Auburn’s University Outreach Delivers Leadership Training to Find Common Ground in Difficult Times

The Office of University Outreach at Sullivan Foundation partner school Auburn University has begun implementing a leadership training guide titled “Culture Bump: 8 Steps to Common Ground” as a tool to teach the Culture Bump Approach to individuals and educational leaders throughout Alabama.

The 149-page book, available on, was written by Carol Archer, originator of the Culture Bump theory and a former staff member at the University of Houston Language and Culture Center, and Stacey Nickson, director of Auburn’s Center for Educational Outreach and Engagement (CEOE). University Outreach has provided training for 55 staff members responsible for Head Start education at six locations in Alabama’s Black Belt.

“Auburn University’s Culture Bump training takes a different approach by helping our staff provide an educational environment that respects the values of every family whose child attends Head Start by finding common ground, even if we personally have an opposite point of view,” said Felecia Lucky, president of the Black Belt Community Foundation that oversees Head Start.

The Culture Bump Approach is an engaging and interactive process that teaches transformation of “culture bumps”—or differences with others—into authentic relationships. It includes a method that teaches negotiation of new insights into one’s own character or culture and leads to an exploration of “why” humans are different while affirming “how” we are the same.

University Outreach’s Culture Bump training makes this possible not only for individuals, but also for businesses, governments, schools, universities, hospitals, religious institutions, the military, political parties and neighborhood groups or for anyone faced with a circumstance in which people are confronted with “others.”

Earlier this summer, Outreach began training leaders from the Birmingham City Schools Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) as part of its School Climate Transformation Initiative Grant.

“Culture Bump diffuses a reactionary mindset of actively displaying biases against another,” said Stephanie Turner, director of PBIS. “Culture Bump teaches an individual to explore and understand differences through a process of being open-minded, communicative, honest and accepting. Simply stated, Culture Bump teaches individuals to become proactive and not reactive toward understanding differences among others.”

Culture Bump philosophy states that having bias is a human trait that will never go away and, in fact, that bias is necessary. It is a collection of biased thoughts that lead people to respond differently than one another, the concept presents.

“Naming the experience as a ‘culture bump’ rather than an intentional, personal act reveals the possibility of something beyond culture, something that is more universal,” Archer and Nickson state in the book, which was published in December.

The Culture Bump theory is predicated on the reality that people cannot escape the fact that interactions in every arena are influenced by individual responses to differences. Positive, negative or neutral reactions reveal themselves in the conflicts and violence that result from decisions made in response to differences in politics, education, religion, socioeconomics, race, gender, nationality or ethnicity.

“When we think of common ground, we generally understand it to be mutual understanding, and we assume that this includes agreement … Culture Bump points out that common ground and commonalities do not imply acceptance or even agreement; they simply imply a mutually understood category in which the individuals can hold opposite points of view,” Archer and Nickson write in the guide.

Culture Bump Approach tools and training can be accessed through the Auburn University Outreach’s CEOE. The Culture Bump online courses, virtual and hybrid trainings are administered through University Outreach.

This article has been edited slightly from the original version appearing on the Auburn University website.

Researchers at George Mason University Set the Stage for a Test That Detects Tuberculosis in Children

A team headed by two scientists at Sullivan Foundation partner school George Mason University has developed a urine test that detects tuberculosis in many types of patients and has proven especially effective in children.

The groundbreaking test can work anywhere in the world and can accurately detect tuberculosis lung infection, even in absence of HIV co-infection. During a new clinical study involving 430 tuberculosis patients and controls from five different countries, Alessandra Luchini, Lance Liotta and their team discovered novel kinds of tuberculosis markers that reached high levels of sensitivity and specificity to meet World Health Organization (WHO) criteria.

The test proved especially effective in diagnosing tuberculosis in children, where it is particularly lethal when unidentified and untreated. The researchers presented their data in a paper published in the August 18 issue of the journal Science Reports.

“Untreated children have a high mortality rate and are responsible for spreading the disease,” said Luchini, an associate professor within Mason’s Center for Applied Proteomics and Molecular Medicine (CAPMM) within the College of Science. “A urine test is a very simple solution that can be deployed in developing countries.”

The urinary markers identified by the researchers were able to correctly detect the disease in patients affected by tuberculosis infection of the bones, the larynx, and the brain and surrounding membranes, which usually require sophisticated and very invasive diagnostic techniques.

Tuberculosis diagnosis in children currently requires sophisticated hospitals and very invasive procedures such as lowering a string into the child’s throat. Not even these techniques always provide a conclusive diagnosis, Luchini said.

The researchers have identified a new type of biomarker that has high selectivity for children. Their urine-based test targets a molecule that derives from the surface of Mycobacterium—the microorganism that causes the disease—and can be used to directly monitor the presence of the microorganism in the body.

Additionally, this study was the first to define a relationship between diabetes and tuberculosis, suggesting that sugar composition of the tuberculosis bacterium cell wall is altered in diabetic patients.

(By Children’s Bureau Centennial – 3f05369r)

“Tuberculosis is a deadly disease, particularly in children,” said Liotta, a Mason professor and the co-director of CAPMM. “The number of patients we could help by an early urine diagnosis is in the millions.”

The study was conducted on a large number of patients living in Guinea Bissau, Uganda, Peru, Venezuela and the United States, and defined the criteria needed for a worldwide test. It was funded by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

Tuberculosis remains the world’s top infectious killer, with 10 million people annually falling ill from the disease and 1.5 million dying, according to the WHO. It’s the leading cause of death of people with HIV.

College of Science Dean Fernando Miralles-Wilhelm lauded the Mason researchers and their team for the partnerships that made the medical advance possible. “Our infectious disease experts are diligently working to solve the world’s toughest public health problems, including cancer, COVID-19, HIV and tuberculosis,” he said. “We appreciate the partnerships with NICHD and organizations that prioritize child health to allow our scientists to pursue these global breakthroughs. This proven TB testing method indicates that together we are making significant progress.”

Luchini, Liotta and their team drew international headlines more than two years ago following their publication in Science Translational Medicine describing the use of nanotechnology to measure a sugar molecule in urine that identified active tuberculosis with a high degree of sensitivity and specificity, particularly in patients who were not co-infected with HIV.

This article has been edited slightly from the original version appearing on the George Mason University website.