Florida State University

College of Social Sciences & Public Policy

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Faculty Awarded Fellowships to Support Research

April Jackson, James Wright

Two assistant professors within the college have been awarded McKnight Junior Faculty Development Fellowships for the 2020-2021 academic year.

April Jackson (Urban and Regional Planning) and James Wright (Askew School of Public Administration and Policy) have been accepted into the fellowship program, which is designed to encourage excellence in teaching and research by freeing junior faculty from their regular duties so they can pursue research in their special areas of interest.

The fellowship provides payment to Florida State University to help defray necessary teaching replacement costs. In accord with program guidelines, the university agrees to release the awardees from their normal workloads while receiving their regular salaries, including benefits, during the 2020-2021 academic year.

The research support is made possible by the Florida Education Fund, which awards McKnight Fellowships to historically underrepresented minorities and women to support faculty diversity, tenure and promotion within Florida colleges and universities

“The Florida Education Fund’s commitment to promoting racial diversity through its fellowship programs highlights the value of black voices and experiences in the academe and the communities that we serve,” Jackson said. “The Florida Education Fund’s mission is one that also aligns with my own commitment as a planning practitioner who strives to promote racial equity in all facets of my research, teaching and work in communities of color.”

Jackson’s fellowship will support her research on mixed-income communities and ways to promote greater racial equity in the built environment.

She plans to continue her collaborative work with the National Initiative on Mixed-income Communities (NIMC). Jackson has been working with NIMC colleagues to evaluate Chicago’s Woodlawn Park, one of the Choice Neighborhoods of the Preservation of Affordable Housing (POAH).

Since starting to work in the Chicago area in 2008, POAH has built and renovated more than 2,000 homes in mixed-income buildings in the city and other Illinois communities. Bolstered by a $30 million HUD Choice Neighborhood Initiative grant in 2011, POAH has built and renovated mixed-income, mixed-use communities, created new levels of community collaboration and coordinated partner-driven development.

Jackson’s research focuses on assessing neighborhood change and residential displacement risk. She will be expanding this work to examine the implementation of Woodlawn Park to understand how key actors within POAH and the Woodlawn neighborhood promote inclusion within mixed-income communities, as well as how they sought to mitigate exclusion in the built environment.

During her fellowship period she will also be an affiliate at the University of Illinois at Chicago’s Natalie P. Voorhees Center for Neighborhood and Community Improvement.

“I am honored to be a recipient of the McKnight Junior Faculty Fellowship and be a part of a cohort of scholars of color that are addressing pressing issues faced by the Black community through research and teaching,” Jackson said. “This will allow me to focus my attention on critical issues of planning and developing inclusive affordable housing. I am eager to connect my research to planning practice on the ground that will support policies at the local level to mitigate residential displacement of existing low-income residents in communities of color that are undergoing revitalization.”

Wright will focus on completing two projects on improving community policing relations and the role of automation in decision making for social services.

The first project explores what is more pertinent to policing outcomes for civilians: racial representation within the police force or the use of Body-Worn Cameras to reduce police use-of-force scenarios.

The second project looks at whether people think they are being discriminated against by technological (i.e., non-human) systems when applying for social services. The research will assess if discrimination can be reduced by using technology to determine eligibility for social services.

Wright also plans to apply for a National Science Foundation grant to explore how virtual reality can be employed in efforts to reduce policing bias in police stops, e.g., using scenario-building to understand police discretion and decision making.

“It is an honor and privilege to be selected as a McKnight Junior Faculty Fellow,” Wright said. “By receiving this fellowship, I will be able to focus on research that not only has impacts within academia but changes the nature of policing in the United States. My projects will explore if we can identify what decision points lead to actions by police officers in specific scenarios. Further, my project will shed light on the values civilians place on technology relative to representation within the police force.”

Initially funded by a grant from the McKnight Foundation of Minneapolis, Minnesota, the Florida Education Fund was established in 1984 and has awarded more than 190 McKnight Junior Faculty Fellowships to historically underrepresented minorities and women to support faculty diversity, tenure and promotion within Florida colleges and universities. The program awards fellows a one-year sabbatical to engage in research projects.