Driver and Richards Promoted to Associate Professor

Dr. Nichola Driver and Dr. Robert Richards have been awarded tenure and promoted to Associate Professor at the Clinton School of Public Service.

Driver, who serves as Executive Director for the Office of Field Service, is currently serving as an external evaluator for the North Little Rock Thriving Families Initiative, where she collaborates with Dr. Chul Hyun Park and The Contingent AR. This project aims to reduce the number of children entering foster care in North Little Rock by conducting a community-engaged needs assessment to develop strategies for increasing support for kinship placements and reuniting children with their families.

Driver also worked with the Arkansas Department of Health to better understand the low utilization of Medicare Annual Wellness Visits in Arkansas. Working with Clinton School graduates Becca Bona, Lucy Burgess, and Katie George, she conducted focus groups across the state, culminating in a report that outlined perceptions and barriers to Medicare visits. The study proposed strategies to incentivize wellness visits and was presented at the Southern Sociological Society Annual Meeting in April 2024.

Driver, Park, and Richards evaluated the Centering Pregnancy model at UAMS. Their published research showed that this group prenatal care approach led to better attendance, lower risks of preterm birth and perinatal death, longer gestation periods, and improved infant birth weight outcomes, particularly benefiting vulnerable mothers.

Currently, Driver is investigating racial and ethnic disparities in postpartum support using data from the Listening to Mothers California survey, in collaboration with recent graduate Katie George.

Richards, who is Co-Director of the Open Governance Lab, focuses his research on how ordinary people discuss public issues and participate in community governance. His recent work includes evaluating public deliberation processes such as the Citizens’ Initiative Review, the Oregon Citizen Assembly Pilot on COVID-19 Recovery, and the Washington Climate Assembly.

Richards co-authored “Deliberative panels as a source of public knowledge: A large-sample test of the Citizens’ Initiative Review,” published in PLoS ONE, demonstrating that voters’ knowledge of ballot measures improves through evaluations by deliberative panels of randomly selected citizens.

Another study, “Assessing Emergency Information Sharing between the Government and the Public during the COVID-19 Pandemic: An Open Government Perspective,” published in Public Performance and Management Review, examined the role of information in the citizen-deliberation process during the pandemic.

Richards also analyzed the Washington Climate Assembly in “The Washington Climate Assembly: note-taking modalities as deliberative guidance in an online citizens’ assembly,” published in the Journal of Applied Communication Research. His research on the Participedia Phase II project has resulted in over 100 case studies of citizen participation events worldwide.

In Arkansas, Richards helped lead the launch of the Arkansas Civic Health Index, a published 2023 report on civic engagement within the state. He is involved in Civic Arkansas and the Partnership for Democratic Practices in Arkansas, focusing on public deliberations and interracial dialogues.



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