I wear many hats but identify as a scholar-practitioner living at the borders of being a community psychology practitioner and being a faculty member within academia. I am a faculty member within the NLU Community Psychology Doctoral Program in Chicago. NLU is a unique setting in that we are primarily a minority and Hispanic serving institution, which means we serve a high number of Black and Hispanic students. We also attract and serve an increasing number of students around the globe (e.g., Nigeria, Palestine, India, Kenya). I believe that working with the specific populations we do requires embedding a critical, liberatory, and decolonial stance in orientation to the field.
As part of my faculty role, I am also the Co-Chair of the NLU Civic Engagement Center involved in working to develop the ideological infrastructure needed to support ethical and deliberate university-community partnerships for communities we serve in the Chicagoland area. Through this role I advise on university-wide initiatives to promote civic and community engagement at all levels of the institution. We are currently conducting research to assess ways in which NLU students and alumni are impacting their communities and how NLU can best support educational experiences that lead to local, national, and potentially, global transformational change. Within this context, I teach Introduction to Community Psychology, Qualitative Research Methods, Mixed-Methods, Dissertation Proposal Writing, and Leadership and Organizational Change.
I am fortunate to work at an academic institution that values a breadth of scholarship which allows me to pursue a number of interests. In general, I am interested in addressing a broad range of social issues simultaneously and therefore intentionally work with a number of scholars and practitioners, both as students locally and around the globe. I advise on a number of student projects where we co-learn and teach each other. Some examples of student projects include: examining hyper-criminalization among formerly incarcerated individuals living in Illinois, understanding Black maternal activism in Chicago, evaluating to what extent local community mental health services create empowering outcomes, understanding challenges to Hispanic parent engagement with the Chicago Public School system, assessing effectiveness of homeless services by examining interorganizational network activity, and understanding how the perspectives of medical professionals shape the design of medical research teams working to meet the needs of indigenous communities.
I am currently most passionate about a few areas of scholarship-practice: 1) developing innovative community psychology education models grounded in a liberatory critical approach, 2) participating in and supporting transdisciplinary community-based research to address multiple social problems simultaneously through educational opportunities promoting transformational systems leadership; 3) facilitating and conducting community-level research and evaluation to uncover ideological structures driving the function of dominant culture-based community systems, and 4) participating with the global Community Psychology movement to uncover larger processes of colonialism while promoting decolonial praxis as a guiding and generating force locally.
Extracurricular, Organizing & Community-Based Work
Complimentary to the scholarship-practice work I do are a number of additional activities that intersect to influence local needs of various historically underserved Chicago residents:
1. Organizational Capacity Building for Local Mexican, Immigrant & Refugee Communities: This ongoing work involves consulting with local nonprofits serving Pilsen and Little Village residents of Chicago to facilitate strategic planning, retreats, and capacity-building around evaluating community-level systems change initiatives serving primarily Mexican, immigrant, and refugee communities.
2. Addressing Inequality & Racism in West Side Chicago: Our college of Professional Studies and Advancement is currently developing ideas to partner with several community organizations, residents, and alumni on the West Side of Chicago. We are developing educational opportunities to address economic inequality and structural racism. This work is linking to existing participatory action research already being conducted by our students and alumni.
3. Evaluating Diverse & Effective Hispanic Serving Doctoral Education: I am the evaluator on a large 5-year grant to build out NLU’s role as a Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI) for Doctoral students. This work is being developed in partnership with local community organizations to ensure the relevance of resources and curriculum meet the needs of our local communities.
4. Supporting Community Organizing & Advocacy on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA): The NLU Civic Engagement Center is coordinating with multiple organizations across the city of Chicago serving diverse immigrant and refugee communities via a DACA Task Force to prepare for the supreme court decision on DACA expected this June 2020.
5. Promoting Education on American Indian History in Chicago: I have been partnering with the local American Indian Center (AIC) in Chicago to ensure that accurate histories of American Indians are taught within the Chicago Public School System (CPS). I am also participating with AIC to support changing Columbus Day to Indigenous People’s Day in Chicago. Just this week, CPS voted to celebrate Indigenous People’s day over Columbus day within the school system.
Goals & Aspirations in Coming Years
Overall, my interests involve uncovering values systems that drive the structure and function of community systems, disrupting oppressive structures that perpetuate a multitude of social problems, and work to create settings that cultivate more ethical ways of being. I seek to co-create spaces where I can engage with others through as much of a pleasure activism approach as possible. More recent writing projects include: 1) uncovering ideologies of colonialism influencing interorganizational collaboratives using a critical community psychology framework; 2) articulating a continuum of community psychology practice; 3) examining community psychology education within a global decolonial context; and 4) developing a deeper understanding of what it means to live in embodied praxis towards building the Decolonial Village.
Lessons Learned from My Work
We work on issues that can feel extremely heavy, in many ways. I believe it is important that we find our people; the people that help us to connect to our true selves, and cultivate spaces to enjoy one another while we are on this earth. The topics are serious, and the problems are real, but we don’t need to take ourselves so seriously all the time. I try to remember this – that it’s ok and important to laugh - to remember that we are beautiful in all our humanity. I have learned that no matter the roles we hold, or the contexts we are in, we always have the option be kind to one another and drop all the pretense. We must work to acknowledge the dynamics we are living in, including being keenly aware of the power we hold. We also need to see past the ways in which we have been taught to view and treat each other, and choose to connect on a more human level. Let’s choose to expand our idea of family to connect authentically with all, as we are all part of the human family.
I am most active in the American Evaluation Association, the Chicagoland Evaluation Association, and SCRA. I am currently participating with the SCRA Council on Education with an interest in supporting innovations in education that can enhance our ability to promote community transformation for minority and indigenous populations within the US and abroad. In addition, I currently participate in building the Decolonial Village with the Psychologists for Social Responsibility Decolonial Racial Justice Action group. I am also the recent recipient of the 2019 NLU Excellence in Research, Scholarship & Inquiry Award.
Thank you so much for your time and contributions!