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KU researchers to study population changes in Garden City, southwest Kansas

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2012, at 9:57 a.m.

Researchers at the University of Kansas have won a grant to study how 30 years of continuous population changes in Garden City have changed local schools and what that can teach educators throughout the nation.

Jennifer Ng, associate professor of educational leadership and policy studies, and Don Stull, professor of anthropology, have received a $40,000 grant from the Spencer Foundation, Ng said. They will do research in the southwest Kansas community, which has seen continuous immigration from around the world since the early 1980s and is now a majority-minority community.

Since the opening of what was then the world’s largest beef packing plant in December 1980, the community has become home to immigrants from Latin America, southeast Asia and, more recently, nations such as Somalia, Ethiopia and Myanmar.

The research will have broad significance, the professors say, as communities across the Midwest, southeast United States and Canada have seen many of the same challenges and opportunities. Food processing has become a major industry in rural economies, and immigrants have increasingly settled in rural areas rather than in large coastal cities.

The researchers will conduct interviews in the public schools with teachers, administrators, parents and students to learn how community demographics have affected their daily operations. They will study how the school district serves needs of its student body, which includes migrant and refugee students and speakers of 21 languages other than English.

Roy Wenzl

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