Latino families in Iowa are gaining information and opportunities to improve their health and well-being, thanks in part to an Iowa State University associate professor in human development and family studies who serves as a human sciences state specialist in family life.
Kimberly Greder received the 2016 Rossmann Manatt Faculty Development Award for demonstrating exceptional creativity and productivity in scholarship, teaching, and service. She works with communities across Iowa to connect Latino immigrant families with resources to bring education through building trust.
“Through education and building trust with families and community partners, extension is helping families reach their goals,” Greder said. “When we listen and learn what is most important to families, then we can better develop educational programs, link families to resources, and create opportunities that build capacity in communities and within families to help them reach their goals.”
Greder will share what she’s learned about that process at her Rossmann Manatt lecture, “Securing Health and Education: Hopes and Realities of Iowa Latino Immigrant Families,” from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m. on Wednesday, April 26 in rooms 167-175 of the Scheman Building. The lecture, which is free and open to the public, is presented in conjunction with Human Sciences Extension and Outreach Professional Development Day.
Debra Sellers, College of Human Sciences associate dean and director of human sciences extension and outreach, said that Greder’s influence is far-reaching.
“Dr. Greder focuses on support to parents and children and emphasizes the role of parenting and family resiliency in the health and well-being of populations in Iowa and across the nation,” she said.
Greder said she believes that when people are given an opportunity to learn how to improve their lives, most embrace the new knowledge.
“When you create opportunities for learning and accessing information and resources, people will change things,” Greder said. “But it is important to realize that as an educator, you have an important role to play.”
Providing opportunities for conversations within communities plays to people’s strengths, Greder said.
“It’s important to look at the strengths of people in Iowa communities across populations,” Greder said. “We also need to ask ourselves what science says can help us live in more healthful ways — not just in a physical sense, but also in the areas of emotional, mental, and spiritual health.”
Greder also said that changing demographics across the state make building trust and forging relationships increasingly important.
“Our communities continue to change,” she said. “Iowa is a mixture of experiences, so let’s embrace who lives in Iowa. If we build relationships across people, we can learn to trust one another, and we also will have much more opportunity to make positive change in the lives of many Iowans.”
Greder will use her award funding to support an Iowa expansion of the Rural Families Speak about Health (RFSH) project. The initial project, a study of diverse low-income rural families across 13 states, focuses on increasing the understanding of mental and physical health among rural families. The latest phase of the research will incorporate additional interviews with Latina immigrant mothers in Iowa from the original study, and expand the program into two additional Iowa communities.
“The more we can learn about the lives of Latino immigrant families, including what helps them and what makes it difficult to be healthy, the better we can develop education programs that are aligned with families’ priorities and help to address their needs,” Greder said. “Recruiting new families into the study will expand the data set, thus increasing the power for analysis, and demonstrate to funders that we can continue to recruit into the study a population group that is rapidly growing, has limited access to public supports, and is changing the face of rural America.”
Carl Weems, professor and chair of human development and family studies at Iowa State, said that Greder understands the importance of securing funding to enhance ongoing research.
“Dr. Greder is highly successful in her pursuit of financial resources to support her integrated scholarship,” he said. “She has secured more than $5 million in external and internal funding to conduct community-based research throughout the course of her career.”
Greder said that a key part of recruiting families to participate in research and extension education is building trust within the communities that she and her colleagues serve. That means listening to participants’ ideas and empowering them to contribute to community-wide decisions.
“Communities must develop and bridge relationships locally among people,” Greder said. “To make strong communities, you have to have voices across sectors. You have to provide opportunity for voices if you really want to help — it can’t just be a section of the community making the decisions. If you only have data from a section of the community, you’ll make decisions based on incomplete information.”
As in her previous studies, Greder will provide numerous opportunities for students to take part in community-based research and extension education. She said that each new bit of research she gathers serves to inform other projects in which she helps to provide leadership — including community extension and outreach programs like Abriendos Caminos (Clearing the Path to Health) and Juntos Para Una Mejor Educación (Together for a Better Education).
“Involving graduate students in the RFSH multi-state project meeting is a great professional development opportunity,” Greder said. “Students interact with and develop working relationships with faculty and other students from multiple universities, participate in workgroup discussions to inform the overall project, and co-author manuscripts, conference presentations, and policy briefs.”
Established in 2006, the Rossmann Manatt Faculty Development Award supports tenured faculty members through an endowed gift from Jack and Marilyn Rossmann and Charles and Kathleen Manatt.
For more information about the Rossmann Manatt Faculty Development Award, along with previous College of Human Sciences recipients, visit www.hs.iastate.edu/awards/rossmann-manatt.