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September 19, 2013 (Indianapolis, Ind.) — Today Saint Mary’s College, a Catholic, women’s liberal arts college in Notre Dame, Indiana, released The Status of Girls in Indiana 2013. A team of faculty and students compiled the 60-page report, which draws together publicly available statistics on Hoosier girls ages 10 to 19. The SGI report is topically arranged and covers demographics (income, race, housing, etc.), education(attendance, standardized test performance, graduation rates, etc.), and health(physical activity, diet, substance use, mental health, abuse, etc.). From all indications, it’s the first comprehensive study on the health and well-being of Indiana girls.
“What better place than a women’s college to consider the status of girls in our state?” reasoned Saint Mary’s College President Carol Ann Mooney. “At Saint Mary’s College, we empower women to make a difference in the world. Thanks to those who worked tirelessly on this report, policy and state decision makers have an additional tool to make informed decisions regarding girls in Indiana.”
The SGI report was officially released this morning at a news conference held at the Independent Colleges of Indiana (ICI) office in the state’s capital. Saint Mary’s College is an ICI member institution. At the press conference, Kristin Garvey, executive director of the Indiana Commission for Women, called the Saint Mary’s report “extremely thorough.”
“Anyone who works with, provides services for, or is concerned about the well-being of girls will find this report a much needed addition to their work,” said Garvey, who served as an expert reviewer of the SGI report. “By providing a current snapshot of girls in Indiana, this report provides statistics for individuals, organizations, and agencies that need the information to offer recommendations for future programming efforts or policy considerations.”
Vincent Caponi, executive chairman of the board of St. Vincent Health, also spoke at the news conference. “This report identifies areas of opportunity that have healthcare implications, such as depression, substance abuse, obesity and physical activity. As healthcare providers, it is our responsibility to not only read and analyze this data, but also put plans and initiatives in place to ensure we are addressing the issues,” he said. Caponi is a former trustee on the Saint Mary’s College Board of Trustees and served as an expert reviewer of the SGI report.
Over two years ago Mooney challenged the College’s Center for Women’s Intercultural Leadership (CWIL) to lead the way for an Indiana report after learning about similar studies done by women’s colleges in other states.
“CWIL supports programming and research on women's leadership and connects students and faculty with community leaders that serve girls and women for mutually beneficial collaboration,” said Elaine Meyer-Lee, CWIL’s director. “We were delighted to mobilize faculty and students and we applaud their work, which takes seriously the intersection of gender, race, and socioeconomic class affecting girls in Indiana.”
Led by five Saint Mary’s faculty, 60 students in four courses collected the data and edited the copy for the SGI report. Leading the project were Kristin Jehring Kuter, assistant professor of mathematics, and Gina Deom of Evansville, who graduated in May with a degree in statistics and actuarial mathematics.
"The students put into practice the skills that they learned in class,” Kuter said. “The statistics students applied skills of exploratory data analysis; education students utilized various types of technology; and journalism students edited copy.”
Deom devoted her senior comprehensive project to the education section of the SGI report. She was struck by data showing that girls’ performance in math and science wanes somewhere between grade school and high school. “Why are girls performing similarly in math and science on the ISTEP compared to boys, but significantly falling behind on AP, SAT, and ACT testing regarding math and science?” Deom considered.
The report can leave the reader with much to contemplate. Kuter was surprised by the mental health and body image data. “I didn’t realize that the figures of girls affected by depression and suicide were as high as they are, and that girls in the eighth grade seem to struggle the most with these issues.” Mooney shared similar observations. “Depression, inactivity, and obesity were significantly higher in Indiana than in the rest of the nation. Suicide rates were also statistically higher,” she noted.
ICI was proud to host the news conference. “The Status of Girls in Indiana report is an example of the opportunities available at Indiana’s 31 private colleges and universities for students to engage in significant research projects with faculty members. The low student-faculty ratio and strong sense of community found on our campuses facilitate just this type of experiential learning,” said Richard L. Ludwick, president and CEO of ICI.
Click here to download a copy of The Status of Girls in Indiana 2013 report.
About Saint Mary’s College
Saint Mary’s College, Notre Dame, Ind., is a four-year, Catholic, residential, women’s liberal arts college offering five bachelor’s degrees and more than 30 major areas of study, such as business, nursing, art, chemistry, and social work. The College’s single-gender environment has been proven, in study after study, to foster confidence, ethical leadership, and strong academic success. Saint Mary's College ranks 76 among the “Best National Liberal Arts Colleges” for 2014 published by U.S. News and World Report. Founded in 1844 by the Sisters of the Holy Cross, Saint Mary’s College’s mission is to educate women and prepare them for postgraduate success whether it’s a first job, graduate school, or postgraduate service.