About the Empowerment Initiative

Our Mission

The nonprofit Empowerment Initiative supports translational research designed to foster positive, accepting communities free from bullying and other negative behaviors. Studies conducted through the Empowerment Initiative focus on identifying and addressing the complex personal, social and cultural factors underlying such behaviors, thereby advancing practical solutions to promote healthy relationships within families, schools and communities.

To support this mission, please consider making a tax-deductible donation to the Empowerment Initiative.

Read more about the Empowerment Initiative

Personal Acceptance

Embracing oneself serves as an important starting point for embracing others. The Empowerment Initiative investigates the factors that impact self-esteem, self-efficacy and other facets critical to developing and maintaining a healthy sense of identity. It also explores ways of combating anxiety, depression and other barriers to personal acceptance.

Social Acceptance

Interacting with family, friends, classmates, co-workers and other groups influences how people perceive themselves and the world around them. Accordingly, the Empowerment Initiative researches and develops prevention and intervention approaches designed to cultivate understanding, acceptance and an appreciation for individuality.

Cultural Acceptance

The Empowerment Initiative considers how a variety of interrelated systems – from communities to schools to the media – establish cultural codes and environments that cultivate or impede attitudes of acceptance. The initiative also examines how these conventions and contexts shape the social experiences and personal perspectives of individuals.


Dr. Susan Swearer has been a member of the school psychology faculty at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln since 1997, where she started the Target Bullying Research lab in 1999. Her research on bullying behaviors among school-aged youth has examined correlates and consequences of bullying, with the goal of helping students, school personnel and parents stop the bullying dynamic. The Target Bullying lab has also shed light on the important mental health connections underlying bullying and victimization. As a licensed psychologist, Swearer has taught and supervised the Child and Adolescent Therapy Clinic, focusing on training school psychologists in evidence-based cognitive-behavioral treatment approaches. Her clinical work and research led to the development of the Target Bullying Intervention Program, an individualized cognitive-behavioral approach to working with youth who bully others.

In 2012, Swearer received grant support from the Andrew Gomez Dream Foundation to collaborate with the Paul Mitchell network of cosmetology schools on the development of a social-emotional curriculum targeting self-empowerment, anti-bullying, and healthy relationships. This project served as the catalyst for the founding of the Empowerment Initiative through UNL's Nebraska Center for Research on Children, Youth, Families and Schools in 2013.

The Empowerment Initiative will facilitate and support translational research that advances understanding of the individual, social and societal factors necessary to create healthy environments that support children, youth, families and schools.