Under the direction of Professor Premilla Nadasen, Mississippi Semester brings together a small group of undergraduate students in a collaborative action-driven project with Mississippi Low-Income Child-Care Initiative, an advocacy organization of women on welfare and child-care providers, based in Biloxi, MS. Students are working closely with members of Mississippi Low-Income Child-Care Initiative to develop an Economic Security Index for women in Mississippi. We have partnered with the Barnard Empirical Reasoning Center to collect census data and use GIS to digitally map the information. Students will also interview local residents about their experiences with poverty. We will spend seven days in Mississippi to participate in community meetings to get feedback on the economic security index, conduct interviews, and meet with state legislators. Upon returning to New York, students will engage in post-trip recalibration of the index and prepare op-eds for publication.
This course is a model of community-engaged, experiential learning. It attempts to flip the script of campus-community relations by thinking about poor communities not as research subjects but as research collaborators. Not only are student learning valuable skills (such as GIS and interview techniques) and delving into the history of welfare and public policy but they are producing outcomes that will have real-life applicability.
Mississippi is one of the poorest and most racially polarized regions in the United States. At the same time, there is a long history of organizing by local residents and attempts at political empowerment of marginalized groups. It is from them that this course draws inspiration.
What is the Mississippi Low-Income Child Care Initiative?
Founded in 1998 the Mississippi Low-Income Child Care Initiative (MLICCI) began as a statewide gathering of more than 100 low-income parents, child care providers, and community leaders to discuss low-income working families’ need for quality and accessible child care.
“Mississippi Low-Income Child Care Initiative improves the child care assistance program serving low-income working parents and strengthens the financial viability of the child care centers that serve them, so that no mother has to choose between the job she needs and the child she loves.
Child care is expensive – sometimes costing as much or more than college tuition. Mississippi’s Child Care Payment Program helps low-income working parents afford the child care they need. These programs have been proven to increase employment, reduce poverty, reduce absenteeism and turnover for employers, contribute more tax revenue into the general fund, and support school readiness in children.
Despite the benefits of early childhood education, the Mississippi Child Care Payment Program only serves a fraction of eligible children. MLICCI tenaciously works to change that.
Because of MLICCI’s deep relationships with low-income single mothers and providers, we know that systematic racism and sexism impact the state’s current child care assistance climate. Single mothers face an inequitable workforce. Providers struggle to finance services in a punitive policy climate with inadequate revenue. Because of these realities and their intersectionality, in 2015 we launched a campaign to advocate women’s economic security. Our movement building is bolstered by our growing gender analysis capacity, as well as our state and national policy partners.”
– MLICCI Mission Statement