Iowa State Human Sciences Research Projects Begin in 3 Counties

July 12, 2017, 2:10 pm | Debra Sellers, Robert Dodds, Laura Sternweis

AMES, Iowa – Three new projects from Iowa State University will bring human sciences research to Black Hawk, Polk and Jefferson counties.

Three proposals have been selected for funding through the Engaged Scholarship Funding Program, a partnership of ISU Extension and Outreach and the College of Human Sciences. This is the second year of this program, which funds research projects that focus on engagement, translate research into practice, and involve and benefit Iowans, their families and communities.

Funding is provided by ISU Extension and Outreach and county extension councils. All three projects will run from July 2017 through June 2018.

“Strengthening Relationships in the African American Community in Black Hawk County” has been awarded $13,499. Tera Jordan, an assistant professor in human development and family studies, is principal investigator. Black Hawk County has the highest concentration of African Americans in Iowa. This project’s purpose is to strengthen connections between the county’s African American community and Human Sciences Extension and Outreach. Jordan’s team will facilitate small group discussions with African American residents to gain their perspectives on how to improve extension and outreach programs and professional practices.

“Ultimately we want to strengthen and build community ties and promote family wellbeing,” Jordan said.

“Enhancing African American Youth Academic Success in Polk County” has been awarded $12,023. Jordan also is principal investigator for this project, which will address critical disparities in education in Polk County’s African American community. Co-investigators are Kimberly Greder, an Iowa State associate professor of human development and family studies, and a family life extension state specialist; and Jonathan R. Douglas, coordinator of strong African American families with the Evelyn K. Davis Center for Working Families in Des Moines.

Led by a task force of lay leaders, Iowa State University faculty, and Human Sciences Extension and Outreach staff, 40 African American parents, youth and experienced educators residing in Polk County will take part in study circles and action forums to share their experiences, educational goals and academic needs. They will make recommendations for creating or modifying extension and outreach programming designed to promote educational success.

The project will help Jordan’s team to better understand the challenges and opportunities that African American youth have in succeeding and excelling academically in the school system, Jordan noted.

“Needs Assessment and Video-Enriched Workshops for Small Food Operations in Underserved Communities in Iowa”has been awarded $11,941. Principal investigator Eric D. Olson, an assistant professor in apparel, events and hospitality management, will conduct the research in Jefferson County. It’s an example of a rural area with growing immigrant and refugee populations, groups that often include entrepreneurs who want to start or expand food-related businesses. They may have great food products, but may lack the knowledge to adequately market their products.

“We want to provide small food operations with education and training resources. Our focus will be on the marketing aspects,” Olson said.

“By providing that education, that information, making their businesses stronger, – their businesses will be more successful. There’s a direct impact in the communities as well – successful business, higher wages, potential for higher growth, hiring and employment,” Olson said.

Co-investigators are Shannon Coleman, from the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition, and Te-Lin Chung, Ann Marie Fiore, Jessica Hurst and Linda Niehm, all from the Department of Apparel, Events and Hospitality Management.

Research-based solutions

“We are excited to work with Dr. Jordan and Dr. Olson in the year ahead on their projects. The Engaged Scholarship Funding Program’s aim is to implement Iowa State University’s motto of science with practice to benefit the researchers and Iowans in their communities,” said Debra Sellers, Human Sciences Extension and Outreach director and an associate dean in the College of Human Sciences.

“The Engaged Scholarship Funding Program gives university researchers the opportunity to partner directly with Iowa’s county extension councils. Together they can take on big challenges by putting research-based solutions into practice,” said College of Human Sciences Dean Laura Jolly.

“The innovative projects piloted in the program’s inaugural year not only helped young families and people with Parkinson’s disease in their respective counties, but now provide models that other counties and states can adopt. We think the success of these projects will trigger even more county-campus partnership efforts,” Jolly said.

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