LSU School of Social Work Teams with Capital City Alliance for Quality of Life Study in Baton Rouge Community
BATON ROUGE – An invisible minority in the Baton Rouge community is about to make a big statement once again.
For the second time since 2007, LSU School of Social Work assistant professor Elaine M. Maccio and her students are teaming up withCapital City Alliance, or CCA, to conduct a quality-of-life study in the community.
CCA is local nonprofit organization with “quality of life” in its mission, which includes advocating and educating on behalf of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer – or LGBTQ – community in the Greater Baton Rouge area. The partnership was established four years ago, and the team has since collaborated three times on service-learning projects, all of them research based, and two of them quality-of-life studies.
Service-learning is an experiential approach to learning and teaching that sees students pair with the community to work on a community identified need, and engages students in meaningful reflection, such as journals, discussion, and presentations.
CCA commissioned the students to conduct a follow-up study of the 2007 quality-of-life research, which yielded data that have since helped CCA advocate several times over for policy change and equality measures.
Brandon Reed, CCA board member and Southern University law student, said that feeling safe, being able to access services, and having recourses available that meet basic needs would be important to anyone.
“Every citizen of Baton Rouge should care about their quality of life,” Reed said.
The 2007 survey made a significant dent in improving the quality of life for the local LGBTQ community, and CCA has big plans for the 2011 findings. The original study gathered 350 completed surveys; both CCA and the class are hoping to double that this time.
As much of a difference that this partnership makes for the local community, it also enhances the students’ educational experience. As graduate social work students, working in the community is familiar territory. Yet students rarely have an opportunity to learn about the LGBTQ population to this degree, let alone work with it directly. And what a learning experience it has been so far.
“This project has opened my eyes to the lack of activities for the LGBT community in the Greater Baton Rouge area,” said Shannon Smith, one of 16 students enrolled in the course.
Julia Broussard, one of Smith’s classmates, added that the project makes the application of classroom learning to real-world problems obvious.
“Working on our class’ service-learning project has helped me to better understand how research can aid advocacy efforts for underserved and oppressed community members,” Broussard said.
Students also learned how to go after financial support for their efforts, successfully obtaining a University Presbyterian Church Community Service Grant to fund printing study announcements.
For Reed, the impact of the project is palpable.
“This survey makes me proud. I feel that it will facilitate bridging the gap between guidance research and practice throughout Louisiana,” he said.
This impact is certainly not lost on the students either.
“It is gratifying to be part of a project that will highlight the issues faced by the LGBT community of Baton Rouge and that will enable this community and its allies to better advocate for needed services and rights,” Broussard said.
Those interested in taking the survey can do so by visiting http://ccabatonrouge.org/.