Release Date: August 19, 2011
BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The UB 2020 Civic Engagement and Public Policy strategic initiative has awarded five new Civic Engagement Research Fellowships for 2011-12.
The fellowship program, now in its second full year of operation, supports community-based research projects by University at Buffalo faculty members who work in collaboration with community partners to address issues of social justice and social equity.
This years' winners will use the grants to undertake investigations into the exclusion of workers from protective employment laws, the status of Buffalo's grain elevators, how men serving life imprisonment can connect with and assist their communities of origin, health literacy among youth with disabilities, and a complex range of problems facing Cheektowaga's Maryvale School District (and many other districts across the region and nation).
This year's Civic Engagement Research Fellows, each of whom will receive up to $3,500 for their work, are Erin Hatton, PhD, assistant professor of sociology, College of Arts and Sciences; Bruce Jackson, SUNY Distinguished Professor and James Agee Professor of American Culture, Department of English, College of Arts and Sciences; Teresa Miller, JD, professor, Law School; Anne Marie Perrault, PhD, assistant professor of library and information studies, Graduate School of Education; and Corrie Stone-Johnson, assistant professor of educational leadership and policy, Graduate School of Education.
Hatton's fellowship project, "When is a worker not a worker? Excluding workers from U.S. Employment and Labor Law," will be undertaken with her collaborative community research partner, the Southern Poverty Law Center, Montgomery, Ala. The grant will help underwrite early-stage research costs and help her develop external funding and publication commitments for her book-length investigation into how and why many categories of workers are excluded from a range of U.S. labor laws, including the Federal Labor Standards Act, the Social Security Act, the National Labor Relations Act and the Occupational Safety and Health Act -- laws that, she says, "set the basic framework for employment in the U.S., and indeed define the boundaries of 'work' itself."
Jackson's project is "Photo Documentation of Buffalo's Waterfront Grain Elevators" and his community research partner is the Campaign for Buffalo History, Architecture & Culture Inc., Buffalo, N.Y. He will use his fellowship funds to help him continue work on a photographic project documenting Buffalo's waterfront grain elevators. The photos will be exhibited and published in a book to be used in efforts to get landmark protection for the elevators, one of the major projects of his community research partner, which also seeks to create an Industrial Heritage District in the area in which they are located.
Miller's project is "Community Outreach from Inside Attica" and her community research partner will be the Lifers' Group at the Attica Correctional Facility, a maximum-security prison operated by the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision.
Miller will work with the Lifers' Group to research ways in which men serving life sentences in New York can reach beyond the confines of prison to have a positive impact on their families and communities of origin.
In response to data establishing the harm to urban communities when a high percentage of their adult male populated is incarcerated, Miller will explore ways that such communities may be reinforced by those missing males, including youth mentoring, virtual visitation and positive parenting from prison. She will interview Lifers Group members, prison administrators, members of Buffalo-based prisoner advocacy organizations and members of Buffalo communities most affected by the incarceration of African-American men in order to better understand the "fit" between men wanting to take responsibility for improving conditions in their communities, but who will be away from those communities for many years, and the declining communities they were removed from as criminal offenders.
In consultation with prison administrators, she also will create vehicles that create positive connections between strongly affected communities and the Lifers' Group. Vehicles may include dissemination of a Lifers' Group's newsletter, a local FM talk radio program and a website that will permit lifers' to share their experiences and hard-won wisdom with their communities and the world beyond.
Perrault's project is "Consumer Health Informatics: Develop a Community Engagement Approach to Foster Health Literacy in Young Adults with Disabilities" and her community research partners are People Inc., Kaleida Health Library Services, the Buffalo and Erie County Public Library and Parent Network of WNY.
The project aims to understand processes that both challenge and enable development of health literacy skills for adolescents with disabilities. Perrault and her partners will map the ecology and assets of partner organizations as they relate to the support of target young people; train adolescents as self-advocates, investigate the needs and perceptions of stakeholders vis a vis health literacy; disseminate findings; and increase knowledge in the field.
"Our goals are to build mutually beneficial relationships among partners while increasing the partners' own capacities, and to be a catalyst for change by empowering youth," Perrault says.
Stone-Johnson's project is "College Readiness at the Crossroads: The Contemporary Challenges of Post-Secondary Preparation" and her community research partner is the Maryvale Union Free School District in Cheektowaga, N.Y., which, like many districts, is experiencing declining enrollment and heightened student poverty while struggling with rising accountability and diminished school resources.
Stone-Johnson will work with school counselors and the School Improvement Team to determine the needs of teachers, students and parents at all levels; and college admissions staff and local business leaders to determine what areas in the school require improvement to best meet the college and career readiness needs of Maryvale students. She hopes to parlay this work into a project that could encompass a larger interview sample and perhaps be of interest to other schools experiencing similar issues and national foundations with an interest in college and career readiness.
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