The Adler School Showcases Police Officers’ Evolving Perspectives in “Faces of Poverty” Photo Exhibit

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The Adler School of Professional Psychology helps Chicago Police Officers see impoverishment through new eyes at a unique new photo exhibitat “Faces of Poverty,” on display from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 4 at the Black Walnut Gallery in Chicago (220 N. Aberdeen St.).

“The photos represent a journey taken by each of the officers,” said Laura L. Kunard, Ph.D., director of the Adler School’s Institute on Public Safety and Social Justice (IPSSJ). “Poverty became more personal to them.”

Poverty is nothing new to Chicago police officers, who witness it every day as they patrol the streets. But pursuing a master’s degree in police psychology at the Adler School of Professional Psychology (http://www.adler.edu) helps them to see impoverishment through new eyes, as evidenced by a unique new photo exhibit, “Faces of Poverty,” on display from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 4 at the Black Walnut Gallery in Chicago (220 N. Aberdeen St.).

The exhibit event, which will include cocktails and hors d’oeuvres, is open to the public, but an email RSVP to jpssj(at)adler(dot)edu is encouraged.

Police officers in the Adler School’s Spring 2009 Social and Community Psychology course were assigned to take two black and white photographs – one that represented what poverty looked like to them at the beginning of the course, and one that represented their perceptions at the end of the course.

The first-round pictures tended to depict poverty at a comfortable distance – homes in foreclosure and homeless people pushing shopping carts, or standing in soup kitchen lines. The second-round pictures revealed a more personal look at poverty, many of them featuring close-up portraits, including an image of a homeless veteran draped in an American flag who spends his days begging for money under an expressway, and another of a woman who works for minimum wage as a cashier in a donut shop and is unable to provide everything her family needs. Each exhibit photograph will be accompanied by a narrative about the subject written by the police officer.

“The photos represent a journey taken by each of the officers,” said Laura L. Kunard, Ph.D., director of the Adler School’s Institute on Public Safety and Social Justice (IPSSJ). “Poverty became more personal to them.”

The Social and Community Psychology course aims to help police officers understand that poverty is a structural and systemic issue, and that it’s not rooted in the personal characteristics of poor people, nor their failings, said Frank Gruba-McCallister, Ph.D., core faculty at the Adler School, who taught the course. Dr. Gruba-McCallister said the course helps police officers understand the larger social forces that can leave the underprivileged with few options regarding their economic and social status. He said a student in the class proposed a photography assignment and he liked the idea, structuring it to fit the course requirements.

“This exhibition demonstrates that education can be a transformative experience,” said Dr. Gruba-McCallister. “It shows that students can learn to question their own misconceptions, and that they can see their work in a whole new light.”

Social and Community Psychology is a core course in the Master of Arts in Police Psychology (MAP) curriculum. The MAP program was the first of its kind in the country and is the only one in Chicago. The goal of the program is to teach police officers to use the tool of psychology not only to do their jobs more effectively, but to learn to care for themselves as they deal with the extreme stresses of the job.

Although exhibit admission is free, the School’s IPSSJ requests that attendees bring donations to support Operation Duffle Bag, an initiative to deliver supplies to Chicago’s homeless veterans this winter. Requested items include duffle bags, socks, scarves, sweatshirts, shampoo, combs, under-shirts, T-shirts, gloves, hats, toiletries, toothbrushes, toothpaste and soap.

More About the Adler School of Professional Psychology:
The Adler School of Professional Psychology has provided quality education through a Scholar/Practitioner model for over 50 years. The School’s mission is to turn out socially responsible graduates that practice psychology throughout the world. The Adler School has ten graduate-level programs with approximately 900 students enrolled at campuses in Chicago and Vancouver, British Columbia. For more information visit Adler.edu/Vancouver, email achristopher(at)adler(dot)edu or call 604-482-5510.

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Colleen ODonnell

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