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Fall 2018 Community-Based Research Projects and Krusell Fellowship Placements

December 11, 2018
Contact person: 

Community-Based Research matches the research and technical needs of organizations with a student research assistant to carry out community-defined and guided projects. The Community Assistantship Program (z.umn.edu/capcbr) serves Greater Minnesota community-based organizations and government agencies while the Kris Nelson Community-Based Research Program (z.umn.edu/krisnelson) works with community-based organizations.

Nelson CBR Partners and Project Summaries

East Side Neighborhood Development Company - Lead Poisoning Related to Housing Code Enforcement

ESNDC’s mission is to engage the community to create safe, healthy, affordable housing and to support small businesses. Their current major initiative is to clean up lead in housing. 

The EPA promulgates a residential rehab procedure (RRP) for contractors to use to ensure lead dust and lead hazards are mitigated while rehabbing homes of an age that would likely have lead issues. The RRP is part of the State’s Housing Code. But not all localities have adopted the MN Code and some do not have inspectors. Some municipalities with inspections may not inspect for compliance and some do not require lead mitigation as part of their permitting process. This project will look at these practices statewide and relate them to child lead poisoning rates. Partners include Minnesota Department of Health and St. Catherine’s University.

Language Attitude - Local Projects, Local Knowledges: Indigenous knowledge(s) in language revitalization movements

Language Attitudes is a highly mobile hub of multilingual and multicultural indigenous artists, elders and scientists, working to promote and protect culture and language by designing interactive programs that propel communities into an exploration of the culture or art and the language of art.

Linguistic diversity is not a reality that is commonly addressed in the context of education. On the contrary, while the population of students becomes more diverse, students’ home languages are often invisibilized against a backdrop that values English as the language of education. Along with students’ home languages, this dismissal also erases students’ funds of knowledge and contributes to the continuing marginalization of students. To address this issue, this project centers students’ home languages and knowledges as assets to be developed and shared both within and outside school settings. It also centers youth, as active participants and the new generation responsible for carrying and transmitting the knowledges of previous generations.

This research project will explore what forms of Indigenous knowledges are being articulated within language revitalization movements. The knowledge gained will help inform the creation of a curriculum that can be used by organizations that work with linguistically diverse youth to reclaim their native languages. The research will be central in informing our current curriculum development project as the goal is to base it on Indigenous epistemologies and pedagogies related to language learning and cultural transmission. At the same time, a thorough review of literature and reports on similar efforts in the United States and around the world will help us learn from the experiences and processes of other current and previous revitalization movements and apply those lessons into our own work with linguistically diverse youth.

Saint Paul STRONG – TIF Study

Saint Paul STRONG is a nonpartisan, community-led organization dedicated to improving open and representative government in St. Paul by encouraging and supporting open and transparent public processes, engaging and empowering resident participation, and building a stronger more inclusive St. Paul. Among their current efforts, SPS aims to create greater public transparency for how decisions are made in and around the use of tax-increment financing (TIF) in St. Paul. SPS wants to demystify TIF, educate the public on its use, and provide equity related analysis of St. Paul’s use of TIF.

Using relevant state and federal statutes, city policies and ordinances, individual TIF project or district information, bond amortization schedules related to TIF, and examples from other locales, the proposed research project will investigate questions such as: 

Are there patterns in the use of TIF; particularly for what parts of town, and what populations benefit? Has St. Paul used TIF consistent with federal law and intent? How are TIF decisions made?  What are the levels of transparency and public participation? How can we make TIF as easily understood by the public as possible?

Lifetrack - The Achievement Zone One Year Later: An Exploration of the Impact of Lifetrack’s Strengths-Based Model of Employment Services

Lifetrack provides employment services to those with significant challenges to entering the workforce, in this case low-income individuals with low educational attainment, low skill levels, and little or no work histories.  Most have had long-term involvement with the social service system that has had negative impact in terms of self-esteem, motivation, and resilience. Lifetrack’s Achievement Zone (a new Executive Skills Coaching model launched in 2017) was developed to directly address the negative effects of these experiences by using a strengths-based approach to build positive factors needed to overcome obstacles to employment. 

