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IU Northwest public affairs forums aim to put scholarly research into practice in community

April 11 session to focus on barriers for ex-offenders


Media Contact

Emily Banas
Office of Marketing and Communications

Erika Rose
Office of Marketing and Communications

The School of Public and Environmental Affairs (SPEA) at Indiana University Northwest has introduced a new opportunity for academic researchers and working professionals to put their collective knowledge to work for the betterment of practice in the community.

Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice Monica Solinas-Saunders, Ph.D., began an ongoing research forum this spring in an effort to communicate the latest research in criminal justice and public affairs disciplines as well as to gather information to aid future studies.

“Sometimes we create these fancy statistical models, but we really don’t know how those models can help people in the community,” Solinas-Saunders said. “We might suggest implementation of certain policies but until we have the feedback from community organizers, we really don’t know if those suggestions are actually concrete, if they are tangible, if they can be applied.”

The next session of the Spring 2012 Research Forum will address “Ex-offender Re-entry and Barriers to Employment: An Analysis of the Current Policies,” and is scheduled for 12 to 1:30 p.m., Wednesday, April 11 in the Dunes Medical/Professional Building, room 2134.

Solinas-Saunders and Visiting Lecturer Dan Tsataros of SPEA will discuss the pros and cons of current policies implemented in several U.S. jurisdictions to reduce ex-offenders’ barriers to employment. An analysis of the “expungement” policy recently adopted in Indiana will be provided vis-à-vis the experience of other states.

At 12 p.m., Friday, May 4, Assistant Professor of Public Affairs Atta Ceesay, Ph.D., will discuss the use of microfinance initiatives as alternative strategies to sustain development and growth in poor communities.

Immediately following Ceesay’s discussion, at 1:30 p.m., Friday, May 4, Melissa Bowen, a SPEA student, will discuss unfair labor practices and how they yield low employee morale. She will provide recommendations on helping future generations of service workers in the food-service industry demand proper treatment, training and fair wages. Both discussions on May 4 will take place in Dunes Medical/Professional Building, room 2134.

The research forum, which recently explored issues in ethics and community-based policing, is relevant to such professionals as judges, prosecutors, re-entry coordinators, law enforcement, employers and all types of agency professionals.

By providing regular research forums for professionals in the field, Solinas-Saunders hopes to bring scholarly research into practice while educating students about undertaking research. In a nutshell, she aims to get academic scholars to “think globally, and act locally.”

“We want them to learn research techniques and presentation strategies,” Solinas-Saunders said. “At the same time we want to teach them that our research is not done in a vacuum . . . Research for the sake of practicing statistical model is not useful unless you are testing it with your own community.”

For more information about SPEA’s Spring Research Forums, contact Monica Solinas-Saunders at (219) 980-6661 or