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How Two Professors Are Helping Students Cope With Violence

Dr. Wanda Thruston and Dr. Barb Pierce are examining what they call a “wicked problem” – helping children deal with trauma and violence. We sat down with the professors from Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis to discuss their work.



Wanda Thruston, a clinical assistant professor in the Indiana University School of Nursing. CREDIT INDIANA UNIVERSITY-PURDUE UNIVERSITY INDIANAPOLIS

Araceli Gomez-Aldana: How would you define a “wicked problem?”

Dr. Pierce: “A wicked problem is a problem that is kind of intractable or kinda really hard to cope with.”

Dr. Thruston: “It’s severe and persistent exposure to violence. Maybe violence that they see within their families, within their communities or they experience themselves. It could be just disruption in their home. You know a parent gets incarcerated, being a witness to domestic violence, having police cars come past your house every single night and hearing those kinds of sirens. Those kinds of things that create trauma in children.”    


Barbara Pierce, an associate professor in the IU School of Social Work. CREDIT INDIANA UNIVERSITY-PURDUE UNIVERSITY INDIANAPOLIS

Araceli Gomez-Aldana : What are your overall hopes for this project?

Dr. Thruston: “Our hope is that we are able to not only work with the teachers and the children but also inform parents. We want to try to make a change in everybody that touches that child. Change the culture in Indianapolis.”  

Funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation will cover training over the next three years. The ultimate goal is to create a culture of change within schools and focus on the complex health issues faced by large communities.

The project will focus on students in Washington Township’s 12 public schools as well as two charter schools, Indianapolis Metropolitan High School and Vanguard Collegiate of Indianapolis.

This story was produced by Side Effects Public Media, a news collaborative covering public health.

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