KU News: CDC-funded research project to evaluate initiatives to reduce youth violence in KC

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CDC-funded research project at KU to evaluate initiatives to reduce youth violence in KC metro area
LAWRENCE — With an aim to inform and develop local solutions to reduce community rates of youth violence nationwide, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has awarded the University of Kansas a grant to establish one of only five federally funded national centers of excellence on youth violence prevention. The five-year award will provide $1.2 million annually through 2026 to fund the Youth Violence Prevention Research Center-Kansas City.

Gunn Center plans Sturgeon Symposium, featuring slate of notable writers
LAWRENCE — The J. Wayne and Elsie M. Gunn Center for the Study of Science Fiction at the University of Kansas will hold its first Sturgeon Symposium, taking place Sept. 29-30. The symposium will feature the presentation of the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award for best published science fiction short story, and it will explore how contributors from diverse groups employ speculative genres as well as how these speculative productions create and influence notions of community.

Through research into Eastern Mayas, author defines indigeneity as mix of factors
LAWRENCE — When he first began visiting the Ch’orti’ Maya area of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador decades ago, Brent Metz thought he understood what it meant to be Indigenous to the region. It has taken 30 years of collaborative ethnographic research to come to a more nuanced understanding in which he defines indigeneity as the intersection of three different axes. This is explored in detail – including with 177 photos and charts — in the University of Kansas professor’s new book.

Third DEIB vice provost candidate to present Sept. 28
LAWRENCE — The third of four candidates for the University of Kansas Office of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion & Belonging vice provost position will give his public presentation from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 28, in The Forum at Marvin Hall. Paul Frazier currently serves as the vice chancellor for anti-racism, diversity, equity and inclusion at Southern Illinois University-Carbondale. His presentation will be livestreamed.

Full stories below.

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Contact: Jen Humphrey, Life Span Institute, 785-864-6621, [email protected], @kulifespan
CDC-funded research project at KU to evaluate initiatives to reduce youth violence in KC metro area

LAWRENCE — With an aim to inform and develop local solutions to reduce community rates of youth violence nationwide, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has awarded the University of Kansas a grant to establish one of only five federally funded national centers of excellence on youth violence prevention.

The five-year award will provide $1.2 million annually through 2026 to fund the Youth Violence Prevention Research Center-Kansas City (YVPC-KC). It will be led by Jomella Watson-Thompson, director of the Center for Service Learning at KU, associate professor of applied behavioral science and member of the KU Center for Community Health & Development at the KU Life Span Institute. Joining her on the project are Dr. Robert Winfield, director of trauma research at the KU School of Medicine, and Jerry Schultz, co-director, Center for Community Health & Development.
The new project will expand previous research led by Watson-Thompson in Kansas City, Kansas, to include additional communities in the Kansas City metropolitan area. The center will evaluate and examine initiatives that address preventing youth violence and provide opportunities to systematically explore community-based strategies already underway, said Watson-Thompson.
“The YVPC-KC will help us examine our youth engagement strategies and hospital-violence prevention programs,” Watson-Thompson said. “Through community collaborations, we’re exploring how we ensure conditions in which young people – and those of us who work to support young people – can reduce risk factors for youth violence. What can we do to have more protective factors to decrease the likelihood that youth will engage in violence?”
The grant includes funding to explore community conditions including risk and protective factors for firearm-related hospital admissions and youth homicides.
“Trauma should be approached with a public health mentality,” Winfield said. “We need to look at it from the standpoint of disease and disease prevention. When we think about trauma, over half of trauma deaths occur at the scene so those patients never have an opportunity to make it to a trauma center. Prevention is key.”
The CDC notes that Black and Hispanic/Latinx youth experience disparities in violence nationally and in the Kansas City metro area. Youth homicide is the second leading cause of death for individuals 15 to 24 years nationally and the leading cause of death for Black youth in this age group.

Addressing youth violence starts with increasing protection and reducing risk, Watson-Thompson said. The new project will build on comprehensive youth violence prevention research conducted through another federally funded project she has led for the past five years, Together Helping Reduce Youth Violence for Equity, or ThrYve. ThrYve is a collaboration with Kansas City, Kansas youth, hospitals, schools and community organizations.

