Announcing the Strain Honors College Faculty Fellows

UIndy Honors College crest 2019

Five University of Indianapolis faculty members have been named Ron & Laura Strain Honors College Faculty Fellows. The three-year terms begin during the 2021 academic year. 

The primary purpose of the fellowship is to support the students of the Strain Honors College through teaching and mentorship or service. Strain Honors Faculty Fellows are expected to teach at least three credit hours of Honors coursework per semester and produce additional contributions related to student scholarship, mentoring, advocacy, and more. 

“This new fellows program will create a stable cohort of faculty dedicated to teaching and thinking about Honors, as well as serving Honors students in other capacities. This helps to resolve a long-standing issue about how Honors functions on our campus,” said Jim Williams, executive director of the Ron and Laura Strain Honors College and associate professor of history. 

Get to know each Fellow and learn about their goals for the fellowship:

Miller,_Emily History PoliSci UIndyEmily G. Miller
Instructor of Practice
History and Political Science Department

  • Former UIndy Honors College student (‘Theory of multiple intelligences in relation to social studies’ was published in 2001)
  • Selected to write curriculum for the Fred T. Korematsu Institute in California to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Supreme Court case Korematsu v. U.S.
  • Will be teaching an Honors class to explore stories related to World War II on the US homefront, especially making connections between minority participation in the war and the power movements of the 1960s.
  • Passionate about acting as a diversity, equity, and inclusion advocate for Honors students and faculty

“I am encouraged by the call for diversity, and I appreciate the commitment to a theme on inequity because the experiences of World War II have played a significant role in racial progress that has impacted my life and that of many others.”

 

Milne,_Marc Biology UIndyMarc A. Milne
Associate Professor
Department of Biology

  • Directs part of the General Biology program, teaches upper- and lower level biology and honors biology courses, and supervises a productive undergraduate lab
  • Will be teaching an Honors Introduction to the Diversity of Life course that will explore the origination, evolution, and diversification of life on earth
  • Has mentored Honors and non-honors students on research related to the ecology of arthropods in nearby forests, the identification of spiders to species from various parts of North America, the illustration of specimens for new species descriptions, and the extraction, amplification, and sequencing of spider DNA for phylogenetic analyses

“Through promoting and advancing the diversity and inclusionary policies of the Honors College, supporting Honors research, and serving on the Honors committee, I hope to enhance my support of the Strain Honors College through this position.”

 

Nicholas Soltis, Physics and Earth Space Science UIndyNicholas Soltis
Assistant Professor
Physics & Earth Space Science

  • Interdisciplinary researcher whose work bridges the gap between geology, environmental science, and education
  • Works closely with the School of Education and contributes to the Elementary Education STEM program; has six years of experience as a middle school math and science teacher
  • Engages in research on how individuals conceptualize complex Earth systems as well as interdisciplinary biogeochemistry research working to understand the relationship between low-rank coal-hosting aquifers and kidney disease in the U.S. Gulf Coast Region
  • Partners with GeoFORCE to bring high school students from underrepresented and historically marginalized groups into summer field trips to broaden the participation of diverse groups in the geosciences

“One thing I love about my job at UIndy is that I get to teach a wide variety of students about how amazing our planet is through my introductory Earth Science classes that also fulfill the university’s natural science requirement.”

 

Jordan Sparks Waldron Psychology UIndyJordan Sparks Waldron
Assistant Professor
Department of Psychological Sciences

  • Facilitates internship and research opportunities as the practicum coordinator for the undergraduate and masters in psychology programs
  • Has mentored undergraduate and graduate students on research projects related to factors that impact mental health stigma
  • Received the Honors Mentor of the Year Award in 2019 for her work advising honors students on their projects
  • Excited to develop new honors offerings for students of psychology
  • Looks forward to intentionally supporting and mentoring students through connections made inside the classroom

“Being able to mentor students in research is a vital part of my scholarship and I loved the connection between my role as a teacher and my role as a research mentor that I experienced through teaching in honors.”

