Friday Faculty Focus: Keyonna King

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September 16th, 2016

Dr. Keyonna King is a program evaluator at the STEPs program at UNO. (photo by Brandon McDermott)

Dr. Keyonna King is a program evaluator at the STEPs program at UNO. (photo by Brandon McDermott)

Dr. Keyonna King is the guest on this week’s episode of Friday Faculty Focus. She is a program evaluator with the Support and Training for the Evaluation of Programs at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. KVNO’s Brandon McDermott had the chance to interview her this week and filed this Q & A session.


Brandon: Dr. King, thanks for joining me on the show.

Dr. Keyonna King: Yeah, no problem, thank you for inviting me.

Brandon: Now Support and Training for the Evaluation of Programs or STEPs is the affiliate to the Grace Abbott School of Social Work here at UNO. STEPs partners with organizations who are serving children and families in poverty. What kind of work goes into that?

Dr. King: So what we do at STEPs is we utilize a participatory approach. That approach would really involve us partnering with the communities in order to achieve their evaluation goals of their various programs. Again, that relate to children and youth and families that live in poverty. In addition to that participatory approach, we also have a utilization focus. So, whatever products that come out of this are evaluation activities. We want them to be useful and appropriate for the audiences which would receive that information.

Brandon: Can you talk about your work at STEPs, what are you focused on?

Dr. King: My job at STEPs is, I am one of three program evaluators there that are full-time. But in terms of what I do, I will lead projects that are the evaluation of different programs throughout the Omaha area. We’re trying to also expand statewide. So, the hope is that we can also do more projects that are a little bit more statewide rather than just the greater Omaha area.

Brandon: You came to Omaha from sunny Southern California. Why come to UNO?

Dr. King: So I’m actually originally from Omaha. But, I moved away for school and I decided to stay away. After school I got a nice career going and wanted to pursue where that was going. As I got older, I felt a need to come back home. I think primarily because of what I was learning when I was in Southern California. It was something that I felt was necessary to also provide back home, in a way that is different than probably what’s already being done here. But, also working with what is being done here currently to try to kind of take things to a next level.

Brandon: You’re from Omaha originally. What sticks out to you about Omaha since you’ve returned.

Dr. King: I think the thing that stuck out the most to me is that ‘oh my gosh I feel like I’m in a totally different city.’ When I left over 10 years ago, it was nothing like what it is (now).  I mean where I work now STEPs is housed in the Barbara Weitz Community Engagement Center. So, that the building wasn’t even in existence when I was here. So, the growth that I have noticed since coming back has been tremendous. It’s also nice and refreshing, especially coming from Los Angeles. I’ve always been drawn to the fact that it’s a good place to raise a family. That is kind of where I am in my life starting a family and raising a family.

Brandon: While a UCLA you were the project manager for a study targeting older African-American women with uncontrolled diabetes. What went into your work?

Dr. King: That’s a good question. So that particular study was a randomized behavioral control trial. A lot of what we were trying to do was engage African-American women that came from a lower income area into practicing healthier behaviors particularly when it came to diabetes. We were noticing that these women older women were experiencing more complications as a result of their diabetes – which usually ended up in poor outcomes and even death. So we wanted to use a more innovative approach in dealing with the issue.  We partnered with the community in order to develop a text messaging component of that program where we had the ladies come in and we trained them on how to kind of utilize that text messaging. We sent the messages about diabetes, eating a healthy, exercising, and all of the activities that go into managing your diabetes.

Brandon: You also have significant experience in Community Based Participatory Research within the minority communities. Do you plan to work in CBPR while here in Omaha and if so in what capacity?

Dr. King: I do. I actually that is an area of expertise for me I have crafted and honed in on that skill for my entire educational career. I really feel like that’s something that I wanted to bring back to Omaha, starting with STEPs. Being with STEPs has afforded me the opportunity to work within the community and utilizing that participatory approach, I had talked about earlier, is a part of my expertise with community based participatory research.

Brandon: Is there any final thought you’d like to add; maybe something I didn’t touch on topic wise?

Dr. King: I think I just am very grateful to be back home and the work that I do with steps I think is very important I think we really strive to build capacity, particularly in evaluation and that is a critical component to what we do and it’s important.

Brandon: Dr. King, thanks again for joining me.

Dr. King: Yes, thank you.

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