Professor Godwin Arku is receiving funds for two new projects to empower Black youth on- and off-campus, work he hopes will be transformative for the communities studied.
Arku, from the department of geography and environment, was today announced as the recipient of a national award – one of just three in the country – as well as a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) grant. Both focus on the experience of young people, including Western students and Black youth across Southwestern Ontario.
Arku’s projects aim to support Black youth, boost their skills and look for ways to overcome challenges at school, at work and in the community.
Alongside other faculty members and researchers, he will study the marginalization of Black youth in five regions – Chatham-Kent, Elgin County, London-Middlesex, Windsor-Essex and Sarnia-Lambton – with a SSHRC partnership development grant of $200,000 over the next three years. The goal is to use that data to inspire and improve community programs to serve young people.
“If this project can make a difference in the lives of youth, that will be a huge achievement for us,” Arku said.
It is one of four partnership development grants awarded to faculty at Western that were announced today as part of a large bundle of grants from SSHRC. Another 21 insight SSHRC grants – totaling more than $4.2 million – will also fund Western research projects.
Simultaneously, Arku will lead “Diversity Western: Enhancing the Black Experience,” a project that received the Robbins-Ollivier Award for Excellence in Equity, including $100,000 of funding.
“We are hoping the message will be sent to the Black community that Western is committed to Black issues on campus,” Arku said.
“We want to create a sense of belonging and create opportunities for more students.” -Professor Godwin Arku, recipient of the Robbins-Ollivier Award for Excellence in Equity
Researchers hope the Black youth in the two projects will be active participants, learning research and career skills and benefitting from mentorship. Arku hopes to build new bridges between Western and the communities being studied.
There are 18 faculty members on board, plus additional graduate and post-doctoral researchers, for the SSHRC grant. It will also include outside members and organizations, led by the African Canadian Federation of London and Area (ACFOLA), an umbrella group for African associations and other groups working with Black communities. The entire project was inspired by a public forum run by ACFOLA to hear from parents about their children’s needs prior to the pandemic.
Concerns were numerous, from discrimination at school and in workplaces to mental health challenges to interactions with police, Arku said.
The data from the research project will help to inform policy asks and future programming, he hopes.
“There are a good amount of community organizations doing work with youth, but most are not based on empirical data,” Arku said. “What do you want to achieve? What are their barriers?”
That’s what his team will find out over the next three years.
Those researchers are uniquely poised to do this work, because they are members of the communities they will be studying, he said.
The Robbins-Ollivier Award for Excellence in Equity funds “bold and potentially game-changing institutional-level initiatives that will challenge the status quo, spark change and take action to address persistent systemic barriers within the institution research ecosystem and academia more broadly,” according to its website. The award is funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council and SSHRC, through the joint Canada Research Chairs Program.
“The role of the university will be how to make these plans sustainable and support Professor Arku and our brilliant scholars in undertaking this transformative project. The findings will raise important questions that will be applicable Canada-wide and in other parts of the world with marginalized people who are looking for solutions to systemic issues, particularly for Black youth,” said Opiyo Oloya, Western’s associate vice-president of equity, diversity and inclusion.
The one-year project, led by Arku, includes members of five faculties – Arts and Humanities, Education, FIMS, Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry and Social Science – as well as King’s University College and the Africa Institute. The team will work with software engineering students on work-study placements to create a Black digital community hub. Working with Western Libraries, the site will exist as an ongoing resource, where work and gains made by Black faculty, staff and students – both in and out of academia – will be spotlighted.
Research on Black youth is limited, and where it has been done, it focused on young people in major urban centres like Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver.
“This is an under-served region when considering the experiences of Black youth. Researchers tend to think about bigger cities, and what gets lost is how people live in smaller cities, especially Black youth,” said Erica Lawson, professor of gender, sexuality and women’s studies.
Arku, Lawson and their team want to ensure fast-growing communities across the province, where many newcomers are putting down roots as the populations boom, aren’t repeating the mistakes of the big cities.
One such finding: Black youth need role models.
Arku hopes his projects will provide them. Eventually his teams hope to broaden their research, too.
“We hope to become a bigger project down the road, beyond our geographical area. We hope the lessons will help build, help us to scale up,” Arku said.