 

Ziff,_Elizabeth_(Liz) Sociology UIndyElizabeth Ziff
Assistant Professor
Department of Sociology

  • Teaches an Honors First-Year Seminar course on inequality and is mentoring two students on the development of their honors project proposals focused on medical malpractice and microaggressions against female athletes
  • Co-faculty advisor for UIndy Pride, faculty advisor for Sociology Club, and member of the Inclusive Excellence Strategic Leadership Coalition
  • Committed to interdisciplinary study and engagement; maintaining diversity in the curriculum and being a voice for underrepresented groups when crafting policies and initiatives at all levels
  • Excited for the opportunity to work closely with a community of young scholars who are eager to be challenged in their studies

“My approach to honors education is to emphasize the process of knowledge production and reproduction, generate intellectual curiosity, and craft ownership of one’s intellectual pursuits.”

Poetry collection by Kevin McKelvey selected for Indiana Authors Awards shortlist

A poetry collection written by Kevin McKelvey, professor of English at the University of Indianapolis, was shortlisted for top honors for The 2020 Eugene and Marilyn Glick Indiana Authors Awards. Thirty-seven books written by Indiana authors and published in 2018 and 2019 in seven categories of literature have been shortlisted foDream Wilderness Poems by Kevin McKelveyr the awards, which will be announced on Sept. 1, 2020.

McKelvey’s collection, Dream Wilderness Poems, draws from Indiana’s environmental history, particularly the Charles C. Deam Wilderness Area on Lake Monroe near Bloomington.

“I’m humbled and honored to be a finalist for the Indiana Author Awards in poetry. Finalists in all of the genres have inspired me and UIndy students, including those finalists who have visited for the Kellogg Writers Series,” McKelvey said. “Many thanks to Indiana Humanities for their stewardship of these awards and for their programs and work across the state.”

Book winners will be announced on Sept. 1 at 11 a.m. via a Facebook Live Premiere Event, and on Instagram and Twitter and via an email to subscribers at 11:10 a.m. Follow @INAuthorsAwards and sign up at www.IndianaAuthorsAwards.org to receive the announcement.

Each category winner will receive a $5,000 cash prize, a hand-crafted limestone award and the opportunity to make a $500 donation to an Indiana library of their choice.

For more information on the Indiana Authors Awards, visit indianaauthorsawards.org.

Health sciences professor runs ultra marathons for hope

“What did you do over the weekend?”

It’s a common Monday morning question. Ask Dr. Laura Santurri, chair of the Interprofessional Health and Aging Studies department and director of the Doctor of Health Science program, and she is likely to say “I ran 50 miles.”

At least that will be her answer next month after she completes her third ultra-marathon. An ultra-marathon is a race of any distance longer than 26.2 miles. Santurri’s first “ultra” was a 50K (31 miles) in October 2017. She followed that with a 40-mile ultra in April 2018.

The motivation behind Santurri’s long-distance running is chronic disease. She started running in 2006 in an effort to feel healthier. It turns out that running helped relieve her symptoms of interstitial cystitis, a painful, chronic bladder disease. That, coupled with the feeling of accomplishment she got when crossing the finish line of her first 5K, kept her running.

“Running has been a way for me to manage my pain, but also build confidence and self-efficacy as a person,” Santurri said. “I decided to run my first ultra in a somewhat last-minute way, and after completing it, I was hooked.”

Santurri_run

Next month, she will take on the 50-mile option of the Indiana Trail 100 run at Chain O’Lakes State Park in Albion, Ind. to raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS) for a cause that’s close to her heart.

Here’s an excerpt from her LLS fundraising page:

On Friday, October 11, 2013, my husband, Harlan, was diagnosed with chronic myelogenous leukemia. We watched our world shatter, and over time, put ourselves back together, piece by piece. This re-crafting of ourselves made us different – some pieces are flipped, some have shifted, some are missing. But somehow, this process has made us stronger, better. Part of this rebuilding was a result of connecting with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS) and Team In Training, and these amazing people became a part of our family.”

