Published Articles

Youth dialogue and design for educational possibility: eliciting youth voice in community development

Richardson Bruna, K., McNelly, C., Greder K., & Rongerude, J. (2020). Youth dialogue and design for educational possibility: eliciting youth voice in community development. Journal of Community Practice 28:2, 121-131, DOI: 10.1080/10705422.2020.1757006


Working with a community-based organization, we engaged middle school youth in mapping the realities of and dreams for their neighborhoods. We document the process we used to guide youth reflection on themselves as learners and, more specifically, detail our discoveries about their schools as learning places. Using critical literacy as a frame, we assert that youth insights about the physical, relational, and agentive environments of school reveal that they were able to read themselves as products of their community “text” in ways supported by scholarly understandings of educational inequity. This advanced and legitimized youth representation in our university-school-community partnership effort.

Who Takes the Cake in Community and Economic Development? ‘Going along’ with Metaphor to Problematize the Collective Impact of a Place-Based Promise Programme

Richardson Bruna, K., McNelly, C., & Rongerude, J. (2019). Who takes the cake in community and economic development? ‘Going along’ with metaphor to problematize the collective impact of a place-based promise programme. Ethnography and Education 15 (2).


Linguists understand metaphors to be shortcuts to an individual’s tacit knowledge about the world. As ethnographers and planners building a university-school partnership and seeking to understand residents’ perceptions of their urban neighbourhood, attention to use of metaphor allowed us insight into an insider’s mental model of who is in the community. In this article, we describe how, in our interview-based ethnographic needs assessment, one of our project participant’s metaphors helped us discern the lived nature of social stratification as racialised economic inequality. This insight not only informs our partnership work but subverts some important assumptions about programme impact. Our experience suggests metaphor analysis contributes an important tool for ethnographic interpretation.

If We Build It, Will They Come? Fielding Dreams of College Access

Richardson Bruna, K., Farley, F., McNelly, C., Sellers, D., & Johnson, R. (2017). If we build it, will they come?: Fielding dreams of college access & affordability through an innovative promise programJournal of Higher Education Outreach and Engagement 21 (4).

ISU 4U Promise Director, Dr. Katherine Richardson Bruna, and a team of collaborators representing early postdoctoral, doctoral, Extension and Outreach, and Financial Aid contributions to the initiative have written an article describing its unique characteristics. The article was published in December 2017.


This article describes the ISU 4U Promise, an innovative college access and affordability initiative. Through this early-commitment partnership program between Iowa State University and Des Moines Public Schools, youth from two urban elementary schools are eligible for tuition awards when they enroll as undergraduates at Iowa State University. Drawing on a review of promise programs in the educational scholarly literature, this article identifies what makes the ISU 4U Promise distinctive among promise efforts in terms of contextual antecedents, implementation processes, and potential institutional outcomes. Unique features include its early childhood focus; sole university sponsorship; “wide-net” reach; and collaborative, critical orientation to education and evaluation. With a bidirectional understanding of knowledge and a bivalent orientation to social justice, the ISU 4U Promise is a promising pathway for universities aspiring to update their approach to college access outreach.

Young Scientists and Ambitious Teachers Improving Health in an Urban Ecosystem

This five year project, called the Urban Ecosystems project for short, is funded by the National Institutes of Health  (Science Education Partnership Award). The Urban Ecosystems project is aimed at interrupting the reproduction of educational and health disparities in a low-income, urban context, through participatory inquiry focused on mosquitoes and human health. The work is centered in the ISU 4U Promise school communities, as part of our partnership to enhance college-going for students historically excluded from higher education. In addition, the project aims to provide pre-service teachers with understandings of ambitious and authentic science teaching through a community-based model that engages stakeholders in participatory action research and citizen science.
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Design Dialogues: Planning with African-American and Latino Youth and Parents for Educational and Environmental Development

The purpose of Design Dialogues was to provide opportunities for youth served by schools and organizations in the River Bend and King-Irving neighborhoods to share knowledge about their community spaces and learning places that could help guide the development of several ISU projects, including the ISU 4U Promise, in those contexts.  Design Dialogues served youth at Children and Family Urban Movement (CFUM) in Fall 2015 and at Callanan Middle School (CMS) in Fall 2016. Learn more >>

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