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.”
President’s Poster Award: Alex Hepp, Chidiebere Khannaroth, Brian Thill; The Making of a Death Star President’s Paper Award: Kenneth Abbott; A Multi-Specialty Medical Mission for Syrian Refugees in Jordan Best Project Award: Eric Fulwiler; Hosting Websites with a Raspberry Pi Conference Organizer Award: Liz Tetu; Technopaganisms + Videogames Runner Up: Ian Hamilton; Rimworld: Community Driven Game Development Student Scholars Committee Award: Jill Fallon; Theories & Civic Engagement in Later Life Runner Up: Shaun Hurley; Volunteering Hours and Tenure and it’s Relationship to Mood Student Scholars Committee Award: Nikitha Kommera; Smart Augmented Reality in CyberSecurity and Forensic Education Library Award: Rebecca Knuckles; Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Mortality Among America’s Elderly Population Library Award: Donald Jones; Gesture and Memory Runner Up: Brian Trac; Metroid’s Other M Most Promising Research Award: Chris Kempe, Andrew VanDenBrocke, and Kate Ries; The Synthesis of 1,8-napthalamides in the Fluorescence Detection of Metal Ions through Chelation Runner Up: Rhea Fofana; The Implementation of a Human Immunodeficiency (HIV) Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis Program in an Urban Public Health Clinic: A Quality Improvement Project Best Visuals Award: Kyle Jenness; History and Impact of Super Mario Brothers Most Inspiring Research Award: Denny Yang, Students Salon: Sharing the Culmination of Student Artistry People’s Choice Favorite Poster: *Names Not Available; The Network Thief Runner Up: Randy Conaway: Effects that Social Media Has on Self-Esteem
Birtukan Abebe was recently recognized for her years of dedication and service as an academic advisor in the Information and Computer Sciences department by being chosen as Metropolitan State’s representative nominee for the Minnesota State Board of Trustees Professional Excellence in Service Award. Although she was not chosen at the awards ceremony, Abebe feels it was an honor to be recognized.
“It was an honor to be nominated among six outstanding Metropolitan State University staff for the work we do. Being recognized at the state level was truly amazing. It made me feel that my contribution has made an impact to our students’ growth and to help them achieve their goals. It is always a pleasure working with students and see them accomplish so many things,” Abebe said.
Abebe has been with Metropolitan State for 17 years, and has established herself as a prolific, and influential academic advisor with both students and faculty. Her life experiences have also helped her to be the dynamic employee she has come to be known for at Metropolitan State.
Six Metropolitan State University staff members were nominated for the Minnesota State Board of Trustees Professional Excellence in Service Award. This award recognizes the key role that Minnesota State University Association of Administrative and Service Faculty (MSUAASF) play in providing outstanding service to our state universities and to the Minnesota State system. This is the award’s third year.
A celebration honoring anti-racism activists in Minnesota recognized six people who are working to build communities where everyone feels safe, valued and respected.
Saint Paul Foundation awarded faculty member Dr. Nadarajan “Raj” Sethuraju the Ambassador Award at the May 9 celebration. This award comes with $5,000 and it is designated for the Law Enforcement Opportunities (LEO) scholarship program.
Dr. Sethuraju believes his work and the education of his students at Metropolitan State University are intimately connected to the improvement, evolution and development of the criminal justice community. He attempts not to lead from the “Ivory Tower,” but in the trenches of the system; using his expertise and scholarly work to truly marry academia and practice. When asked what the award means for him and for Metro State, he explained,
“The award is given to those who have been identified as champions of racial equity work by dismantling the structures of institutional and systematic racism. I am honored and humbled to be recognized in this cohort of champions and to come behind so many great minds and spirits who have been given this ambassador award in the past ten years. The anti-racism and equity work cannot be done alone; I am glad that there are strong communities both on campus and in the greater community who support and champion this mission.
“Our campus’ commitment to address the trauma of racism and work towards realizing the vision of being an anti-racist campus have been both an inspiration and a vocation. Our campus’ location and patrons deserve our commitment and hard work that is aimed at creating a safe and dynamic community, society and nation. I am committed to continue this work everyday with or without these recognition because our humanity matters.”
Metropolitan State University students are balancing an array of obligations and the impact of financial support is great, sometimes the determining factor to reach graduation. This is where LEO can help.
Law Enforcement Opportunities (LEO) is a non-profit organization operated by a volunteer Board of Directors. LEO has a commitment to diversifying the law enforcement, criminal justice, and corrections professions, and this commitment has resulted in the development of a yearly scholarship opportunity. Their goal is to provide financial assistance in the form of scholarships to individuals interested in pursuing careers in law enforcement, criminal justice, or corrections. Eligible applicants may receive up to $1,000 in scholarship money to fund their education and training.
The LEO Organization host’s a career fair each year and proceeds are directed to the LEO Scholarship Program. The LEO Career Fair is open to all and is an opportunity for those interested in exploring the law enforcement and corrections profession’s to network and gain information. The LEO Scholarship Program provides eligible applicants the opportunity to compete for scholarship awards. Past LEO Scholarship Recipient’s in-turn commit volunteer time at the LEO Career Fair; this supports their networking opportunities.
Metropolitan State University is pleased to be a signatory to the Campus Compact 30th Anniversary Action Statement, joining many other higher education institutions committed to taking specific steps to deepen their engagement for the benefit of students, communities, and the broader public.