To train for the Chain O’Lakes race, Santurri works with a coach who creates weekly training schedules for her, incorporating a mix of strength training, stretching, and running.

“At the peak of my training, I’ll be running seven to 10 hours per week,” she said. “My weekends are mostly running and then recovering.”

Santurri’s ultra marathon efforts were recently featured in the ICA Update, a publication of the Interstitial Cystitis Association (ICA). In that feature, she said “Physical activity is one very effective mechanism for giving yourself a little bit of hope.”

It’s that hope, for relief from her own chronic pain and for a cure for her husband’s chronic leukemia, that keeps Santurri running.

To contribute to Santurri’s Leukemia and Lymphoma Society fundraising effort, visit her CrowdRise page here: https://www.crowdrise.com/o/en/campaign/lauras-50-miles-in-the-fight-to-cure-leukemia

 

Phylis Lan Lin receives Meritorious Award upon her retirement

PhylisLanLinawardPhylis Lan Lin, associate vice president for international partnerships, was honored with the Meritorious Award by the Office of the Provost during the 2018 Faculty-Staff Institute luncheon for  her outstanding leadership during 45 years of service to the University. Dr. Lin retires Aug. 31 and will assume the title of professor emerita.

Dr. Lin has published or edited more than 30 books in Chinese and English on topics ranging from medical sociology, marriage and the family, stress management, service-learning and organizational behavior. Her servant leadership, passion for teaching and dedication to students have made her a beloved member of the UIndy family.

“Her accomplishments and contributions to the University of Indianapolis are too many to mention,” said Stephen Kolison, Jr., executive vice president and provost. “She is a prolific scholar and a great mentor to young faculty. For 45 years, she has dedicated her talent and knowledge to the advancement of this University.”

Dr. Lin was recognized at both the Zhejiang Yuexiu Foreign Languages University (ZYU) and Ningbo Institute of Technology (NIT) 2018 commencements for outstanding service.

As she closes the long and remarkable UIndy chapter of her career, Dr. Lin is starting several exciting new opportunities that reflect her commitment to building international relationships. At the Chinese American Museum in Washington, D.C., Dr. Lin serves as the chair of the Academic Advisory Board that is designing a scholarship program for students. The museum is slated to open in phases during 2019 and 2020, with a gala planned for November 2018.

“The Chinese American Museum is a mission-driven project that will become a reservoir for Chinese-American culture,” Dr. Lin explained. “We’re promoting the concept of how we can work with all races and nationalities and together build a good country. The more we include other people of different backgrounds, the richer we become. Diversification is a power in itself.”

Dr. Lin noted that while she hadn’t planned on these opportunities, she decided to embark on a new journey when the offers began pouring in after her retirement announcement. She will also serve as the honorary president of the Everbright Academy of Film Arts in Ningbo, China, and as Director of the Center for Research and Planning at Assumption University in Bangkok, Thailand. She will continue teaching an applied sociology course at the graduate level as a part-time adjunct professor at the University of Indianapolis.

“After retirement, my base remains in Indianapolis, albeit my international and national engagements, so I can be a frequent visitor to UIndy,” she said.

Remarkable legacy

FacStaff_Awards_Luncheon_05261Dr. Lin joined the University faculty in 1973 with a passion for enhancing diversity and internationalization on campus. Her many responsibilities have included serving as executive director of the University of Indianapolis Press, director of Asian Programs and associate vice president for International Partnerships. She played an integral role in forming accredited partnerships with Chinese institutions and establishing the Chinese Student Alumni Association, making frequent trips overseas to forge new relationships. She also spearheaded the establishment of the school’s social work program, which is now an academic department that bears her name.

From the archives: Letter from Gene Sease, former president of Indiana Central University

Phylis Lan Lin with her husband, Leon Lin

Phylis Lan Lin with her husband, Leon Lin

The Phylis Lan Lin Scholarship in Social Work, which supports social work students from traditionally underrepresented groups who have a commitment to social work and social justice, is another important facet of Dr. Lin’s legacy. Four scholarships of $5,000 each are awarded annually to students enrolled in either the bachelor’s or master’s of social work program at the University of Indianapolis.

