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She will use her experience with Easton organizations to collaborate with researchers from the United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia

This summer, Deborah Byrd, associate professor of English, will contribute to a multinational, interdisciplinary research study on the development of empowerment programming for young mothers.

She will be collaborating with the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. The council is a small multinational, interdisciplinary team of scholars from the United States, Great Britain, Australia, and Canada representing the fields of sociology, health studies, psychology, English, and women’s and gender studies. The study will focus on developing “best practice” models for empowerment programming for young, low-income mothers, “a group that received little scholarly attention from those in the field of ‘motherhood studies,’” explains Byrd.

The researchers will present their findings at a two-day symposium that will be held in Toronto, Canada, in the summer or early fall of 2009.

The group will work with local organizations in each of their home countries that reach out to young mothers to evaluate their practices and empowerment strategies. Byrd will work with two local organizations: the Family Development Research Program (FDRP), a grant-funded program to mentor parenting and pregnant teenaged girls at Easton Area High School, and the Nurse Family Partnership (NFP), a nonprofit that provides mentoring and support services to first-time, low-income mothers.

She will likely involve EXCEL students in her work with these organizations.

“Students would be helping me analyze the data I’ve gathered through interviews with the Nurse Family Partnership and Family Development Research Program staff,” she says. “The purpose of these interviews is to identify the goals of the organizations, their methods of evaluating their success in achieving desired outcomes, and the challenges the organizations face in helping young (and usually low-income) mothers achieve or maintain self-esteem, confidence, and a sense of agency.”

Being the only researcher representing the United States, Byrd believes that she will be able to offer some unique insights to the study, as well as glean valuable insights from the backgrounds and experiences of her research partners that will further enhance her own research, and especially her teaching.

“One way in which this research project will benefit my teaching is that it will enhance my understanding of how the U.S. welfare state differs from those of Australia, Canada, and Great Britain,” she says. “I can also share such information with students in Introduction to Women’s Studies as well as my upper-level service learning seminar on Single Motherhood in the Contemporary U.S. Through my close collaboration with the staff of the NFP and FDRP, I also will be able to identify unmet needs of these organizations that will allow me to design new projects through which my service learning students can support young and low-income single mothers in our local community.”

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