Since its inception, ThrYve has worked with more than 40 community partners in Kansas City, Kansas, to address challenges contributing to youth violence and a range of other issues. It includes initiatives such as a collaboration that provides support to young victims of violence treated through The University of Kansas Health System.
ThrYve is based on five components across community involvement and support: a system advisory board; youth violence prevention programs; out of school and in-school support programs; education, college and career readiness; and helping youth and families navigate systems and support.
The best approach to reducing youth violence looks at multiple levels of an entire system of prevention and supports, Watson-Thompson said.
“I often say that life doesn’t happen one problem at a time for any of us,” she said. “So, we need to find the ways we can we provide the supports to help our young people to navigate: to support both their goals and address some of the challenges, especially as they transition to adulthood.”
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Contact: Anthony Boynton, Gunn Center for the Study of Science Fiction, [email protected], @GunnCenter
Gunn Center plans Sturgeon Symposium, featuring slate of notable writers
LAWRENCE — The J. Wayne and Elsie M. Gunn Center for the Study of Science Fiction at the University of Kansas will hold its first Sturgeon Symposium, taking place Sept. 29-30. The symposium will feature the presentation of the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award for best published science fiction short story and a reading from the winner.
In addition to the Sturgeon Award Ceremony, the hybrid in-person/online symposium will include scholarly panels, roundtable discussions and creative writing readings that highlight the diversity of science fiction, fantasy and the speculative arts.
This year’s theme, “Celebrating Speculative Communities,” explores how contributors from diverse groups employ speculative genres, and how these speculative productions create and influence notions of community. The theme encourages contemplation of the Gunn Center’s new mission of showcasing international speculative literatures, including creative work by writers from American Indian nations, such as the Kaw, Osage and others on whose homelands KU stands. Guests include a collective of Indigenous Hawaiian authors and Andrea Rogers (Cherokee Nation), whose forthcoming collection of stories, “Man Made Monsters,” has been called by Publishers Weekly a book that “artfully tackles themes of colonialism and its effects on entire generations, for a simultaneously frightening and enthralling read.” L.L. McKinney (“A Blade So Black”), Tessa Gratton (“Lady Hotspur” and “Star Wars: The High Republic”) and Natalie Parker (the “Seafire” series) are also featured speakers.
A number of KU faculty, staff and students will participate in the symposium panels.
The Sturgeon Symposium will take place in The Commons at Spooner Hall. The first roundtable discussion will begin at 3 p.m. Sept. 29 with the Sturgeon Award Ceremony and reading by the winning writer beginning at 7 p.m. On Sept. 30, the symposium will run from 9 a.m.-6:30 p.m.
Registration is now open, and attendance is free to the public. Registration forms and the program/schedule of events can be found on the CSSF website.

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Contact: Rick Hellman, KU News Service, 785-864-8852, [email protected], @RickHellman
Through research into Eastern Mayas, author defines indigeneity as mix of factors

LAWRENCE — When he first began visiting the Ch’orti’ Maya area of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador decades ago, Brent Metz thought he understood what it meant to be indigenous to the region. It has taken 30 years of collaborative ethnographic research – learning the language, traveling, recovering information from obscure sources, photographing and recording — with the people there to come to a more nuanced understanding in which he defines indigeneity as the intersection of three different axes.

This is explained in great detail – including 177 photos and charts (plus 71 video clips in the electronic version) – in Metz’s new book, “Where Did the Eastern Mayas Go? The Historical, Relational, and Contingent Interplay of Ch’orti’ Indigeneity,” just out from the University Press of Colorado.
Metz is director of the University of Kansas Center for Latin American & Caribbean Studies, professor of anthropology and an affiliate of KU’s Indigenous Studies Program. He traces the Ch’orti’ language (one of 30 Maya languages) back to the one written by Maya elites of the Classic Period (200-900 A.D.)
The famous Maya cities were abandoned, and scholars have been piecing together why and where the populations went, although the public has invented their own fantastical stories.
Metz’s theory that indigeneity is subject to the interplay of varying forces — historical, social, political and otherwise — explains, for instance, why Honduras was for years presumed to have virtually no Ch’orti’ Maya descendants in its midst, only to see a thousands-strong movement arise to claim their ancestral land rights in a 1990s political context.
Metz points out that, until recently, there was no sociopolitical advantage — and, in fact, it has been disadvantageous — to be considered Indigenous in the three countries he studied. For one thing, they are now a minority among the descendants of Hispanic colonial powers.
“Indio is a negative term in Mesoamerica with several connotations,” he said. “During the colonial period, it was a legal term that essentially denoted conquered populations who were forced to work and pay taxes, tribute, and other fees to their Iberian overlords. Today, the term can refer to both an exoticized caricature living in some sort of cosmic timelessness or a backwards country bumpkin or hillbilly. So nobody wants to be called an Indian. They’d rather be called Indigenous, or, better still, their own ethnic designation.”
Many Ch’orti’ internalized this oppression, which led to them hide or otherwise ignore their Indigenous ancestry, Metz said. This phenomenon gives rise to one of his three pillars of indigeneity: contingency.
For example, many Ch’orti’ publicly repress their identity unless there is a good reason to express it, the KU researcher said.
“They express it when uniting in self-defense. They also do it through celebration, out of pride. And they also do it when a good opportunity arises, like joining international movements to reclaim their rights to territory, control over their own development and respectful inclusion in official programs. In fact, this is not different from any other ethno-national identity, particularly ones that are marginalized or persecuted.”
Contingent identification as Indigenous is hardly enough, though, as Metz said. Such waiving of public identification subjects Ch’orti’s to accusations of being inauthentic, which leads to another axis necessary for understanding indigeneity: history.
“You’ve got to do your historiography,” Metz said, “because indigeneity isn’t just invented or constructed or imagined for the moment. Historical research is necessary to identify the pretenders among those with Indigenous heritage. And now that there is at least some recognition of Indigenous rights and sympathy with the Indigenous, more pretenders are emerging.”
That’s why, in addition to reading everything he could on the subject, Metz and Ch’orti’ activists repeatedly traveled up and down mountainsides in the region between 2003 and 2018, speaking with elders who could recount their villages’ histories.
The final pillar of Metz’s theory of indigeneity is relationality. How does a group of people define themselves as distinct from their neighbors?
On Metz’s research trips, he and Ch’orti’ collaborators found many people still observed distinctive ethnic traditions, including annual ritual offerings to natural forces (called “The Payments”) in hopes of achieving favor for a good harvest, and sometimes they did so in secret due to past persecution by Christian proselytizers and the Guatemalan army. However, these people maintaining ancient Maya traditions denied being Indigenous Ch’orti’ Mayas. Why? Because, they told the researchers, their religion is universal, not Maya, per se, and that the true Indigenous Ch’orti’s live in other towns and are identifiable by their poverty, subsistence agriculture, dark skin and language. People compare who is more and less Indigenous with communities and across municipal, state and national boundaries, Metz said. So, for example, someone in Honduras may fight to the death over Indigenous rights, then defer to Guatemalans as the true Indigenous because of national stereotypes.
“I’ve witnessed a Honduran Indigenous activist apologizing to Guatemalan Mayans who’ve come to do a ritual at their Mayan archaeological sites for how little indigenousness they have been able to maintain,” Metz said.
If indigenousness implies colonization, he said, then social and therefore cultural and identity changes are inescapable.
“Guatemala is considered by far the most Indigenous of those three countries. So someone in El Salvador might consider themselves Indigenous. But when we have a tri-national meeting, they see themselves more as mestizos, that is, of mixed race or heritage,” Metz said. “So a lot of it depends on, ‘In contrast to who? What is the context and history?’”
Metz believes his approach can be applied to other contexts besides the Ch’orti’ area. And furthermore, he said, it shows the futility of trying to define indigeneity by race, biology or genetics.
“Indigenous groups marry with and welcome others into their societies, and many with Indigenous ancestry abandon their societies to live among the dominant ones,” he said. “Once we get into biology and so-called race, you’re going in the wrong direction. You’re getting colder.”
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Don’t miss new episodes of “When Experts Attack!,”
a KU News Service podcast hosted by Kansas Public Radio.