“UIndy is thriving, and I want to be part of that growth. In that way, I don’t really want to retire!” Dr. Lin said. “But it’s good timing, because UIndy is entering a new phase in our international partnerships. We need the new leadership. I have built the foundation but there will be more challenges. It’s time to pass the torch.”

“We are incredibly proud of Dr. Lin’s achievements. She is one of the hardest working members of our department and an integral part of our team. We are grateful for her fantastic 45 years of service,” said Amanda Miller, chair of sociology.

Read an extended biography here.

Mary Moore, professor of sociology and associate vice president of accreditation, echoed those sentiments: “Over 30 years ago, I was hired as a new faculty member at the University of Indianapolis by Dr. Phylis Lan Lin, and since that time she has served as a mentor and colleague. Throughout her career, Phylis has looked for ways to engage junior colleagues in collaborative projects that have served to advance to her colleagues’ careers. Her vision, which is to imagine in grand ways, is the opposite of her personal philosophy where she always puts others before herself.”

Dr. Lin follows a dual leadership philosophy of being a “V.I.P.” – a person with vision, integrity and passion, and also embodies the 4 “H’s” – humanism, humility, holism and happiness. She appreciates the collegial atmosphere at the University of Indianapolis as well as the support it provides for international programs.

“It is so hard for me to leave my beloved institution after serving thousands of students and working closely with hundreds of faculty and staff in the last 45 years. Together, we make good things happen and we transform lives. I am gratified, humbled, and blessed. UIndy is thriving and the best is yet to come,” Dr. Lin said.

Click here to read a comprehensive biography written by Kristeen Ruddle ’97.

Click here to read a 2014 interview with Dr. Lin.

 

Audrey Cunningham reflects on 24 years leading UIndy Speech & Debate Team

Audrey Cunningham, front row, second from left, with the Speech & Debate Team in 2011.

Audrey Cunningham, front row, second from left, with the Speech & Debate Team in 2011.

The University of Indianapolis Speech & Debate team has been winning regional and national accolades for more than 30 years, thanks in large part to Audrey Cunningham, the former team director. For 24 years, Cunningham, who serves as Basic Course Director in the Department of Communication, has been coaching students to success behind the podium and beyond.

Cunningham has enjoyed helping students develop lifelong speaking and debate skills that are easily transferable to a variety of careers. The speech team is open to all majors, and the students Cunningham has coached over the years have pursued successful careers in a variety of disciplines, including public relations, broadcasting, law, school counseling and secondary education.

“We encourage different majors because it’s one of those skill sets that transcends everything,” she explained.

Cunningham noted that the most dramatic improvements tend to happen during a student’s first year.

“That freshman year, they are learning all the basics. A lot of times they can be more successful that year because there are tournaments they can compete in with other novices of the first year. They’re competing more on par,” Cunningham said.

By senior year, Cunningham said that students have acquired a broad range of speaking skills. The competitions stretch students’ skills by challenging them to compete in extemporaneous, informative and persuasive speaking, as well as prose, poetry, duo and impromptu formats. There’s even a category for after-dinner speaking. Students are required to discuss topics ranging from voter disenfranchisement to gun control.

“The more people participate, the more confident they become in their abilities,” Cunningham said.

Audrey Cunningham

Audrey Cunningham

Under Cunningham’s guidance, the team earned the University’s first team title in 1990 from the National Forensic Association (NFA). Over the years, UIndy’s team has placed several times among the top ten in the Team Sweepstakes in the NFA competition, as well as making frequent team and individual appearances in the top ten in state, regional and other national competitions. Students from UIndy’s team have also competed in an international tournament in London.

In 2013-14, Cunningham co-directed the team with Rebekah Gaidis ’03, assistant professor (and a three-year team veteran herself) who went on to serve as sole team director until 2017. Stephanie Wideman is an assistant professor and the current team director. Both Gaidis and Wideman have led the team to stellar state and regional performances.

