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UNL’s Swearer to help launch Lady Gaga’s Born This Way Foundation

This week, Lady Gaga and her mother, Cynthia Germanotta, will officially launch the Born This Way Foundation to promote tolerance and empowerment among youth. Susan Swearer, a UNL professor of school psychology and an anti-bullying expert, will be among a select group of scholars to help lead the kickoff event.

The pop icon’s new foundation tapped Swearer to lead one of five discussion topics during an all-day symposium on Feb. 29 as part of the foundation’s official opening event at Harvard University. Swearer will be the point person on discussions about putting research into action in the classroom to stem the effects of bullying.

“I’m incredibly honored to be a part of the official launch of the Born This Way Foundation,” Swearer said. “Lady Gaga’s voice reaches billions, and her ability to get anti-bullying messages out into the world is unparalleled. I and others involved are eager to do anything we can to help form and inform those messages.”

Lady Gaga’s representatives contacted Swearer, who co-directs the Bullying Research Network that promotes and assists international collaboration among bullying and peer victimization researchers, last summer in preparation for the foundation’s launch. She has consulted with and helped to create resources for them as the foundation has prepared to officially enter the national anti-bullying discussion. Swearer said throughout the process, she has been impressed with the singer’s involvement and engagement.

“This is much more than a celebrity giving lip service to a cause. (Lady Gaga) is thoughtfully, intellectually trying to solve the problem of bullying,” she said.

Swearer said she plans to lead discussions throughout the day about how to translate the latest research into anti-bullying action. Also, she will focus on what kind of anti-bullying curricula and programs exist for schools at all levels, where gaps exist and how to fill them, and what needs to be happening for schools to get access to effective anti-bullying curricula.

“We’ll take a good look at what barriers teachers, administrators and schools as a whole face in making this a priority,” she said.

Swearer has shared her expertise in a number of public forums. Last March, she was invited to the White House by the Obama administration to speak at and participate in a conference focused on finding solutions to the issue in conjunction with the Department of Education’s Office of Safe and Drug Free Schools.

The Born This Way Foundation will host a kickoff event at Harvard’s Sanders Theatre. Gaga will be joined by her mother and other guests during the official unveiling. The foundation has partnered with the John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, The California Endowment and The Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard to explore the best ways to reach youth and “create a new culture of kindness, bravery, acceptance and empowerment,” according to the foundation’s official materials.

BTWF, a nonprofit charitable organization, will address issues like self-confidence, well-being, anti-bullying, mentoring and career development through research, education and advocacy. With a focus on digital mobilization to create positive change, BTWF will lead youth into a braver new society where each individual is accepted and loved as the person they were born to be.

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