The proposed research project will help us measure the impact of the approach on program participants after one year. In this project, the student researcher will interview 5-7 employment participants to gather insights into the effectiveness of the Lifetrack Achievement Zone model in helping individuals to meet their employment goals. This research will look at Lifetrack’s service model to understand if, how, and why this model has positively affected job seekers.

Coalition of Asian American Leaders -
Understanding Poverty and Wealth Building Strategies in Asian Minnesotan Communities

The Coalition of Asian American Leaders (CAAL) envisions a State where all Minnesotans, regardless of background, are actively engaged and can achieve prosperity. CAAL is a network of more than 1,500 leaders whose mission is to harness our collective power across ethnicities, age groups and sectors to improve the lives of community. CAAL achieves its mission by: (1) proactively weaving relationships among Asian American leaders and sector leaders, (2) engaging and mobilizing our leaders and impacted community members to work on the shared community priorities of education and economics together, (3) continuously finding ways to elevate more nuanced and complete narratives about who Asian Minnesotans are, and (4) building partnerships and collaborations that strengthen solidarity across communities of color and Indigenous populations. 

For Asian Minnesotans, ensuring our inclusion in equity discussions means having the ability to see and understand more nuanced data, because when we are lumped into the aggregate category of Asians, our community’s disparities become hidden. It is in the interests of everyone to target resources and devise cost-effective programs. 

Using existing quantitative data, CAAL has created a basic understanding of what economics looks like for Asian Minnesotans. Across indicators such as household income, living wage, employment, and poverty many communities experience deep disparities. CAAL has had success raising awareness of the complexities of Asian Minnesotan educational Zoutcomes. Similar opportunities and challenges exist for economic development, and the right indicators need to be coordinated. 

CAAL wants to shift the narrative so Asian Minnesotan economic disparities and assets are visible to broader audiences working on economic justice. This project will interpret key indicators and identify any missing indicators for those audiences in a way that validates and amplifies the lived experiences of the community. The goal is to investigate and hopefully create a quantitative and qualitative definition of what wealth and poverty looks like in Asian Minnesotan populations, and what strategies are most relevant for Asian American communities to build generational wealth building strategies. Findings will be shared in a report in a way that is easy for communities to advocate for themselves and for policy-makers to make more inclusive policies.

CAP Partners and Project Summaries

Sustainable Farming Association of Minnesota - Soil Health and Sustainable Agriculture Case Study Project

This project advances a case study project launched in 2016 by the Southwest Regional Sustainable Development Partnership (RSDP) that has profiled six farmers who employ sustainable agriculture production practices. This was under the direction of Dr. Dean Current who directs the project. The case studies are intended to become a central repository of Minnesota farmers who are in various stages of soil health practices, and/or who are organic producers.  The CURA student will work with Dr. Dean Current and Theresa Keaveny to review the current case study, update it as needed, including adding information on soil health testing, and will add up to four more case studies, using information from the four farmers participating in SFA’s CIG (Conservation Innovation Grant) research with the Pasture Project of Winrock International.  

The use and distribution of the case studies and the long-range plan for adding to them will be determined by Dr. Current, the SW RSDP, partners in the University of Minnesota’s Office of Soil Health, and SFA. This will guide the CURA student and the overall project.

Leech Lake - Indigenous Experiential Learning Study

Leech Lake Early Childhood Development houses our Early Head Start and Head Start programs on the Leech Lake Reservation in Minnesota. Our organization provides early childhood education throughout the area providing services for families and children at centers in eight different Leech Lake communities. We provide early childhood education for over 200 children ages 6 weeks to 5 years old.

