Dr. Raj Sethuraju and Lyan Nyamwaya are honored as nominees for the Minority Access’ National Role Model.
The award winner will be announced at the Minority Access national conference, Sept. 29-Oct. 1, 2017 in Washington, DC.
Sethuraju is an associate professor at Metropolitan State University’s School of Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice.
Nyamwaya is a graduate of Metropolitan State University and founder and current president of the African Nurses Association. She works as a charge nurse at North Memorial Medical Center in Robbinsdale, Minn.
The National Role Model Awards are given in various categories to individuals who serve as inspirational role models to inspire others to emulate them, and thereby increase the pool of scholars and professionals who will find cures for illnesses or solve technological problems or address social disparities in society.
The First Meeting
“I don’t want to arrest gang members. I want to prevent gang members. I want to work in schools to try and catch this on the front end, so that we’re not dealing with these violent issues on the streets.” Dr. James Densley, a researcher conducting an ethnographic study interviewing young people who were involved in gangs in different areas of London, said he was pleasantly surprised to hear a police officer say that. Densley was interviewing Allen Davis, a police officer from London, when they first met for that interview. That meeting led to them starting a small charity organization called Growing Against Gangs & Violence (GAGV) through which they were going to reach out to young people in public schools.
Soon, both Densley and Davis went around public schools in London and conducted listening sessions with young people asking them questions around gangs and youth violence. They were surprised to learn that the young people taking part in these listening sessions readily opened up about the things that affected their lives. These listening sessions allowed the researchers to gain a deep understanding of how the youth culture in the age of social media proliferated and affected the lives of its adherents. Whether or not it was poverty in the community, or a family connection to existing gangs, or, whether or not it was young people feeling afraid in their own communities and looking for gangs to protect them. The reason why these kids decided to join gangs were as varied as the stories the kids told them.
In addition to that, Allen and Densley also uncovered evidence of exploitative relationships between young men and women in gang affected communities. They also discovered that there was a lot of unreported sexual violence, sexual harassment and discrimination that was going on.
Social media played a key role in tying all these wide-ranging experiences together online. Allen and Densley found that young peoples’ lives was increasingly integrated with social media. For example, young kids would be in school gossiping about stuff. The gossiping would then continue on social media. Then what they said on social media would have an impact on what was going on in real life and so on and so forth.
Dr. James Densley and Allen Davis
Time for a Change
Once Allen and Densley realized how complicated and wide-ranging the issue was, they co-wrote a curriculum centered on debunking some of the myths around gangs. Like the false idea that gangs provide you with protection, or provide you with respect, or provide you with money. In reality, none of this is really true. Instead, young people are way more likely to be victimized by joining a gang.
The curriculum also tackled the myths surrounding the knife carrying culture among gangs in the UK. Young people in the UK carry knives instead of guns for protection. Highlighting problems with that by partnering with trauma surgeons who educated young people on the dangers and risks of carrying and using knives was one way to tackle that myth.
Media literacy was used to counter the issues surrounding sexual violence and sexual harassment. Understanding the ways in which gangs posted rap videos on YouTube to promote their stuff. Dissecting the underlying messages of those videos to show how gang culture really worked was one way to teach young people to become conscious and critical consumers of social media.
In order to break down barriers between law enforcement and the community these kids were a part of, the researchers brought in retired police officers into these listening sessions. The goal of that exercise was to get young people to interact with police officers in a non-confrontational setting and develop relationships with these retired police officers, something the kids were unable to do in their own communities. This was also a way to give the kids a different perspective on law enforcement. Plus, having a police officer like Davis in the program was crucial to its success.
Allen and Davis found that going into these schools and developing a curriculum around these issues; getting young people in a safe environment where they felt it was okay to talk about these issues and; using that opportunity to educate them on the risks inherent in youth violence and gangs was very effective.
Although the core of the curriculum remained the same, the researchers added and tweaked parts of the program based on the immediate needs of the school these curriculums were being introduced to. As a result, the curriculum has now been delivered to around 150,000 young people in 600 schools in and around London. Densley said that makes it the biggest charity of its type in England. The focus of the program is especially based in areas and communities that are affected with gangs, youth violence and poverty.
The initial pilot for this program started in 2008-2009. Then it went on a developmental stage in 2009. Around 2012 is when the program started to expand and build. By then, Densley was working as a professor at Metropolitan State University and had essentially pulled back from being directly involved in GAGV’s activities.
Later on, Densley came back to conduct an evaluation of the work that was being done by GAGV. The evaluation involved surveys with young people in a randomized control trial. Densley found that GAGV was not successful in all of the objectives of the evaluation. However, the results of the evaluation showed that the curriculum was having, what Densley defined it as, “statistically significant results.”
