2013 Lynton Award Recipient
The annual Ernest A. Lynton Award for the Scholarship of Engagement for Early Career Faculty recognizes a faculty member who connects his or her teaching, research, and service to community engagement. The award is designated for either pre-tenure faculty at tenure-granting campuses or early career faculty (i.e., within the first six years) at campuses with long-term contracts.
This year, NERCHE is pleased to present the Lynton Award to Dr. Farrah Jacquez, Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of Cincinnati. A licensed clinical psychologist, Dr. Jacquez is dedicated to reducing health disparities for underserved communities—with a particular focus on children. Dr. Jacquez’s approach to community-engaged scholarship underscores the value of reciprocity and collaboration, incorporating the expertise of community members most directly affected by health inequities, individuals from positions of power within community agencies, and academic partners, including students. Her nuanced understanding of the role that individual motivations and interests of community and academic stakeholders play in the design and implementation of community-engaged projects greatly improves the chances for success.
Utilizing community-based participatory research (CBPR), Farrah Jacquez involves community residents directly in the design and facilitation of research projects and the implementation of interventions that may occur as a result of the research. Inherent in this process is the importance of local knowledge in understanding and addressing community health problems. She writes, “By engaging communities in this participatory process, the emphasis of research is on practical problems of importance to its constituents, and the process itself provides an outlet to express needs and concerns. The knowledge generated from the research is culturally relevant and connected to people’s lived experiences and thus is more readily translated into action than knowledge that is disconnected from familiar contexts and practices.”
Central to the effectiveness of community-academic partnerships is the identification of clearly-stated goals by all partners. For instance, as part of the process for developing a successful joint grant application with the Adams County Health & Wellness Coalition (ACHWC)—a community organization comprising a diversity of key stakeholders dedicated to combating obesity—the team established a process for identifying individual member goals for projects involving nutrition education in grocery stores and public schools. This, in turn, allowed coalition members to choose projects with mutually beneficial objectives. As Dr. Jacquez explains, “Because we were clear with our goals from the beginning of the grant-writing process, we designed an initiative that met goals for scientific rigor (e.g., inclusion of a control group, use of standardized measures) yet also met community-identified needs (e.g., open enrollment in grocery store tours rather than random selection, education materials specific to Appalachian culture).”
Acknowledging that conflict often exists between the priorities of engaged scholars and community members, Dr. Jacquez recognizes that reciprocity in community-academic partnerships necessarily involves compromise. For example, in her work with ACHWC, she explains that “members are not always enthusiastic about data collection unrelated to service delivery; however, they have become partners in collecting surveys to gather needs assessment information because they understand that the data will help to reach larger partnership goals. Similarly, I often have strong ideas about the content of interventions we should deliver to children and families; however, I have learned to compromise on content in order to benefit from the expertise that comes with the lived experience of community members.”
Most of Dr. Jacquez’s projects have been cross-disciplinary through the collaboration of academic and community colleagues with diverse backgrounds. In one example, Dr. Jacquez collaborated with a geographer and several community stakeholders in Covington, Kentucky, to conduct a participatory research study in which local youth mapped the benefits and challenges of accessing physical activity in their neighborhoods and then created a prioritized list of needs for enhancing such access. By merging the expertise of a geographer and a psychologist with the expertise of the youth living in the neighborhoods, the team produced meaningful information immediately useful and applicable in a real-world context. As a result, these youth-generated maps and needs-assessments have been submitted to the City of Covington to help inform future development plans.
At the University of Cincinnati, Dr. Jacquez teaches courses using service-learning pedagogy in which students serve as collaborators in identifying project priorities, designing the projects, and evaluating project performance. For example, in 2011, students enrolled in her “Diversity & Health” course worked with elementary-school students to create funding proposals benefiting health and wellness at a partnering school. The undergraduates in the course made decisions about how best to work with the elementary-school students, the method by which to make presentations (e.g., songs, plays, testimonials), and the criteria by which they were graded on their performance in the class. Currently, a group of Jacquez’s students is spearheading participatory research efforts with youth in Latino-serving schools to identify unique stresses and coping strategies among Latino immigrant youth and to develop nutrition education media products.
Dr. Jacquez is clearly focused on research, teaching, and service that have a direct benefit for the external community. Data from her community-engaged projects are often used to frame future work and secure additional funding for collaborating organizations. In addition, she ensures maximum community benefit by designating community organizations as funding agencies in grant applications.
Reflecting on her work, Dr. Jacquez writes, “My passion for addressing health inequities has led me to engage communities in every aspect of my professional life. My research focuses on working with community partners to develop child health interventions. Through service activities, I attempt to represent the interests of my partnering communities to promote policies and decision-making that will promote health. In my teaching, I have increasingly engaged community partners to provide context to the content we teach in higher education.”
Dr. Jacquez’s community-engaged research, teaching, and service is clearly expanding the boundaries of the work first championed by Ernest Lynton.
The 2013 Lynton Award was presented at the 19th Annual Conference of the Coalition of Urban and Metropolitan Universities (CUMU), “Transforming and Sustaining Communities through Partnerships,” held from October 26-29, 2013, at the University of Louisville in Louisville, Kentucky. CUMU co-sponsored the Award.