https://kansaspublicradio.org/when-experts-attack
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Contact: Evan Riggs, Office of the Provost, 785-864-1085, [email protected], @KUProvost
Third DEIB vice provost candidate to present Sept. 28
LAWRENCE — The third candidate for the University of Kansas Office of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion & Belonging (DEIB) vice provost position will give his public presentation from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 28, in The Forum at Marvin Hall.
The presentation will be livestreamed, and the passcode is 021692.
Paul Frazier is the third of four candidates who will present his philosophy on the role diversity and inclusion play in higher education in the United States and how his philosophy would advance Realizing Intersectional Standards of Excellence (RISE) on KU’s Lawrence and Edwards campuses and further KU’s mission considering current challenges and trends in higher education.
Frazier currently serves as the vice chancellor for anti-racism, diversity, equity and inclusion at Southern Illinois University-Carbondale. He has served in higher education for 15 years. Before that, he worked in public education for 24 years.
Faculty, staff and students are encouraged to offer their impressions and observations of each candidate online. There will be separate surveys for each of the four candidates where members of the KU community will have the chance to share their opinion of each candidate. Feedback on Frazier’s presentation is due by 5 p.m. Friday, Sept. 30, and a recording of his presentation will be available here until the survey closes.
Each candidate will meet with Barbara A. Bichelmeyer, provost and executive vice chancellor, as well as campuswide DEIB leaders and DEIB office staff, vice provosts, deans, KU Athletics, faculty-staff affinity groups, university governance and a representative from the chancellor’s office during their campus visit.
In his current position, Frazier is Southern Illinois’ leader in diversity and inclusion and directs efforts to ensure diversity is a top priority while growing and maintaining a welcoming environment at the university. He previously served as the chief diversity and inclusion officer at the University of South Alabama from 2018 until 2021 and as the associate vice president for institutional diversity, equity and community engagement at Texas Tech University from 2013 until 2018.
Frazier has served on various civic and community boards. He currently serves on the St. Louis Region Girls Scout Board and the athletics diversity and outreach advisory council for Texas Tech. He is a member of the 100 Black Men – an African American-led mentoring organization – of Carbondale (Illinois), west Texas and the Greater Mobile, Alabama, area.
In addition to his DEIB work, Frazier has taught as an adjunct instructor at Texas Tech and as a faculty member at Southern Illinois, teaching both undergraduate and graduate level courses on topics that include diversity, faculty Africana studies and the history of hip-hop.
Frazier earned his bachelor’s degree in history, a master’s degree in education, a master’s degree in curriculum & instruction, and a doctorate in education and education leadership from Texas Tech.
One more candidate is scheduled to present as public presentations wrap up next week.
1. Candidate 4, 2:30-3:30 p.m. Monday, Oct. 3, Kansas Union Big 12 Room.

More information about the search is available online.

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