Writer: Roger Nielsen, nielsen@uga.edu

Yvonne Mensa-Wilmot, a Carl Vinson Institute of Government faculty member, is collaborating with nationally recognized experts this year in the inaugural National Institutes of Health-sponsored Mixed Methods Research Training Program. The training program is designed to help scholars learn more about mixed methods approaches that combine quantitative and qualitative research to study complex public policy issues.

Mensa-Wilmot, an evaluation expert with the institute’s Survey Research and Evaluation unit, was selected from among more than 100 researchers to join the first group of 14 scholars accepted for the national training program.

The training program is a collaboration of Harvard University, Johns Hopkins University and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. It is funded by the NIH with the goal of developing scholars who blend quantitative and qualitative research methods to address problems and to encourage other researchers to employ mixed methods techniques.

Mensa-Wilmot proposed developing a mixed methods study to evaluate the effectiveness of a statewide initiative by the Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities to combat underage drinking.

She said she applied to the training program because she found its stewardship component attractive. All program scholars are expected to serve as mixed methods research experts for fellow researchers in their university community and thus must stay current on best practices in mixed methods research.

“This program is going to augment my skills and broaden my knowledge, and I want to share that with my colleagues and the network of people I meet through this program,” Mensa-Wilmot said.

In the long term, she intends to apply a mixed methods approach to the research and evaluation projects she works on at the institute.

One of the program’s leaders, Charles Deutsch of Harvard University, has long investigated ways of helping academic institutions become effective partners with state and city governments, particularly in public health.

“The fact that Yvonne straddles the worlds of the state health system and the University of Georgia was a major attraction in selecting her. She also proposed a mixed methods project addressing a significant problem we’ve not made much headway on in the four decades I’ve been in public health,” said Deutsch, director of the Harvard Medical School’s Population Health Research Program.

During the yearlong program, Mensa-Wilmot will participate in a series of webinars about mixed methods research, and she will attend an intensive retreat this June in Baltimore.

“By participating in this innovative program, Yvonne will be better positioned to translate research into practical applications that will help health organizations across Georgia better serve their citizens, which remains a key component of the university’s outreach mission,” said Laura Meadows, director of the Institute of Government.

Story originally published in May issue of UGA Columns