Our community has seen a dramatic increase in the number of children who are on Individualized Education Programs (IEPs). We currently have 48 children on IEPs, an increase of 28 children over the course of 7 months.

Our outdoor learning project envisions a pilot space at our Cass Lake, MN Early Childhood site wherein knowledgeable Anishinaabe community members can demonstrate sustainable indigenous food practices and share knowledge for the benefit of our children, families, community, and staff.  Additionally, our children and early childhood teachers will benefit from an increased opportunity to spend time in a nearby wooded area.  We believe that this exposure to traditional teachings, food practices, and time in the woods will have social, emotional, and health benefits for our children, our families, our teachers, and our community for generations to come.

A graduate student will review literature, original research, and trauma-informed practices program design based on the impact of indigenous experiential learning and time outside and the effect of trauma on our children’s readiness to learn and social and emotional well-being.  Research will be used to help identify and articulate best practices for early childhood education in trauma-exposed communities.

City of Sandstone - Adaptive Reuse of Historic Buildings in Rural Minnesota  

Research and provide a detailed report on successful adaptive reuse projects involving old, historic buildings in rural Minnesota, capturing the processes, the funders, the partners, the developers, the role of government, and the lessons learned.

A research assistant is needed to gather information related to successful reuse projects and produce a written report that can be shared with others who are considering such projects in their communities.  The student will reach out to various communities either via telephone, e-mail, or in-person to gather the specific details of at least 10 individual projects.  The information provided from the research will help City leaders plan and undertake the redevelopment of an old, historic school building that was built in 1901 and has been vacant since 2004.

Southeast and Southwest RSDP - Exploring a local supply chain for perennial grain

UMN’s Regional Sustainable Development Partnerships (RSDP), Southwest and Southeast regions, are seeking a student researcher. RSDP supports sustainable development in Greater Minnesota in areas including agriculture, food systems, and natural resources. The purpose of this research is to explore potential for a supply chain in south-central Minnesota for KernzaTM, an emerging perennial grain produced by intermediate wheatgrass. 

The project was initiated by I-90 Restorative Farmers, a group of farmers in the I-90 corridor of southern Minnesota who are seeking to expand sustainable agriculture practices through the planting of intermediate wheatgrass and other emerging perennial crops. The work will be done in partnership with the Forever Green Initiative and Green Lands Blue Waters. 

A research assistant is needed to identify local markets in southern Minnesota that might purchase, process, and/or market KernzaTM flour or grain. The student will communicate with milling companies and/or other grain purchasers in the southern Minnesota region to understand opportunities and challenges for integrating KernzaTM into their processing and/or product lines. The student will also work closely with project partners to communicate with interested small grain producers and analyze scenarios in which intermediate wheatgrass can be more widely introduced to the landscape of southern Minnesota. This will include exploration of alternative revenue streams or value-added opportunities at both farm and processor levels. The project may also include reviewing and analyzing models for producer contracts or other means of managing risk for farmers.  

The end product of the research will be a report: a product development model for KernzaTM that outlines one or more scenarios for a “pilot” growing season (or seasons) and a potential supply chain in southern Minnesota. 

Krusell Fellows – Fall 2018 Internship Placements

The Krusell Fellowship is designed to increase the supply of highly trained community development professionals from communities of color, to improve the representation of communities of color in agencies that serve those communities, and provide hands-on work experience to ensure students are prepared to meet the challenges in this ever-evolving field.

Krusell Fellows receive full tuition support and graduate research assistantships with community development or planning agencies. The program is a partnership between the Humphrey School of Public Affairs and the Center for Urban and Regional Affairs (CURA). Learn more at cura.umn.edu/Krusell.

Tram Hoang – City of Minneapolis, CPED (with Roxanne Kimball, Housing Project Coordinator)

Pang Moua – City of St Paul, PED (with Tony Johnson, planner)

Gaby Olvera – PPL (with Chris Wilson and Abbie Loosen)