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Addressing the Research Complexities of the 21st Century: The Next Generation Program

Mary Beth Walker, Associate Provost for Strategic Initiatives and Innovation, Georgia State University, Next Generation Program

Mary Beth Walker, Associate Provost for Strategic Initiatives and Innovation

By Mary Beth Walker, Associate Provost for Strategic Initiatives and Innovation

It might seem unusual for a sociologist to work alongside an economist, or for a lawyer to work with public health researchers. But it’s not unusual for Georgia State University. It’s one of our great strengths.

Through the Next Generation Program we are bringing together the top minds across many fields to the university to engage in innovative research and teaching that crosses disciplines. It’s part of our successful 2011-16/21 strategic plan, which has been our roadmap to strengthening our university and building our national and international profile.

For our third round of the program, we recently selected four areas of research and scholarship to address critical and complex problems of the 21st century.

They include:

  • Harnessing Modern Biotechnologies and Bioinformatics to Improve Public Health
  • Interpersonal Violence Initiative
  • Population Health and Precision Medicine
  • Legal Analytics

You can read more about each of these pioneering areas at http://nextgen.gsu.edu/2018/02/13/third-round-next-generation-program-research-areas-selected/.

The Next Generation Program follows our successful Second Century Initiative (2CI) under the strategic plan. More than 80 faculty were hired using five rounds of proposals for interdisciplinary research clusters. They have significantly boosted Georgia State’s research profile while engaging in innovative and important research and scholarship.

These clusters also brought together outstanding faculty already at Georgia State into groups doing significant work that benefit metro Atlanta, the state, country and world. Here are a few examples of 2CI faculty who demonstrate the program’s value to the research community:

Anthony Lemieux, John Horgan and Mia Bloom: As the world confronts extremism, these top-class faculty have worked on important scholarship to address the threat. Lemieux is sorting out the propaganda techniques of ISIS as part of the Minerva Initiative of the U.S. Department of Defense. Bloom analyzes terrorism and extremist messages online and examines how women and children are ensnared into violence. She is also authoring a forthcoming book, along with Horgan, with insights on children who have been forced into violent extremism. As a psychologist, Horgan is trying to understand how people become involved in – and disengage from – terrorism. He sits on the research group of the FBI’s National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime.

Courtney Anderson and Eric Wright: Neither of these 2CI faculty were hired during the same year of the program, nor were they selected to work within the same research/scholarship cluster. But their work has intersected in a significant way for the city. Anderson, an associate professor of law at the Center for Law, Health and Society, contributed to the Atlanta Homeless Youth Count, led by Wright, a professor of sociology and public health. The project was the first comprehensive, most accurate count and assessment of the number of homeless youth in the metro area. Anderson’s work tracks housing, education and health in underserved Atlanta neighborhoods, and Wright is producing research that gives health providers knowledge about how to curb prescription drug abuse during the opioid crisis.

Ann-Margaret Esnard and John Marshall: Esnard’s research is helping policymakers plan for disasters and post-disaster recovery in the long and short term. She’s on numerous state and national committees addressing disaster planning and recovery research and also has written “Displaced by Disasters: Recovery and Resilience in a Globalizing World,” a valuable resource as policymakers learn to handle population displacement from catastrophic disasters. John Marshall, a professor of law, is using his experience to advise decision-makers as part of post-disaster recovery in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina.

Chris Basler is part of the Institute for Biomedical Sciences (IBMS), a key contributor to the university’s major expansion into health research. The IBMS has brought major research funding to the university. Basler garnered a $4.1 million grant for the development of a drug to treat Ebola – a horrific, deadly disease with no known cure or vaccine. He has also contributed research to reconstruct the 1918-19 pandemic flu outbreak that killed thousands on the battlefields of World War I – helpful now in the battle against our own severe flu season a century later.

These are only a few of the numerous examples of how researchers and scholars brought to Georgia State under these strategic hiring initiatives have been at the heart of the university’s emergence as a major national research institution.

Mary Beth Walker is the Associate Provost for Strategic Initiatives and Innovation at Georgia State University. She leads the university’s implementation of the 2011-16/21 strategic plan and helps to continue the strong momentum of Georgia State’s accomplishments in student success, in raising the research profile and in innovation. An economist, she was Dean of the Andrew Young School of Policy Studies from 2010 to 2017.




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