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Here we highlight the extraordinary work of our members, both those recognized by SCRA and those who have won awards from the APA.
Suvarna Menon received her degree from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2019. Dr. Menon is currently a postdoctoral fellow at the Center for the Study of Family Violence and Sexual Assault at Northern Illinois University. Dr. Menon’s dissertation examined key processes in the response to domestic violence in India by focusing on a grassroots non-profit organization that runs domestic violence centers for families experiencing violence. The dissertation involved three sub-studies that attended to multiple ecological levels. The first study sought to examine how the agency functioned as an empowering setting for survivors by understanding a) the process of working with survivors and b) the mechanisms that facilitate women’s empowerment. The second study sought to understand how this setting functions as empowered setting fostering institutional changes in the systems-response to domestic violence. The final study examined how this setting functions within a patriarchal space as an empowered setting facilitating community change evidenced through its facilitation of counter narratives of social change. These studies occurred within a particular service delivery context and attended to organizational structure, staff perspectives and survivor voices to understand the agency’s functioning, while also examining distal cultural forces that may facilitate or impede women’s empowerment and social change.
Dissertation Title: Violence Against Women in India: Empowering Settings, Empowered Communities, and Social Change
Dissertation Chair: Nicole Allen, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Liz McConnell received her degree from DePaul University in 2019. In her dissertation, “Race-Related Social Contextual Factors, Substance Use, and HIV Among Young Men Who Have Sex with Men in Chicago,” Dr. McConnell sought to increase understanding of multilevel drivers of the disproportionate impact of HIV among Black young men who have sex with men (YMSM). She took a multiphase, explanatory sequential mixed methods approach in which she visualized network and geospatial data from a parent study of YMSM, shared these visualizations in interviews with a subset of Black, White, and Latino participants from the parent study, and used a grounded theory approach to understand participants’ reactions and interpretations. This approach allowed her to incorporate the voices and lived experiences of these young men and yielded rich findings clearly illustrating multilevel, social-contextual influences on racial disparities in this population. This project was supported by an NRSA (F31) fellowship from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (1F31DA040524).
Dissertation Title: Race-Related Social Contextual Factors, Substance Use, and HIV Among Young Men Who Have Sex with Men in Chicago
Dissertation Chair: Dr. Leonard Jason, DePaul University (Chair) & Michelle Birkett Northwestern University (Fellowship Sponsor)
Brian Christens studies civic participation and systems change efforts, including why various forms of civic action lead to different outcomes, and the relationships between participation in social action and other aspects of human development. He is the author of Community Power and Empowerment (2019, Oxford University Press), which connects research on psychological and organizational empowerment processes with a framework for understanding and altering community power structures. He is currently co-editing a special issue of the Journal of Community Psychology on community organizing. He serves as an associate editor of the American Journal of Community Psychology, and editor of the Contemporary Social Issues book series published by the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues and Cambridge University Press. Brian is an associate professor and director of graduate studies in human and organizational development at Vanderbilt University.
August John Hoffman’s work has focused on underserved groups, building community, and improving the environment through community gardening, outdoor environments, and green space programs. His publication record includes multiple published books (13) and 36 journal articles. He brings together students and community members, providing resources, skills, and knowledge through the implementation of ecologically sustainable programs. His service to the community has yielded positive effects on students and community members, and his work has increased availability and access to healthy foods. His action strategies for promoting a community’s wellbeing through access to green spaces and gardening are innovative and unique. August Hoffman’s community service and volunteer work throughout the last several years has been both transformative and inspiring to students and community residents. His community gardening action projects are innovative and have galvanized communities, empowered people and helped residents develop a sense of community. Such gardening projects have taken place locally (e.g., the Red Lake Tribal Nation and recently a project to create a sustainable vegetable garden at the Boy's Totem Town Detention facility for underserved youth in St. Paul, MN), nationally (e.g., Sandy Hook Elementary School, in which residents created a garden to honor the victims of the tragic shooting), and internationally (e.g., working with Guatemalan women to develop a community garden). Such action projects exemplify the values and principles of community psychology.
