Assistant professor receives grant for bullying study

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Keisha Bentley-Edwards, educational psychology assistant professor, received a $100,000 grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to analyze bullying assessments for African-American students.

Bentley-Edwards, who is also a faculty affiliate for the African and African diaspora studies department, has started preparing for the two-year research study. Her study focuses on examining racial disparities in bullying research and practices.

“I decided to study how bullying affected the lives of African-American children, when I realized that this group was not well-represented in the bullying discourse,” Bentley-Edwards said in an email. “I was very surprised because African-American children have a higher risk for several of the risk factors associated with being a bully, as well as being a victim of bullying.”

Bentley-Edwards hopes to contribute to improving the assessment and socialization of black youths and families around bullying by establishing assessment resources sensitive to culturally relevant factors. 

“Because many bullying assessments do not capture the experiences of African-American children, their needs are not typically addressed in bullying prevention programs,” Bentley-Edwards said. “After talking to African-American parents and hearing their children’s experiences, I became convinced that I needed to look at bullying more closely in my research.” 

According to Bentley-Edwards, she was one of fewer than 10 applicants selected for the grant. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is the largest philanthropy for public health in the nation and has a specific branch called New Connections, which funded Bentley-Edwards’ grant.

In a statement, Catherine Malone, program associate for New Connections, said she was excited to welcome Bentley-Edwards to the program.

“It was a great honor,” Bentley-Edwards said. “I have a few colleagues that have received this award, including a former professor here at UT, Dr. Dnika Travis, that recommended that I apply for this specific funding mechanism.”

Bentley-Edwards said she is working with UT doctoral and master’s students who are gathering research and preparing manuscripts for publication. Next semester, she will add one or two undergraduates to her research team.