Georgia Southern
Credit: Georgia Southern

For more than 30 years, Georgia Southern University’s National Youth Advocacy and Resilience (NYAR) Conference (formerly the National Youth-at-Risk Conference) has served as an epicenter of information sharing and advancement for the support of youth facing challenges across the nation. The conference recently led to the creation of the NYAR Research Center, an interdisciplinary facility that is housed in Georgia Southern’s College of Education (COE) to further enhance the conference’s efforts in supporting youth across the nation.

As early as spring 2022, the NYAR Research Center will begin conducting research and developing evidence-based practices to support University professors, educators, community partners and other adults impacting youth. NYAR Conference co-chairs Alisa Leckie, Ph.D., and Taylor Norman, Ph.D., initiated the proposal for the Center and brought together a group of faculty and administrators from multiple colleges at Georgia Southern to support cutting-edge and interdisciplinary research that will have the greatest impact on youth advocacy and resilience.

“Each year at the NYAR Conference, adults who work with our nation’s youth gather to discuss how we can make a difference for our youth who are facing challenges from many different directions,” said Norman. “To make our efforts intentional and focused, we are utilizing the faculty and staff at Georgia Southern University to formally bring together our resources and centralize our efforts impacting the lives of our youth.”

The research and work of the NYAR Research Center is based on five interacting areas developed by a team including COE’s Coredlia Zinskie, Ed.D., that impacts the academic, social and emotional well-being of youth. Referred to as the Five H’s, the interacting areas include: head for intellectual achievements and school leadership; heart for social and emotional skills; hands for safety and protection; health for physical and mental health; and home for family and community support.

“Through the Center, faculty will engage in interdisciplinary research alongside community partnerships to assist young people in overcoming conditions that are threatening their safety, health, emotional needs and/or intellectual development,” said Leckie. “This research will serve to inform practice, create evidence-based professional development, and implement change in not just schools but community programs, the juvenile justice system, universities, families and beyond.”

The Center aligns with the University’s mission to be a public impact institution, including the five designated research impact areas.

“Specifically, the NYAR Research Center will advance the University’s efforts to impact the region and beyond in the areas of community enrichment as well as holistic fitness and wellness,” said COE Dean Sharon Subreenduth, Ph.D.

The NYAR Center will open under the co-directorship of two Georgia Southern faculty members. Applications for the co-directors will be collected this fall.

While the Center is housed within the COE, efforts to initiate the NYAR Research Center are strongly supported by a diverse team of faculty and administrators including: Maya Clark, Ph.D., associate professor of communication sciences and disorders in the Waters College of Health Professions; Daniel Larkin, Ph.D., assistant professor of philosophy in the College of Arts and Humanities; William Mase, DrPH, associate professor of health policy and management, and Joseph Telfair, DrPH., associate dean for practice and research in the Jiann-Ping Hsu College of Public Health; Chad Posick, Ph.D., associate professor of criminal justice and criminology, Katy Gregg, Ph.D., associate professor of child and family development, and Brenda Blackwell, Ph.D., professor and associate dean in the College of Behavioral and Social Sciences; Juliann McBrayer, Ed.D., associate professor of educational leadership, and Tracy Linderholm, Ph.D., COE associate dean for administration and faculty affairs.