Two projects led by IUPUI faculty members are being recognized for their work with the community and given funding to expand and continue their engaged research.
The 2020 Charles Bantz Community Fellowship was awarded to Co-Awardees David M. Craig, professor of religious studies and chair of the Religious Studies Department for the IU School of Liberal Arts at IUPUI, and Pamela Napier, associate professor of visual communication design with the Herron School of Art and Design. The 2020 Charles Bantz Community Scholar award was presented to Jessica Lee, assistant professor with the IU School of Social Work at IUPUI.
The annual honor, named for former IUPUI Chancellor Charles R. Bantz, recognizes research and provides funding for community-engaged scholars, supporting the translating of their work with community partners and positively impacting people’s lives.
Both projects actively engage the community as key stakeholders in the research, guiding the focus of the work to address issues the community and its residents are facing, which is a key element of the award.
A New HIP Public
“A New HIP Public,” a joint project of David Craig and Pamela Napier, focuses on increasing community support for low-income Hoosiers who are eligible for the state’s Healthy Indiana Plan, or HIP, a health insurance plan that expands Medicaid coverage.
The work began in 2019, when David and Pamela partnered with Andrew Green, Assistant Director, Shepherd Community Center, and Dr. Ivan Douglas Hicks, Pastor, First Baptist Church North Indianapolis, to learn more about the challenges and benefits of the state’s HIP program from people who are eligible for or enrolled in coverage.
Through interviews and focus groups organized through the two congregations, the community-university research team was able to gather information to develop a process map showing challenges and opportunities and identifying ways congregations can help people facing barriers, along with two videos.
What they learned was that two key elements made a significant difference for people to be able to get and keep HIP coverage: direct personal assistance in getting, using and navigating the system; and trusted relations with a community partner.
That led them to develop the project for which they received the Bantz Fellowship. The overall goal is to get the overall community to be invested in the health of all people, especially the low-income population, David said.
“If we really want to have a healthy Indiana, you’ve got to include everyone, and you’ve got to listen to people who really know what’s happening and what they have to say,” David said.
A key part of the next steps of the project is to engage people so they feel comfortable sharing openly and honestly, feel ownership and agency in the work and can see actual progress, Pamela said.
“None of this happens without community partners because they are already doing the work. They are the people on the ground,” David said.
Next, they will connect with insurers who oversee Indiana’s HIP plan to find out how they address challenges that users of the plan face, and how that outreach can be strengthened. And they will connect with multiple community organizations, especially religious congregations, on how they communicate with their community and what other ways they could support people and families who are eligible for or receiving HIP coverage.
Students in both Pamela and David’s classes will work together, developing questions for diverse congregations and a plan for how to visually present the information they are gathering about different ways to understand health and wellness, responsibilities, and common tenets, Pamela said.
They will develop a “Get HIP” campaign, promoting the value of public health and wellness for all, and then working with community organizations to launch it. And they will build a living document telling the stories of wellness and what that means to different congregations to support more interfaith health cooperation.
“How do you build a public that wants to include everyone? That thinks about wellness first? Thinks about prevention first, even if that doesn’t make money? How do you shift this?” David said.
Resilience and protective factors of the Burmese community
The 2020 Charles Bantz Community Scholar award was presented to Jessica Lee, for her project entitled “Resilience and protective factors among Burmese refugees: A Strengths-based participatory action research project.” The goal of her research is to work in partnership with Burmese refugees to examine protective factors and resilience that promote wellness and integration among refugee communities in Indianapolis.
Jessica’s work with the Burmese community began in 2016 with the Burmese American Community Institute, delivering culturally competent, linguistic services to refugees, and she has continued working with the community through youth programs. The organization has been gracious and welcoming, inviting her to be a part of programs and to to serve as the director of BACI’s new research center, Jessica said.
In addition, the Myanmar Students Organization at IUPUI, which was formed last year, invited her to join them as a faculty adviser.
What she has found in her research is that much of the literature is focused on a diagnosis and deficiency in Burmese immigrants and is rarely authored by community members themselves.
“The Burmese community is a great example of resilience, social capital, mobility, and their willingness to partner is a huge opportunity for community-driven research, focused on what they see and want to do,” Jessica said.
The community demonstrates a lot of resilience factors, which can be translated to other minority populations and taking a strengths-based approach can also be translatable to other communities. In addition, focusing on the community-based partnership, where the community makes the decisions, can also promote and encourage more of those partnerships and relationships within IU and other universities, she said.
“What is it that enables this type of community-based partnership? How do universities promote more community-driven partnerships? How do we move through the grey? Make it almost built into the system, potentially encouraging more institutional change,” Jessica said.
Next, Jessica will be analyzing data gathered by the Burmese American Community Institute during their summer youth programs to build upon that work to make it more robust and long-term. She and the BACI will be collaborating on a longer-term participatory action research project evaluating key factors related to resilience.
She wants to support the Burmese community in building networks with experts, providers, researchers, and community members, with the goal of adding services and resources and exploring funding opportunities.
Long-term, Jessica would like to support the Burmese community in publishing a paper in a scholarly journal authored by its own stakeholders, which is lacking in academic writing. And she would like to help grow partnerships between the university and community that are driven by the community, she said.
“A lot of community-driven research and community participatory research is being informed by stakeholders, who are experts in lived experience. Community partners are experts and have expertise researchers don’t always have,” Jessica said.