Professor Cunningham’s dedication to the art of public speaking is an inspirational force in the Department of Communication. She ran the Speech & Debate team for over twenty years, and in that time she was able to build the team into a cornerstone of speech education at UIndy,” said Wideman.

A longtime southsider, Cunningham’s UIndy connections run deep. Her two children, Kathleen Cunningham ’11 (English) and Chris Cunningham ’09 (communication) are alumni. She also has plenty of Emerald Isle connections. Her husband, Brian, is from Ireland, and is a singer and guitarist for the Irish Airs. Audrey has served as president of the Irish Dancers of Indianapolis and emcees Indianapolis’ Irish Festival.

UIndy master’s program builds community leadership through public art

It’s early on a Friday evening in May – before the crowds arrive at the Tube Factory in the Garfield Park neighborhood – and Big Car CEO and co-founder Jim Walker is talking about the powerful role the arts have in transforming and building communities.

Art is not just something you see in a gallery or museum, said Walker, whose expertise lies in social practice and placemaking, a type of art that leverages community assets to create public spaces that promote health, happiness and well-being.

“Instead of making a piece of art that’s an object, we’re making things happen,” explained Walker, who brings that vision to a new, one-year intensive program at the University of Indianapolis. The new master’s program in Social Practice Art, which is unique for Indiana, prepares students to become community leaders by leveraging the power of the arts. 

Jim Walker, co-founder of Big Car, will teach courses in Social Practice Art at UIndy starting in the fall of 2017.

Jim Walker, co-founder of Big Car, will teach courses in Social Practice Art at UIndy starting in the fall of 2017.

Developed by Jim Walker and Kevin McKelvey, associate professor of English, the program connects students with degrees in art & design, theatre, dance, music or creative writing with community stakeholders to engage in social practice and creative placemaking. The result is a participatory art form that empowers and transforms communities, and one which has been gaining in popularity in recent years. Walker and McKelvey will oversee the program, which is still accepting applications for the fall of 2017.

The vibrant atmosphere of the Tube Factory provides the perfect backdrop to talk about the University’s MA in Social Practice Art program, as it represents an example of social practice art in action. The formerly vacant 12,000-square-foot building on Cruft St. has been renovated into a welcoming space where the Big Car arts collective, founded by Walker in 2004, hosts cultural events and partnership-based community meetings.

Related: Big Car launches affordable home ownership program for artists

Walker pointed out the value of bringing art to underserved neighborhoods and giving residents an outlet to voice their opinions. The program will also focus on grant writing, social entrepreneurship and community sociology.

The Tube Factory on Cruft St. Photo courtesy Big Car.

The Tube Factory. Photo courtesy Big Car.

“Art and culture are important elements of everybody’s lives, so the kind of art that we’re working on here actually seeks out input from community members. When they’re invited to participate, it’s a way to show people that art isn’t some kind of exclusive thing. In that way it can help make a difference for the community,” Walker said.

In many ways, Walker’s new role at the University is a logical extension of Big Car’s south side success story. Walker, who lives in the Garfield Park neighborhood, is a well-known community builder on the Indianapolis arts scene. He has taught art history at the University of Indianapolis and art and writing at other area universities. Big Car held its ten-year anniversary exhibition at the Christel DeHaan Fine Arts Center in 2014.

The Social Practice Arts program builds on several of the University’s community-partnership initiatives, including the Quality of Life plan for the Indianapolis south side, and the Gene and Mary Ann Zink Poverty Institute, a University initiative to end poverty driven by an evidence-based and outcome-oriented strategy.

Making a difference in local neighborhoods will be a key focus of the program. Students will have the opportunity to work at Big Car’s Tube Factory, where they can learn to manage arts-related events and encourage community involvement. “This is a really good laboratory for students to learn in, get off campus and get involved. The connection between UIndy and our space is a pretty important one,” Walker added.

