The research cluster will be collaborating with Collaborator Hong Tien Vu, an Assistant Professor in the William Allen White School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Kansas. Collaborator Vu brings expertise related to text mining, machine learning, social network analysis, and sentiment analysis. His community-based intervention approach involves finding solutions to issues that underserved communities are facing. He has worked in the areas of helping refugees with integration, aiding advocacy organizations in improving gender equality, and advising nonprofits on how to more effectively communicate their works to various audience groups. 

Collaborator Vu successfully completed a diversity research project titled “Digital media, social 
support and adjustment: Effects of digital literacy on immigrants’ and refugees’ integration to new 
communities in the U.S” between 2017-2018. His latest project, funded by the University of Kansas, 
Center for Migration was completed in 2018-2019. His experience in completing these projects will prove valuable to the ‘Project Education for All’.

In particular, Vu’s projects offered training courses on digital technologies to refugees from African countries and Myanmar. There are several types of digital skills Vu’s projects provided his clients through numerous training courses. They include (1) basic computer skills for beginners (e.g., using Microsoft Word, searching for information, using google applications such as translation services, maps, and emails among others); (2) digital literacy skills with regards to misinformation (e.g., credibility evaluation, password creation and protection as well as information source differentiation, among others), and; (3) social media for small business (e.g., basic social media marketing, advertising, interacting with customers). The curriculum was designed based on the results from a series of focus groups with potential participants and extensive consultations with community leaders. The objectives of these activities included helping refugees who were ICT beginners learn how to use computers and the internet in their everyday life in the U.S. confidently and safely, as well as equipping those who were interested in farming digital marketing skills to start and develop their businesses.

The research components of his projects, however, aimed to examine the adoption and use of digital technologies by refugees in their integration process. Specifically, they sought to investigate how refugees use digital technologies to seek social support and adapt to different aspects of their new life in the U.S. The projects were based on empirical evidence of positive impacts of the internet and digital skills on users’ online social support seeking and adjustments (Costanza-Chock, 2011; Tsai, 2006). They also stemmed from the fact that technology use varies widely among different population groups. In particular, migrants/immigrants, especially refugees, have been on the far end of the digital divide, where both digital literacy and access to the internet are real challenges for these users (Alarm & Imran, 2015; Kluzer, Hache & Codagnone, 2008). Vu’s projects have, therefore, contributed to finding the solutions to bridging the gap in digital use by refugees, hence providing support to this underserved population group in their integration into new communities. 

In implementing his projects, Vu recognized one of the major obstacles for the training programs 
was participants’ insufficient English language skill. This problem soon became a barrier to achieving the project goal in increasing participants’ digital literacy. This barrier made learning ICT skills more challenging for participants as the language of instruction was English, which had to be translated to their native languages. Additionally, the language barrier prevented participants from applying the knowledge and digital literacy skills they had acquired from the projects into their everyday life in the U.S. as most contents related to their new local communities are in English.

 In these projects, Vu worked closely with local institutions including Kansas City’s Kansas 
Public Library and several other local nonprofits (e.g., Catholic Charities of Northeast Kansas) that 
provide support services to refugees. Vu’s background as a communications professional for nonprofits working on projects fighting social injustice and campaigning for sustainable development will also be useful in helping to develop networks with local community leaders. Furthermore, Vu has been involved in a project that provided digital and online health information literacy training to seniors in Kansas City, MO. A research study based on the results from this project has been accepted for publication in New Media & Society, a top journal in the field of media studies. But most importantly, through this project he has gained extensive experience working with different underserved populations who have different needs for education and different expectations.

Vu’s expertise in social scientific research will be helpful for many of the project activities. In his research, Vu frequently uses traditional social scientific methods including focus groups, in-depth interviews, surveys, and experiments. His two recent projects that are closely related to the present one here were conducted using a community-based intervention approach. Apart from these traditional methods, Vu has also collaborated with computer scientists from Boston University in an interdisciplinary project to develop AI systems that enable quantitative studies of media coverage and public discussion of climate challenges and disaster response.

The role(s) of Collaborator Vu will include attending meetings with the cluster, helping in 
preparing the IRB-approved assessing personalized needs of refugee survey, providing expertise during creation of curriculum content and game design, meetings with PI, Co-PIs, and Senior Personnel Twomey on preparing the NSF draft proposal, and submitting the NSF proposal funding along with the PI and Co-PIs. Thus, collaborating with Vu and the University of Kansas will highly benefit the research team at Wichita State, leading to new opportunities for funding and publishing joint papers.