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University of Iowa News Release

Sept. 17, 2003

Five UI Professors Win Grants From Obermann Center For Studies Of Children

Five University of Iowa researchers have won grants from the UI Obermann Center for Advanced Studies for four projects studying children and their families. These Center for Advanced Studies Spelman Rockefeller (CASSPR) Grants, which provide up to $6,000, are supported by the UI Laura Spelman Rockefeller Fund and by the UI Office of the Vice President for Research.

This year's recipients are: Huston Diehl, professor of English and Jennifer Glass, professor of sociology, both in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences; and James A. Hall, Christine Odell and Jody Murph, all associate professors of pediatrics in the UI Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine.

Diehl's project, "'Dream Not of Other Worlds': Teaching in a Segregated School, Louisa, VA 1970," is the final section of a memoir she is writing about teaching fourth grade in a segregated school in rural Virginia. Recalling a time when public schools throughout the South were legally segregated, her book examines the impact of segregated schooling on the "hearts and minds" of the 38 African-American children in her class. She plans to return to Louisa, Va., to interview some of her former students as well as a number of African-American educators and school board members who attended local schools when they were segregated. When it is completed, Diehl's book will address issues of race and the American educational system through the lens of the local and autobiographical.

Glass's project, "Do Work-Family Policies Stem Labor Force Instability Among Mothers of Young Children?" will build on her previous research to determine whether work-family policies serve to stabilize mothers' participation in the workforce during their children's preschool years. Most mothers in the U.S. work intermittently during their children's earliest years, changing jobs frequently or taking long breaks between jobs. This is due in large part to the difficulty mothers face trying to combine active parenting of young children with paid employment. Some firms have begun to offer more flexible employment practices in an effort to retain these employees, but research on these "work-life" programs has been much more likely to investigate the effects of such policies on company profitability and employee morale rather than on mothers' labor force continuity and wage growth.

Hall's project, "Development of Services for Homeless Youth in Eastern Iowa: An Assessment of Needs and Strengths," seeks to assess the health and social service needs of homeless youth in Eastern Iowa. Hall will conduct a needs assessment of youth 12 to 17 years old who are housed in a transitional housing program in Davenport. To better serve youth in transition it is important to determine the extent to which they are affected by substance use/abuse problems, mental health disorders, learning disabilities, or other characteristics that might be risk factors for failure. Hall plans to use the information he gathers as the basis for further study of homelessness as a risk factor for substance abuse by youth.

Odell and Murph will collaborate on a project, "Can the Spread of Pertussis Be Stopped in Iowa?" which will compare diagnostic tests for pertussis (whooping cough) to determine the most effective method for testing for the disease. The two believe that anterior nasal swabs, which are less invasive and less traumatic than nasopharyngeal swabs, may be equally effective in diagnosing the disease. Nasopharyngeal swabs are currently used by the Iowa Department of Public Health. They propose that if a simpler, less invasive test can be used physicians may be more likely to test children with cough illnesses suggestive of pertussis, resulting in earlier diagnosis, earlier treatment and less spread of the disease within the community.

Many CASSPR grants are intended to support the early stages of research projects so that researchers can cull enough data to be competitive when seeking funds from external granting agencies like the National Institutes of Health and others. Jay Semel, director of the Obermann Center, said that since its inception the CASSPR program has resulted in numerous scholarly publications as well as close to $18 million in external grants.

Most recently, CASSPR recipients have gone on to win grants from the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation. Recent publications growing from CASSPR-supported research have focused on children and risk-taking, on teaching story-telling techniques to troubled young women to help them solve problems, and on measuring physical activity in young children.

Local community and professional groups who wish to invite researchers to speak at their meetings about completed projects should contact the Obermann Center at 319-335-4034.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500.

CONTACT(S): Media: Mary Geraghty Kenyon, 319-384-0011, mary-kenyon@uiowa.edu. Program: Jay Semel, 319-335-4034.