Roosevelt University’s Mansfield Institute for Social Justice and Transformation announced today that it has started a new fellowship program pairing students and faculty members with Chicago-area nonprofits that need research to further their work in dismantling the Cradle-to-Prison Pipeline.
Eight Roosevelt students who are promising scholars and who have demonstrated a commitment to activism have been selected to work with Roosevelt faculty members on research that could help organizations make the case for alternative approaches in dealing with at-risk kids.
“The University’s mission has always been to participate in meaningful work that helps those who most need our help and which can make a difference for the better in our community, our society and our world,” said Lesley Slavitt, vice president for government relations and university outreach at Roosevelt University.
“The Mansfield Scholar Activist Program is a wonderful opportunity for our students to be actively engaged in work that we know can change the trajectory from one that sends our youth to prison to one that prepares them for college and productive lives,” she said.
Organizations the scholars will work with include: the Community Renewal Society, Community Organizing and Family Issues, the Chicago Area Project, the Grand Boulevard Federation and Equip for Equality.
“We are very interested in breaking the cycle in which our kids are on a path toward incarceration rather than on the road to success,” said the Rev. Calvin Morris, president of the Community Renewal Society. Mansfield scholars will collect and evaluate data for the Community Renewal Society on school suspensions and expulsions, which the organization believes are detrimental to a child’s chances for success.
“Roosevelt students will have the opportunity to do research in concrete ways on a vital issue and we expect their work to help us clarify how zero-tolerance policies frequently used by schools are impacting our kids and affecting our neighborhoods,” Morris said.
At the same time, the Mansfield scholars also will be evaluating how well experimental restorative justice initiatives, including peer juries, peace centers and peace circles, are working to resolve conflicts that frequently lead schools to suspend and expel students in the first place.
“We hope to capture the power and impact that our peace centers are having in helping kids get on a successful track,” said Ellen Schumer, executive director of Community Organizing and Family Issues. “It’s not something we have had the resources to do. This work has the potential to change the mindset that for too long has opted to punish kids rather than teach them how to deal with adversity.”
Other issues the Mansfield scholars will look at include: effectiveness of alternative/diversionary programs that are intended to keep kids from being detained by law enforcement authorities; the impact on kids affected by charter vs. public school closings in Chicago’s Bronzeville neighborhood; and the rate/frequency of suspensions and expulsions from public schools as they relate to children with special needs and disabilities.
The Mansfield Scholar Activist Program is one of many social-justice initiatives sponsored by Roosevelt’s Mansfield Institute for Social Justice and Transformation and made possible by the Anne and Albert Mansfield Foundation in Chicago.
“We are grateful to the Mansfield family for the scholarships that are making the Scholar Activist Program a reality,” said Heather Dalmage, director of the Mansfield Institute. “Because of the foundation’s support, we are connecting the strengths of the University with the work of community organizations. It’s a great opportunity for all of us to make meaningful change for the benefit of kids who are growing up in poverty,” she said.
The initiative is being led by Mansfield Institute program coordinator Nancy Michaels and Roosevelt assistant professor of sociology Stephanie Farmer. Research training for the project is being provided by the Roosevelt University Murray-Green Library and Librarian Richard Uttich, while writing advice and training is being given by the Roosevelt Writing Center and its director Carrie Brecke. All research is being supervised by Roosevelt faculty members.
The inaugural group of Mansfield fellows includes:
• Zach Durst, an undergraduate sociology major. Durst is analyzing expulsions and suspensions in the Chicago Public Schools and comparing data from the nation’s 10 largest school districts for the Community Renewal Society’s High Hopes Campaign, which focuses on replacing schools’ zero-tolerance policies with restorative justice programs, including peer juries, peace centers and peace circles. The research is being supervised by Farmer.
• Olivia Kaplan, an undergraduate journalism major, and Rachel Colias, an undergraduate English and women’s and gender studies major, are evaluating the effectiveness of peace centers at two Chicago schools where youth are being taught how to resolve conflicts. The Roosevelt students are interviewing parents, school administrators, teachers and students for the Community Organizing and Family Issues project. The research is being supervised by Leslie Bloom, associate professor of educational leadership.
• Anna Fleming and Kimberly Davis, undergraduate criminal justice majors, are working with the Chicago Area Project (CAP) to analyze effectiveness of CAP alternative programs being used in several Chicago neighborhoods to lessen kids’ chances of being detained by law enforcement authorities. The project is being supervised by Tana McCoy, assistant professor of criminal justice.
• Tracy Koumare, a graduate sociology student, is gathering data on charter vs. public school closings and openings in Chicago’s Bronzeville community, and evaluating the information based on race, income and effect on youth from the neighbohood in conjunction with the Grand Boulevard Federation. The research is being supervised by Nona Burney, associate professor of secondary education.
• Carrie Miller, a PsyD student in clinical psychology, and Jennifer Schoolcraft , an undergraduate in sociology, are researching whether children with special needs and disabilities are disproportionately expelled from the Chicago Public Schools in conjunction with Equip for Equality. The research project is being led by Steven Meyers, professor of psychology and the Mansfield professor of social justice.
There are expected to be new opportunities in the spring as well as in the future for additional Mansfield scholars, faculty members and not-for-profits to work together on research concerning at-risk youths and effective strategies for their success. For information, contact Nancy Michaels, 312-341-2150 or email@example.com or visit the Mansfield Institute for Social Justice and Transformation at www.roosevelt.edu/MISJT.
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