McKelvey explained that the multidisciplinary approach of the program combines with the University’s service-learning focus to attract artists who want to give back to the community. The program will embrace community involvement and prepare students to effectively lead and engage community leaders in projects that have a broad impact on the quality of life.

“From cities to smaller communities, these ideas around placemaking and social practice are really starting to take hold,” McKelvey said.

Learn more about UIndy’s Social Practice Arts Program here.

Written by Sara Galer, Senior Communications Specialist, University of Indianapolis. Contact newsdesk@UIndy.edu with your campus news.

Gerburg Garmann, Paul Levesque elected to HERA Board

Gerburg Garmann, assistant dean of Interdisciplinary Studies & Service Learning, and Paul Levesque, assistant professor of Global Languages & Cross-Cultural Studies, were elected to the Humanities Education and Research Association (HERA) Board in March 2017. 

Paul Levesque

Paul Levesque

Gerburg Garmann

Gerburg Garmann

HERA, which holds an annual conference in the United States and publishes a refereed scholarly journal three times per year, promotes the worldwide study, teaching and understanding of the humanities across a range of disciplines. Its mission includes supporting the application of the humanities to the human environment in a way that reflects the country’s diverse heritage, traditions, history and current conditions.
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University of Indianapolis Real Estate Development program sees early success

A new program that is the first of its kind in Indiana is already making its mark.

The University of Indianapolis launched a Masters of Professional Studies in Real Estate Development in the fall of 2016, becoming the first university in the region and state to offer the program.

MPS in Real Estate Development program director, Eric Harvey

MPS in Real Estate Development program director, Eric Harvey

Program Director Eric A. Harvey, who was recently appointed to the position, said students who enroll are seeking to become entrepreneurs in real estate as they advance their careers. Courses include ethics and problem solving, finance, capital markets, real estate development law, development and construction systems, project management and sustainability, with a capstone course that allows the student to frame their professional goals. The program was recently highlighted by the Indianapolis Business Journal.

Read more

Study finds living in a state with weak gun laws could increase risk of being shot by police

A new study from the University of Indianapolis published in the American Journal of Public Health finds that citizens living in states with the weakest gun laws are more than twice as likely to be fatally shot by law enforcement. 

Aaron Kivisto

Aaron Kivisto

Aaron Kivisto, assistant professor in the College of Applied Behavioral Sciences at the University of Indianapolis, conducted the research along with doctoral student Peter Phalen, in collaboration with Brad Ray, assistant professor in the School of Public and Environmental Affairs at IUPUI. The American Journal of Public Health published the study, “Firearm legislation and fatal police shootings in the United States,” on May 18, 2017.

Kivisto, lead author of the study, said the research utilized data on fatal police shootings in the United States from “The Counted,” a database developed by U.K.-based newspaper The Guardian. That data, compared with the state gun law rankings from the The Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, showed citizens from states with weaker gun laws are significantly more likely to be killed by law enforcement, according to the study.

Researchers examined more than 2,000 fatal police shootings that occurred between January 2015 and October 2016. The study considered differences across states in rates of gun ownership, violent crime and other socio-demographic characteristics.

The study found that, while laws strengthening background checks appeared to support this effect by reducing the overall number of guns in the community, laws aimed at promoting safe storage and reducing gun trafficking helped to prevent guns already in the community from falling into the wrong hands.

“What’s really striking is that the laws that seem to be driving this effect – closing background check loopholes, requiring that parents protect their kids from finding their guns in the home – are the types of laws that large majorities of Americans support. These aren’t particularly controversial laws, and this study, along with many before it, suggests that they can save a lot of lives,” Kivisto said. “These findings also seem to highlight the challenges created for law enforcement by states that have neglected to enact common-sense gun laws supported by most citizens.”

The research group emphasized the need for a comprehensive system to track fatal police shootings nationwide.

“Currently, the only serious monitoring system for police violence in our country is the media itself, rather than the government or police,” Phalen said.

While policy efforts targeting police practices represent one strategy, these findings show strengthening state-level gun laws as a potential tool for reducing rates of fatal police shootings in the United States, Kivisto said.