OTHER SSHRC PARTNERSHIP DEVELOPMENT GRANTS
Estimating the financial costs of intimate partner violence to workplaces ($199,181)
This study will generate scientific evidence to show the hidden financial costs of intimate partner violence to workplaces. Barb MacQuarrie at the Centre for Research and Education on Violence Against Women and Children and economics professor Audra Bowlus aim to show the true cost through lost days of labour, lateness and presenteeism by comparing data from those who report intimate partner violence to those who do not. San Martin de Porres University in Peru will share its financial costing models and the Conference Board of Canada is also recruiting companies to participate and share results with top leaders and the wider corporate sector.
Equitable maternal-newborn care (Mom2New Co-Care) for new migrant women from the Middle East in Canada: A co-produced research partnership with social, legal, and wellbeing services ($198,370)
Migrant women from the Middle East who become pregnant in Canada do not have their unique maternal-newborn needs met, and nursing professor Shokoufeh Modanloo plans to build a “collective policy action plan” with organizations that serve newcomers. From identifying barriers for pregnant women to understanding their social and wellness needs, this project will provide a foundation for more effective, interconnected health services and lay the groundwork for broader research on equity in maternal healthcare access.
Walkin’ Wager: Applying behavioural economics in the examination and promotion of incentive-based physical activity app engagement ($188,290)
This project will investigate engagement and subsequent behaviour change with smartphone apps that promote exercise through financial incentives. Led by professor Marc Mitchell in the Faculty of Health Sciences, researchers will work with the WayBetter app, which has 1.3 million users globally and targets physical activity and eating behaviours. They will study the low engagement typical with these types of applications, even when a user’s own money is wagered on an intended outcome, such as walking more.
SSHRC INSIGHT GRANTS
Kersi Antia, Ivey Business School, $126,042
Recovering from Adversity: Evidence from a multinational franchise system’s expansion into multiple markets
Frank Boers, Faculty of Education, $114,032
Comparing the efficacy of exercises for language learning
Michael Buzzelli, Faculty of Social Science, $170,435
The university and its region: Geographies of networks and collaboration
Daniel Clark, Ivey Business School, $156,149
Confidence and gendering in entrepreneurial emergence
Christian Dippel, Ivey Business School, $281,375
The economic geography of the fur trade
Farahnaz Faez, Faculty of Education, $99,976
Teacher self‐efficacy to teach in multilingual school contexts
Lisa Hodgetts, Faculty of Social Science, $339,799
The Inuvialuit living history project Phase 3: A relational approach to Inuvialuit digital heritage
Donna Kotsopoulos, Faculty of Education, $220,006
Organizational change in higher education
Tara Mantler, Faculty of Health Sciences, $89,907
Caregivers’ perspectives on children’s resilience and protective factors after exposure to parental gender‐based violence
Wayne Martino, Faculty of Education, $224,381
Supporting transgender students and transgender affirmative education in a context of resurgent anti‐trans backlash and far‐right extremism
Carolyn McLeod, Faculty of Arts and Humanities, $92,958
Institutional distrust and injustice
Laura Misener, Faculty of Health Sciences, $283,160
Disability rights and sport events
Abram Oudshoorn, Faculty of Health Sciences, $326,436
Modelling permanent supportive housing into Canada’s housing and homelessness system
Veronica Pacini‐Ketchabaw, Faculty of Education, $343,252
Early childhood educators for ecological justice
Eva Pila, Faculty of Health Sciences, $310,020
Advancing a conceptual model of the “experience of embodied movement” construct
David Sandomierski, Faculty of Law, $266,206
The architecture of law schools
Luke Stark, Faculty of Information and Media Studies, $227,659
Situating London’s AI predictive homelessness model: Historical, social, political, legal and policy contexts
Olga Tararova, Faculty of Arts and Humanities, $88,996
Typology or order of acquisition? Gender in third language Spanish
Paul Tarc, Faculty of Education, $98,240
Translating and mobilizing ‘A New Social Contract for Education’: Illuminating and supporting teachers’ worldly and critical pedagogies
Mathieu Turgeon, Faculty of Social Science, $245,305
Climate change misinformation in Canada: Its prevalence, determinants and potential for inoculation and correction
Zhe Zhang, Ivey Business School, $134,082
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