Putting their research skills to good use, members of Newman University helped secure a grant to reduce violent, drug-related and vagrant crime related to homelessness in downtown Wichita through a program called “Project HOPE.”
Newman’s part in the project
The city of Wichita was recently awarded the $1 million grant by the U.S. Department of Justice to serve as a 2021-23 Byrne Criminal Justice Innovation Program recipient.
A press release about Project HOPE stated, “For this initiative to be truly effective, it must be community-led and inclusive of voices from any Wichitan who live, works or plays in downtown Wichita.”
And because Newman University is such an important piece of Wichita’s fabric, it’s played an integral role in the project from the get-go.
According to Kristi Edwards, assistant professor of criminal justice at Newman, more than 1,000 cities applied to the grant. Only six received it, including Wichita.
“I really believe that the reason they got it is because on behalf of Newman, we put together a portion of the grant application,” she explained. “So Newman has been involved in it from the start — from the application process to the receipt of the grant.”
Working toward community solutions
According to Edwards, Newman serves as the city of Wichita’s research partner for Project HOPE.
“We’re the research arm of the whole team,” she said.
The data the Newman team collects through surveys, focus groups, archive data and more will help the project team identify correlations between homelessness and criminal activity in Wichita.
One thing Edwards especially enjoys about being involved with the project is that she’s able to give Newman students an opportunity to conduct relevant research “where something actually happens.”
She said one of the students who has worked on research with her was able to mention the project on her graduate school applications.
“It’s giving her the opportunity as she applies to grad schools to say, ‘look, I’ve done actual research on a real-life grant opportunity on a real-life issue,” Edwards said. “In this instance, we’re creating something new, and that’s huge.”
Real-life experience for students
Another thing Edwards loves about being part of Project HOPE is that it’s putting a spotlight on Newman in the community.
“This is an opportunity to connect with people who work at the Wichita Police Department, United Way, Salvation Army and more and tell them about what Newman does and also show them that Newman can help solve a social problem in our community,” she said.
Edwards added, “My hope is — and I think you’ll find this to be true — that this opens the door for agencies and institutions in our community to begin looking to Newman as a research partner.”
In fact, the university has already partnered with the City of Wichita to work on another grant. Edwards hope this trend continues.
“Hopefully this will show the community that Newman should be your first choice for a research partner.”
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