He found out that the curriculum had led to an improved relationship between young people and police. The curriculum was also having a measurable impact on changing the attitude towards, what in the literature is known as, “street codes.” Codes like the idea that you don’t snitch on gangs, the idea that if someone violates you, you violate them back. The curriculum, according to Densley, was “also moving the needle on that.” The results of that finding were published in a journal article. Densley feels that, “it helped us to know that what we were doing didn’t just intuitively made sense, it actually had some sort of evidence based behind it as well.”
The Impact of Change
The mayor’s office in London started a program called Project Oracle to gather evidence about charities that were working in London to try and understand whether, or not, these charities were having a measured impact. They graded the charities on a scale of 1-5. At that time, GAGV was the first project to get level 2 status. In order to try and move up those levels, Densley said that the internal evaluation within GAV (now known as Growing against Violence) is still ongoing.
Allen Davis and Dr. James Densley were awarded with the Points of Light for their volunteering efforts and the change their program brought in the community. In a personal letter to Davis and Densley, Prime Minister Theresa May said: “Thanks to your tireless work together, the Growing Against Violence project is educating thousands of children across London about the dangers of knife crime, substance abuse, and gang membership. By identifying young people at risk you are not only preventing them from harm but also teaching them to identify and help their peers who are struggling with these same issues.”
…the idea of a work college is drawing renewed interest, thanks to rising student debt, skepticism about the financial payoff of a liberal arts education and employer complaints that graduates aren’t prepared for jobs. The fact that work colleges get extra funding under a little-known federal program also hasn’t hurt.
Fifteen years into a nationwide push to provide every student with an equal education, Minnesota schools have grown more segregated and the state’s nation-leading academic achievement gap refuses to close.
Minnesota now has more than 200 schools where students of color make up 90 percent or more of the enrollment, state data shows. That’s more than double what the state had in 2002, when the federal No Child Left Behind Act reinvigorated the national campaign for school equity.
“… There appears to be bipartisan agreement to address part of the shortage: the dramatic underrepresentation of teachers of color. State figures show that more than 30 percent of Minnesota K-12 students come from “communities of color” or are American Indian, but less than 5 percent of the state’s teachers represent any of these groups. …”
“Minnesota faces a growing shortage of teachers in math, science, special education and technical programs. State education leaders hope fixing what has been described as a “broken” licensing process will make it easier for teachers trained out-of-state or in alternative ways to get into Minnesota classrooms…”
“… a more diverse teaching force is essential if Minnesota is going to close one of the nation’s worst academic achievement gaps between poor and minority students and their peers,” says Rene Antrop-Gonzalez, dean of the School of Urban Education at Metropolitan State University.
The South China Sea is a locus of competing territorial claims, and China its most vocal claimant. Beijing’s interest has intensified disputes with other countries in the region in recent years, especially since China has increased its naval presence. Despite rising international pressure, including an unfavorable ruling by the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, China staunchly defends its policies in the region. Preventing tensions from boiling over is a matter of careful diplomacy.
McCampbell is a U.S. lawyer and professor of international business and law at Metropolitan State University in Minneapolis, where he also serves as MBA Program Director. Following 14 years—much of it abroad—with the Westlaw division of Thomson Reuters, he has a professional background in non-U.S. legal systems. He teaches law and business in China and travels extensively in Asia. He also writes on global commercial, legal, political, and security issues, and recently returned from a one-month visit to China and the Philippines to research the evolving situation in the South China Sea. In addition to teaching, McCampbell leads a business consultancy that helps companies enter new markets overseas.
Global Conversations St. Paul is produced in partnership with Landmark Center.
“Osseo Area Schools is collaborating with the university’s school of urban education as part of an effort to recruit more teachers of color. School districts national and locally are dealing with a shortage in teachers overall as well as teachers of color…
‘Effective teachers who are culturally responsive is mission critical for Osseo Area Schools,’ Superintendent Kate Maguire said at the event.”
Metropolitan State University Sociology and social science professor, Monte Bute penned an intriguing article about working in the public sector.
From the article: “While our new president, Ginny Arthur, is a strong advocate of stewardship, our institutional ethos is currently at a tipping point. In 2016, the administration proposed measures to resolve a significant budget shortfall. The faculty union pushed back, rejecting changes to the status quo. Management claimed that these solutions were temporary measures; some faculty saw a Trojan horse, a hidden agenda for an irreversible reduction of compensation. Compromise became elusive.”
The article continues:
”Welcome to a hall of mirrors, where distortions abound. Nearly every fact in this workplace drama is contestable: The cause and scope of the budget crisis; the parties responsible for it; the appropriateness of responses to it; the need for faculty to share its burden. Is there a way out of this impasse?”
The piece goes on to discuss ethos and the importance of a mission when creating a successful workplace.