AFRICAN AMERICAN FELLOWSHIPS AID STUDENTS IN RESEARCH AND SCHOLARLY WORK
Henia Johnson had solid research experience when she came to SU last fall to work on a doctoral degree in sociology. What she needed was time to pursue her studies of African American families. As one of six 1998-99 African American Fellowship recipients, she has support to complete her research while fulfilling academic requirements for her degree. "The fellowship provided me with time that otherwise would not be available," she says. "I had the time to read and write critically, to become a good scholar and researcher."
The fellowships, most of which are for a single year, help graduate programs at SU recruit outstanding African American applicants. Fellows are granted a living stipend and full tuition for one year. In addition to their regular courses, fellows take a course each semester in the College of Arts and Sciences' Department of African American Studies, and present their research at a department forum in April. "We seek out individuals for whom African American studies will contribute to their career and career objectives, their total education," says Stewart Thau, associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.
Each year, graduate programs nominate prospective students for African American Fellowships and similar Syracuse University Fellowships. The African American Fellowship Committee reviews nominations and passes on recommendations to Graduate School Dean Howard Johnson. The process focuses on quality, but is highly subjective, as the committee seeks students whose interests match those of the African American studies faculty, says Graduate School Assistant Dean Peter Englot G'88.
In Henia Johnson's case, the committee was impressed with the research on surviving families of African American homicide victims she conducted as an undergraduate at Cleveland State University and as a graduate student at Michigan State University. Johnson also founded VOICES (Voices Over Inner City Crime Exchanging Solutions), a support and advocacy group for these families. "For me, the fellowship says, 'We respect the work you have done both as a scholar and an activist,'" Johnson says.
Johnson's current research study, "Drugs, Jail, and Women in Syracuse," grew out of a sociology course, Qualitative Research Methods. She conducted six one-hour interviews with a transitional counselor at the Onondaga County Correctional Facility and spent two days observing the counselor's activities, including trips to the welfare department, arraignment court, drug court, homeless shelters, and churches where meetings for recovering substance abusers were held. This summer she is expanding her study to transitional services available for women leaving state prisons. She also participated in women's issues forums at the county jail.
"I learned I am capable of doing doctoral work," she says of her fellowship year. "I'm writing well, I'm reading well, and I'm involved in the community. That's what scholarship is all about."
ANN R. MEARSHEIMER
STUDENT STUDY ON TEENAGE AFRICAN AMERICAN FATHERS REVEALS NEED FOR SUPPORT
When Latia Johnston '01, Duke Pettijohn '00, Renee Valerino '01, and Alia Howell '99 were asked to do a group project for their family development course last fall, they turned their attention to what they viewed as an important community issue.
| michael prinzo|
The Comparative Health Policy and Law class poses for a group photo during last year's trip to Europe.
The four students decided to study the involvement of single teenage African American fathers in the lives of their children. "This topic doesn't receive a lot of attention, yet it's an important issue in the community," says Johnston, a child and family studies (CFS) major and native of Syracuse. "The subject area was not only interesting to us, but relevant in society."
CFS professor Tracy Espy assigned the group projects to have her students gain practical experience. "I wanted them to turn book knowledge into applied knowledge," she says. "I wanted them to understand things in a real-world setting."
After creating a questionnaire for single teenage African American fathers, Johnston's group solicited participation at Syracuse's Southwest Community Center. "It wasn't that easy," recalls Johnston. "We had trouble finding men who would take part in our study." Through perseverance and networking, group members managed to collect questionnaires from 25 young men. Their findings revealed some surprises. "There is a stereotype that most young African American fathers have little or nothing to do with their children, but we found otherwise," Johnston says. "The vast majority of men who answered our questionnaire had some sort of involvement in the lives of their children."
The finding that struck them most was a general lack of societal support for teenage fathers. This observation led the group to formulate the Teenage Father's Network, a hypothetical support group that would serve as a resource to help teenage fathers meet parenting challenges. "With a little more research, their idea for the Teenage Father's Network could actually be put in place in the community," says Espy, who is now working with the students to achieve this goal.
For Johnston, the project's most rewarding result is its real-world relevance. "The relationship between father and child is so important," she says. The group summed it up well on a flier created to advertise the network: "Men who change diapers change the world."
WENDY S. LOUGHLIN
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