent, and a peer to investigate the effects of discrimination experiences, discrimination responses, and racial socialization processes on adolescent mental health and chronic stress. The long-term objective is to develop evidence on how parents, peers, and social media can be leveraged to mitigate the negative health consequences of discrimination. Charmaraman and her Youth, Media & Wellbeing Research Lab are focused on understanding the racial socialization processes that take place within peer relationships, particularly on social media.

This work is supported by the National Institutes of Health: R01MH129360.

This study of the Youth, Media & Wellbeing Research Lab aims to better understand the contexts and characteristics that influence how social media use connects with mental health and wellbeing for young adolescents. It capitalizes and expands upon an existing longitudinal study and, for a subset of young users (13- to 14-year-olds), utilizes data that assesses adolescents moment-by-moment.

The study’s primary aim is to determine the specific characteristics (e.g., demographics) and social contexts (e.g., COVID pandemic, family media rules) of adolescents’ online social interactions (e.g., relationship of the people interacting, content of interaction, total amount of use) that are associated with indicators of mental wellbeing.

The study’s significance lies in 1) furthering scientific understanding about standardized data collection methods and innovative technology to systematically document early adolescent digital interactions at a more timely, contextualized level, and 2) identifying contextual variables and individual characteristics that are associated with risky and resilient social media use. In the long term, findings will be applicable to interventions designed to encourage online behaviors linked to positive mental health outcomes and discourage others.

Founded by the Urban Institute, the Wellesley Centers for Women, and the Pregnant Scholar, the Student Parent Action through Research Knowledge (SPARK) Collaborative’s mission is to build a national coalition to develop bodies of data, research, and insight that inspire and inform meaningful action for pregnant and parenting students.

The SPARK Collaborative envisions creating a new national agenda to support student parents through a coalition of organizations, stakeholders, and allies invested in higher education access; family and two-generation economic and social mobility strategies; and racial, class-based, gender, and other forms of equity. The Collaborative purposefully and meaningfully elevates and centers the experiences and roles of pregnant, parenting, and caregiving students and amplifies their contributions in all elements of this work.

The SPARK Collaborative will launch in fall 2022. The inaugural project of the SPARK Collaborative is the Data-to-Action Campaign for Pregnant and Parenting Student Success.

In partnership with the Urban Institute and supported by a $1.1 million grant from ECMC Foundation, the Wellesley Centers for Women launched the Data-to-Action Campaign for Pregnant and Parenting Student Success in 2022. The goals of the campaign are to identify the most effective strategies for implementing data tracking and reporting systems that identify parenting students enrolled in college, as well as follow their educational outcomes like grades, retention, and graduation.

The Data-to-Action Campaign is the inaugural project of the Student Parent Action through Research Knowledge (SPARK) Collaborative, a national partnership initiative that will be formally announced later in 2022 that supports connections between research and efforts to effect change for student parents.

The Data-to-Action Campaign team is conducting a policy review to identify how parenting and partnership status has been collected and reported in existing surveys and individual campus strategies, identifying important lessons and considerations. The team is also learning about how data collection mandates work in different states and higher education systems and how implementation approaches can complement these requirements. For example, the team is closely following how data collection laws passed in 2021 are being implemented in Illinois and Oregon.

The grant from ECMC Foundation will support a cohort of four community colleges and one community college district or system through the process of collecting and using data on student parenting and partnership status. The cohort will develop new campus programs and strategies aimed at improving academic outcomes for parenting students. It will also identify and seek to address the needs of special student-parent populations, like single mothers, who face particularly large obstacles to completing their degrees.

The campaign team is working with state and federal stakeholders to inform considerations around improving student parent data collection at a policy level. The team will disseminate findings to policymakers and higher education practitioners, releasing briefs, hosting webinars, and facilitating group discussions. The campaign team will host a capstone event at Urban Institute in Washington, D.C., in 2025 to share cumulative findings and recommendations with federal and state policymakers and other stakeholders.

The campaign hopes to establish and spread a data-driven mindset and challenge colleges and universities to consider how to promote success for parenting students, especially single mothers and other groups that may benefit from additional support.

WCW’s Justice and Gender-Based Violence Research Initiative collaborated with the Philadelphia Women’s Law Project and the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) to audit the Austin Police Department’s handling of sexual assault cases.

In September 2019, the Austin City Council undertook the audit after a joint investigation from ProPublica, Newsy, and Reveal highlighted practices used by police departments in Austin and elsewhere to close sexual assault cases inappropriately and without making an arrest. Cases would be classified as “cleared by exceptional means” and would not move forward in the justice system—at times when there was enough evidence to make an arrest and police knew who and where the suspect was, and in other instances when the cases had not been completely investigated. 

This is a topic the Justice and Gender-Based Violence Research Initiative has studied extensively, finding this misdesignation of cases results in very high rates of sexual assault cases being closed without an arrest or trial, a phenomenon known as case attrition.   

The audit of reports of sexual assaults to Austin police, led by PERF, involved a detailed and systematic review of 1,430 sexual assault cases filed between 2012 and 2020. The review examined the nature and effectiveness of the police response as well as the characteristics of reports that did and did not result in thorough police investigation and those that did not move forward to arrest and prosecution. The team also reviewed the department’s policies and procedures and conducted interviews with key personnel and with survivors who reported to the police. 

The report was released by the city of Austin in November 2022 and was covered by local news outlets, including the Austin Chronicle, Community Impact Newspaper, and local Austin TV stations. The report found, for example, that detectives infrequently responded to the scene of the incident or the hospital; that detectives’ interviews with victims, suspects, and witnesses were often delayed or failed to occur; that antiquated sexual assault policies needed to be updated; and that officers, detectives, and supervisors tasked with responding to sexual assaults were insufficiently trained to do so.