IUPUC Professor of Education, Dr. Stephanie Serriere, has received a research grant from the Indiana University Racial Justice Research Fund to study how external factors such as school and community support youth activists with a focus on racial equity.
The fund is jointly supported by Indiana University’s Office of the Vice President for Research and Office of the Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Multicultural Affairs, and provides grants of up to $15,000 for research by IU faculty focused on racial equity and justice. “Through the scholarly work of our faculty, the community-building initiatives of our culture centers, and our partnerships and civic engagements with the communities we serve, we are committed to a university where a diverse community can flourish,” said Dr. James C. Wimbush, Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Multicultural Affairs, Dean of the University Graduate School, and the Johnson Chair for Diversity and Leadership.
In her previous research, Serriere has shown the ways in which the elementary school curriculum and pedagogies support youth civic engagement on broader issues of social justice; however this study will focus on two specific questions: How do Indiana’s schools and communities prepare, support, or impede youth activists’ work in taking informed action for racial justice? and What opportunities, in and outside of school, do youth have and need to learn and develop the knowledge and skills of civic engagement? The research will begin during the current academic year with the results being analyzed next summer and presented thereafter.
The study involves a quantitative survey of students ages 8-18 from South Central Indiana who are active in the Black Lives Matter movement or other racial equity projects. The survey will be followed by qualitative interviews for a subset of the respondents. The Council for Youth Development (CYD) of Bartholomew County will be supporting the research by offering logistical and practical support including determining relevant survey/interview items and initiating contacts of youth activists in the area.
The CYD regularly surveys over 5,100 local youth to better understand their supports and strengths (or developmental assets), using the data to help area schools and agencies understand both the needs and strengths of our local youth. The findings show that these Hoosier youths scored highest on their family and social supports, but lowest in the external community asset of “constructive use of time,” indicating that young people need opportunities to connect their in-school learning to their out of school experiences to learn and develop skills and knowledge of civic engagement. Working with the CYD, Serriere will use similar measures to specifically understand how schools and communities can support youth in civic engagement efforts.
Serriere believes that the research can help to provide anti-racist frameworks for teacher preparation programs and in K-12 schools across the state. “Since the creation of U.S. public school system, schools serve a civic mission – to prepare citizens with the skills and knowledge participate in a diverse democracy. Research shows that Americans who are not properly educated about their roles as citizens are less likely to be civically engaged by nearly any metric,” said Serriere. “This current study is to better understand the external (school and community) supports that young Hoosier activists rely on and need to support their civic engagement.”
Dr. Jennifer Conner, Head of the Division of Education at IUPUC agrees that this type of research is essential. “The world is continually changing at an ever-rapid pace, and students are becoming more and more involved in shaping their own communities. It is critical that educators understand ways in which they can help support all students with the knowledge and skills needed to be civically engaged.”
As part of this project, Serriere will also be hiring one IUPUC student as a research assistant for up to four hour per week for 10 weeks, beginning in December. Students interested in the position or participating in the study can contact Serriere via email at email@example.com.