Pittsburgh – When Howard Slaughter and four other African Americans earned their doctoral degrees from Robert Morris University in 2006, the novelty of so many minorities receiving advanced degrees simultaneously was such that it garnered media attention.
For Slaughter, keenly interested in public policy, it was a stark reminder that far too little public policy research is carried out by minorities, even though much of it is aimed at improving their communities. So he decided to do something about it.
Slaughter created the Minority Research Policy Group of Southwestern Pennsylvania (MRPGsp), which will launch with a news conference on Sept. 14 at 11:30 a.m. at historic Freedom Corner in Pittsburgh’s Hill District. Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl and Allegheny County Chief Executive Dan Onorato are set to be on hand for the event.
Slaughter will serve as chairman of the group, which includes nine Pittsburgh-area scholars and civic leaders. Among them are Rex Crawley, head of the Department of Communication at RMU, and Arthur Woods, who, like Slaughter, earned a D.Sc. in information systems and communications from RMU. Slaughter was the 2009 Outstanding Alumnus for the School of Communications and Information Systems at RMU.
“Now that I know how to do sound research, and there are a number of other African Americans who can do this as well, I wanted to take the experiences that we have as African Americans and apply it to public policy research,” said Slaughter, president and CEO of Landmarks Community Capital Corporation.
The research group will focus on policy issues that impact minority communities as well as the region as a whole. It will use its findings to advocate for policy change. PNC has provided a grant to support the group’s research.
Slaughter said that the group starts out with a lot of credibility because its members grew up in many of the same underprivileged communities it is trying to help.
“You can’t tell me that I don’t know what it’s like, because I lived it, and I can write about it from a scholarly perspective,” said Slaughter.
Crawley, who was Slaughter’s advisor in the doctoral program, said Slaughter’s idea for the research group came out of conversations the two of them had about how to increase educational opportunities for African Americans. They realized that the many challenges facing minority communities – a lack of good jobs, adequate housing and education – are interconnected.
“You can’t just tackle one issue. It’s the Band-aid approach, instead of finding a holistic cure,” said Crawley, an associate professor of communication and assistant dean of the School of Communications and Information Systems.
The group plans to release its first policy report in January on how to integrate those issues, or what Slaughter calls the “value chain model of social responsibility”:
• Education - Enhancing the quality of educational experiences and outcomes of minorities within the public schools.
• Employment – Building workforce development and access to meaningful career opportunities for minorities, to help reduce poverty and build economic wealth.
• Housing - Increasing access to and retention of affordable housing, with special emphasis on long-term homeownership.
• Health and Well-being - Strengthening the capacity of local health systems to provide quality care, and increasing availability of affordable preventative care.
• Business – Providing innovative, ongoing support and resources for emerging business enterprises to support development and success of minority owners and entrepreneurs.
“Allegheny County has a wealth of talented, energetic and diverse people who should be involved at every level of decision making,” said Onorato. “The MRPGsp will provide a strong voice for minorities in our region, as well as the opportunity to help shape public policy in southwestern Pennsylvania and across the commonwealth.”
The members of the Minority Research Policy Group of Southwestern Pennsylvania are:
• Chairman Howard B. Slaughter, Jr.
D.Sc. Information Systems & Communications, Robert Morris University
• Rex Crawley
Ph.D., Intercultural Communication, Ohio University
Associate Professor of Communication and Assistant Dean, School of Communications and Information Systems, Robert Morris University
• Angela Williams Foster
Assistant Professor, Public & Urban Affairs, University of Pittsburgh
• Frederick O. Kendrick
Ph.D., Organization Management, Capella University
International Director of Human Resources, K&L Gates LLP
• Audrey Murrell
Ph.D., Psychology, University of Delaware
Associate Professor of Business Administration & Psychology and
Director, David Berg Center for Ethics & Leadership, University of
• Curtiss Porter
Ph.D., Counseling Psychology, University of Pittsburgh
Chancellor, Penn State Greater Allegheny
• Herman Reid, Jr., advisor
Former Executive Director of Negro Educational Emergency Drive
• John Wallace
Ph.D., Sociology, University of Michigan
Associate Professor, School of Social Work, University of Pittsburgh,
Social Work Academic Programs
• Arthur Woods
D.Sc., Communications and Information Systems
Project Analyst, Supply Chain Management, Logistics, U.S. Steel
Pictured on the RMU home page is Howard Slaughter.