Manuel Riemer is a professor of community psychology (CP) and sustainability science at Wilfrid Laurier University. He has made substantial contributions to CP in the area of global climate change and sustainability. He applies CP principles, theories, and tools to address issues related to sustainability, including global climate change mitigation and resiliency, with a special interest in engagement and promoting a culture of sustainability in organizations and communities. Dr. Riemer is the director of the endowed Viessmann Centre for Engagement and Research in Sustainability (VERiS) and the Community, Environment, and Justice Research Group (CEJRG). He has edited a special issue on CP and global climate change in AJCP (with Stephanie Reich) and another issue on youth engagement in environmental action in Ecopsychology (with Livia Dittmer). He has also co-founded the SCRA Environment & Justice Interest Group and has advocated for greening the Biennial. Dr. Riemer has also been a strong advocate for featuring the important work of community psychologists across the globe, including co-editing the book International community psychology: History and theories (Reich, Riemer, Prilleltensky, & Montero, 2007). Other contributions to CP include the third edition of Community Psychology: In pursuit of liberation and wellbeing (Riemer, Reich, Evans, Nelson, & Prilleltensky, 2020), serving as the Co-Chair for the 17th Biennial Conference of SCRA, and as the Chair of Section 3 (CP) of the Canadian Psychological Association. One nominator described Dr. Riemer as the “prototype of the ideal colleague: Bright and talented, methodic, responsible, reliable, humorous, productive, and attentive to process and values.
Christopher Sonn has made distinctive contributions to knowledge and practice of community psychology that are recognized nationally in Australia and globally. His contributions have focused on the lived experience of migrant populations, racialized people, and other marginalized groups in Australia and South Africa. Through his numerous publications, he has contributed to the understanding of apartheid through the lenses of liberation and community psychology, in addition to understanding the psychosocial and political praxis of apartheid. More broadly, Christopher’s work has influenced our understanding of multiple areas within community psychology, including decolonization, identity, adaptation and liberation of immigrants, and Indigenous populations. He has also made significant contributions to theory and research on psychological sense of community, an area most central to community psychology. Christopher has utilized and developed innovative and culturally appropriate research approaches, including participatory action research strategies, arts-based research, and qualitative and quantitative methods with diverse populations. Through applied and community/industry-engaged research he seeks to develop knowledge to address social issues, promote health and wellbeing, and to create receptive and nurturing social environments that foster a sense of community, belonging, and inclusion. Christopher is co-author of numerous publications that appear in leading journals and books including the book Social Psychology and Everyday life (2nd ed.; 2020), and co-editor of Decoloniality, Knowledge Production and Epistemic Justice in Community Psychology (forthcoming). He is also an Associate Editor of the American Journal of Community Psychology and Community Psychology in Global Perspective. Christopher is co-chair of the 8th International Conference on Community Psychology in Melbourne, Australia, which is aimed at fostering and sustaining solidarities across countries, contexts, and settings to address oppression and injustice at local and global levels.
Judah Viola has made unusual and outstanding contributions to community psychology in administration, teaching and consultation. Judah’s administrative contributions have helped establish an innovative community psychology doctoral program at National Louis University. This program is most distinctive for its effectiveness in reaching, educating and graduating talented doctoral students of color. The National Louis University program has enlarged the possibilities for doctoral education in community psychology. As a teacher, Judah is a superb facilitator of student growth. He has an engaging teaching style, asking each student about their interests and then building his lesson around those interests. Judah’s books on consultation and careers in community psychology are each unusual and outstanding resources for students. Consulting Community and Nonprofit Organizations (2010), edited and written with Susan McMahon, provides guidance and examples of how to conduct a consultation and how to develop a consultation practice. Doctoral students and many others around the country have found it a most useful volume. Diverse Careers in Community Psychology(2017), edited with Olya Glantsman, is a distinctive collection of insightful accounts of the wide variety of positions community psychologists may be qualified for, presented by one or more occupants of each position. Lastly, Judah’s evaluation consultation with a number of leading not-for-profit and state agencies has enabled those organizations to be more informed and has provided guidance for future directions, an important impact.