Campus Compact, a consortium of colleges and universities working to advance the public purposes of higher education, celebrated the signing of the Action Statement during a Summit of Presidents and Chancellors on March 20, 2016 at the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate in Boston. More than 80 signatory presidents and chancellors attended the summit. Interim President Devinder Malhotra did not attend the summit, but had previously signed on to the agreement during a local gathering for member presidents held in Saint Paul.
Over 350 Campus Compact member presidents and chancellors have signed the Action Statement. The document concludes with a commitment by each signatory to create a Campus Civic Action Plan to be shared publicly. Campus Compact will support campuses in developing these plans.
Regarding the university’s endorsement of the Action Statement Interim President Devinder Malhotra stated, “The Campus Compact Action Statement affirms the core principles of Metropolitan State’s mission: preparing students to be active, engaged citizens; knowledge co-creation that melds community and university expertise; a stewardship of place that guides our organizational behavior; an unwavering commitment to challenge inequalities in pursuit of a just and sustainable future for this region.
“By ratifying this declaration, we attest that higher education, among its many purposes, is fundamentally about advancing the public good. As a signatory, we’ll benefit from the technical assistance of Campus Compact and the resources of that consortium to further our university’s endeavors while contributing to a national effort to sustain and strengthen our nation’s democracy.”
“Colleges and universities exist to promote public goods,” said Campus Compact President Andrew Seligsohn. “By signing the Action Statement and committing to develop Campus Civic Action Plans, these 350 presidents and chancellors are challenging their institutions to go even further in preparing students for lives of engaged citizenship, contributing to the health of communities both local and global, and sustaining our democracy in the face of the twin challenges of inequality and polarization.”
Campus Compact is a nonprofit coalition of nearly 1,100 college and university presidents— representing some 6 million students—who are committed to fulfilling the civic purposes of higher education. The organization supports campuses in work that advances the health and strength of communities and American democracy, both by preparing students for lives of engaged citizenship and by building partnerships to advance community and public goals.
METROPOLITAN STATE UP FOR THREE AWARDS
Additionally, Metropolitan State University has submitted three nominations for the Minnesota Campus Compact Presidents’ Awards. The awards recognize effective leadership in the development of campus-community partnerships and acknowledge outstanding collaborative work. The award recipients will be recognized at Minnesota Campus Compact’s annual summit on April 7 at Macalester College.
The Metropolitan State Student Senate was nominated for the Student Leadership Award for contributions to negotiating a mutually beneficial outcome for neighborhood residents, lawmakers and public officials during the recent campus expansion, including the Student Center, a Science Education Center and parking facility.
Professor Nadarajan “Raj” Sethuraju, School of Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice, was nominated for the Civic Engagement Steward Award. The nomination praised Sethuraju for his attitude and methods, and his work to make every voice matter in justice systems and processes: Sethuraju actively partners with numerous organizations on behalf of Metropolitan State.
In Progress, a Saint Paul-based media arts organization that supports young artists in telling their stories using digital media, was nominated for the Community Partner Award. Metropolitan State University and In Progress share a common goal to provide venues for individuals and groups to tell their own stories, with their own voice, to accurately interpret historical events. The university’s collaborative efforts with In Progress reach youth and adult audiences in excess of 2,000 participants annually.
Metropolitan State University has submitted three nominations for the Minnesota Campus Compact Presidents’ Awards. The awards recognize effective leadership in the development of campus-community partnerships and acknowledge outstanding collaborative work.
The award recipients will be recognized at Minnesota Campus Compact’s annual summit on April 7 at Macalester College. Campus Compact has supported civic engagement through a diverse network of colleges and universities since 1994.
The Student Senate was nominated for the Student Leadership Award for work in negotiating a mutually beneficial outcome for neighborhood residents, lawmakers and public officials during the recent campus expansion, including the Student Center, a Science Education Center and parking facility.
The nominating document, submitted by the Institute for Community Engagement praised the Student Senate for its leadership during “a critical juncture, when the future of the Student Center and parking facility were in question, the engagement of the Student Senators, on behalf of the university students they represent, proved essential in achieving consensus between campus and community representatives on a plan to re-site the building projects and move forward with ground-breaking and construction.”
Their actions exemplified leadership, political acumen and a deep commitment to community building.
The nominating form praised Sethuraju for his attitude and method: “… the marriage of academia and practice is always based on the idea and the practice that every voice matters in justice systems and processes.”
These were exemplified by his consistently modeling deeply reciprocal community engagement and convening local leaders for critical dialogue on issues in law enforcement and criminal justice studies. By integrating these explorations into his courses, he cultivates student leadership, professionalism and advancement.
Sethuraju is an active partner for Metropolitan State University among numerous organizations, including the NAACP-St. Paul chapter, as a volunteer in a range of restorative justice programs, and service with the Board of Directors of AccessAbility, Inc. He enjoys active working relationships with the MN Department of Corrections and the MN Corrections Association, Dakota County Jail, Lino Lakes prison, Hennepin County and Carver County Probation offices, and countless other institutional and community-based justice organizations.
In Progress, a Saint Paul-based media arts organization that supports young artists in their journey of telling their stories using digital media, was nominated for the Community Partner Award.
In Progress provides professional mentorships, leadership training and internships. In Progress and Metropolitan State share common goals of lifelong learning, community engagement and supporting under-represented audiences in their educational and career journeys. In Progress and its Executive Director Kris Sorenson have previously collaborated with the university’s Institute for Community Engagement and Scholarship and Gordon Parks Gallery director, Erica Rasmussen.
Metropolitan State University and In Progress have a shared goal to provide venues for individuals and groups to tell their own stories, with their own voice, to accurately interpret historical events. These collaborative efforts reach youth and adult audiences in excess of 2,000 participants annually.
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