*Kivisto, A.J., Ray, B., & Phalen, P. (2017). Firearm legislation and fatal police shootings in the United States. American Journal of Public Health. DOI: 10.2105/AJPH.2017.303770

 

UIndy forensics crew returns to Texas for migrant identification initiative

For the past four years, a forensics team from the University of Indianapolis has traveled to Texas to exhume and conduct forensic analyses on the remains of migrants who died making the treacherous journey into the United States. forensicscrew

The group not only carefully digs and recovers the remains from unmarked gravesites, but it also works with Texas State University on identification of the bodies. The initiative highlights a humanitarian crisis as bodies continue to be found in small counties with no resources to identify them, said Krista Latham, an associate professor of biology who leads the group.

Latham traveled this month with four graduate students to Texas to analyze the dead and work to recover additional remains from unmarked gravesites. This is the sixth trip Latham has led to the area.

“Students are immersed in a humanitarian crisis where people are dying in mass disaster numbers due to the environment and exposure while crossing our southern border. It provides them with invaluable humanitarian and global citizenship experience. They learn about the complexities of border policies and the realities of thousands of people who are not as privileged as themselves in terms of the expectation of freedom from personal violence,” Latham said.

UIndy graduate student Leann Rizor

UIndy graduate student Leann Rizor

During the first week of the trip, the University team will work with Dr. Kate Spradley of Texas State University on the analysis of unidentified individuals exhumed from Sacred Heart Cemetery in Brooks County, Texas, during the 2013, 2014 and 2017 archeological field seasons. The following week, the forensic crew will then volunteer in Starr County, Texas, to locate and exhume the remains of undocumented migrants who died after crossing the border and were buried in pauper’s graves without identification.

Latham’s work has received local and national media coverage and most recently was the focus of an interactive New York Times report. The group will be documenting their activities in the Beyond Borders blog.

With the U.S. Border Patrol reporting more than 6,000 deaths during illegal border crossings between October 2000 and September 2016, Latham said her work serves a crucial need to identify those who perished on the journey.

“There is a need for forensic experts to identify these individuals and provide their families with information on their fate,” Latham explained. “The dead are mostly South Americans that are fleeing systematic violence that is unimaginable to most people living in the US. We are volunteering a very specialized skill set to counties that have been overwhelmed with deaths that are in mass disaster numbers.”

“In the process, we are also able to bring awareness to the crisis at the border and work to promote social responsibility and humanitarianism as a response to the migrant death crisis,” Latham added.

The project provides numerous opportunities for Latham’s students as they apply their classroom skills in a real-world setting, including scientific skills honed in the University’s human biology program such as skeletal analysis, photography and archeology. Even more importantly, Latham said, students develop an understanding of the complex social, cultural and political realities involved in the work.

Haley Rock, a graduate student in human biology and field expert, is one of the graduate students in the group. She appreciates the experiential learning aspect of the project that allows her to gain a better understanding of human osteology and forensic anthropology.

“This humanitarian work is important to me because it allows me to take part in reuniting family members with their lost loved ones, as well as bring to light the unjust treatment individuals may have faced in their lives,” she said.

“I hope to gain a broader cultural perspective and understanding of the migrant situation that is currently going on in South Texas. Being in the midst of the humanitarian crisis that is occurring in Texas will likely impact me in a way that I cannot even begin to predict,” graduate student Erica Cantor said.

Both Latham and her team acknowledge the challenges of the project, which include working in the South Texas heat, as well as processing their emotions as they work to ease families’ pain in the midst of an untold humanitarian crisis.

“These students are not only learning scientific skills they could never learn in a classroom, but they are being empowered by their actions to promote a sense of common humanity. They are applying their liberal arts and sciences training towards the social responsibility of humanitarianism as a crisis response,” Latham said.

Follow the team’s updates here.

Written by Sara Galer, Senior Communications Specialist, University of Indianapolis. Contact newsdesk@UIndy.edu with your campus news.

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