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SMC Status of Girls report receives update

| Thursday, October 16, 2014

Their voices were absent from the first Status of Girls (SGI) in Indiana report, but girls living in Indiana will tell their own stories in interviews as Saint Mary’s prepares a second study.

Last fall, Saint Mary’s released the first SGI report, a comprehensive statistical study on the health and well-being of Indiana girls ages 10-19, according to a Saint Mary’s press release.

The report, compiled by six members of the Saint Mary’s faculty and 60 students, provided a detailed summary of what girls’ lives in Indiana were like and served as a resource for scholars, non-profit leaders and policy-makers. At the time, Saint Mary’s was the fifth all-women’s college in the nation to release such a report, per a press release.

Noticeably absent from the report, however, were the voices of young girls. Terri L. Russ, associate professor of communication studies, and Marne Austin, assistant professor of communication studies, have since designed the current phase of the ongoing project to fill this void for the second SGI report by collecting oral histories from girls in Indiana ages 10-19.

Russ and Austin hope to generate a deeper understanding of the lives of girls while encouraging the surrounding community to take part in this important research project and talk about the things important to them, Austin said.

“In order to understand girls and their lives, we must invite and attend to their voices and the things they feel are important to them,” Austin said.

As faculty and students work on a second SGI report, additional professors are collecting oral histories from girls from around the state, Russ said.

“The hope is that by combining statistical data with narrative accounts, we can come to a deeper understanding of what the lives of girls in Indiana are like,” Russ said. “What do they care and worry about most? What do they wish adults knew about their lives? Additionally, we hope to create a searchable digital archive of these oral histories that can serve as an additional resource for other researchers, educators and agencies working with young girls.”

In order to fully understand the lives of girls, it’s important to take the time to talk to them about their lives and the things important to them, Russ said.

“While this might seem like common sense, surprisingly few researchers actually take the time to do so,” Russ said. “We are not those researchers, and in fact, we argue that any research about young girls without talking to them has little true value.”

The professors want to hear the voices of their communities and add it to their research to ensure they are compiling a fuller overview of Indiana girls’ lives, Austin said.

We are looking for girls from all demographic backgrounds,” Austin said. “In other words, it doesn’t matter what your race, ethnicity, religion, income or sexual orientation is.”

The procedures and methods for this project have been reviewed by the Saint Mary’s Institutional Review Board to ensure that all phases of the project adhere to standard academic ethical guidelines. These guidelines dictate that project participants will not be harmed during the research process and that confidentiality of all participants will be maintained, according to a press release.

Russ and Austin hope their research contributes to the building a greater understanding of girls’ lives in Indiana, Russ said.

“The only requirement is that you be between the ages of 10 and 19 and live in Indiana,” Russ said. “Participation will only take about an hour of your time, but the results will be long-lasting and significantly important.”


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