Hofstra Horizons
Hofstra Horizons Research

Hofstra Horizons – Spring 2017

Community-based research is gaining traction nationwide, and it has found an ardent supporter at Hofstra University  in the ongoing work of the Center for Civic Engagement.

The Center for Civic Engagement was founded by Hofstra faculty in 2007 in order to better involve students in civic and community work. The center, which reports to the provost, is now the hub for civic engagement activity at the University, serving as a tool kit for community partners, a resource for faculty, and an educator for all members of the campus community. This issue of Hofstra Horizons reports on the ways the Center for Civic Engagement supports research that connects Hofstra with the surrounding communities. 

Dr. Gregory Maney, the Harry H. Wachtel Distinguished Teaching Professor for the Study of Nonviolent Social Change, writes in his introduction that community-based research begins with a research question that germinates in a community and is pursued by both faculty and community members through collaborative research methods. Strong and sustainable relationships between the University and community are built over time as the partners identify solutions to community challenges.

In this issue of Hofstra Horizons, Drs. Kari Jensen and Jessica Holzer describe the work of the Center for Civic Engagement’s community-based research committee, which provides resources and networking opportunities to faculty and community members to forge research partnerships. Dr. Martine Hackett details her first experience with community-based research by way of a PhotoVoice project in Roosevelt, Long Island, where members of the community documented public health barriers and assets through the use of visual imagery. Dr. Andrea Libresco, Dr. Susan Cushman and Margaret Melkonian describe how the Peace Fellows program, which started in 2013, is gaining momentum and popularity with students as they learn about ways they can become peace activists. Dr. Jessica Holzer explains the benefits of community-based research and provides examples of her work. And finally, Professor Aashish Kumar recounts his use of a grant from the Long Island Community Foundation to respond to the critical needs of local nonprofit and civic organizations for digital and social media training and support to promote their work and help their communities.

The Hofstra faculty and community members featured in this issue are doing work that will forge stronger relationships between the University and the community and will allow all partners to thrive in years to come.

Stuart Rabinowitz, JD
President, Hofstra University

Hofstra University faculty have an enviable record of scholarly excellence in community-based research, and the Provost’s Office is proud to support their initiatives. This issue of Hofstra Horizons highlights the faculty-community partnerships that have generated rigorous scholarly research that contributes to community trust and empowerment.

In the first feature story, Drs. Kari Jensen and Jessica Holzer describe the evolution of the Center for Civic Engagement’s community-based research committee. The committee hosts an annual Community Connections Dinner at which Hofstra faculty and members of local civic and nonprofit organizations meet to discuss potential projects of mutual interest. Dr. Jensen and Dr. Holzer cite the creation of the position of vice provost for scholarship and engagement, occupied by Dr. Bob Brinkmann, as an encouraging move toward expanding community-based research at Hofstra.

Next, Dr. Martine Hackett walks the reader through a participatory community-based research project called PhotoVoice. In Roosevelt, New York, she met with community members to examine photographs they took of evidence of the community’s assets and areas in need of improvement. As discussions in the basement of a local fire hall unfolded, she wondered if community-based participatory research qualifies as “real research.” I’ll let you read the article to discover the answer to that question.

Dr. Andrea Libresco, Dr. Susan Cushman, and Margaret Melkonian report on the rapidly growing Peace Fellows program, which brings together up to 15 students each spring to study peace and nonviolent social change and activism. Student responses to the education and issue advocacy programming show that the program’s curriculum gives students a fresh perspective on global issues and prompts them to become more active in local and global communities. The success of the Peace Fellows program led to the creation of the Institute for Peace Studies, which is looking to launch a major in peace and conflict studies in fall 2018.

Dr. Jessica Holzer explains that community-based research is designed to address a community’s problems, and thus has a direct impact on the communities that participate. Dr. Holzer’s community-based study in the neighborhoods of New Haven, Connecticut, which took place while she was doing her postdoctoral work at Yale, led her to understand the complex relationship between obesity and violence. She learned that in some New Haven neighborhoods, residents were not physically active because they felt unsafe leaving their homes; to tackle obesity, one had to tackle crime. At Hofstra, Dr. Holzer is involved in two community-based research initiatives, Car-less Long Island and the Long Island Community Academic Research Partnership. 

Professor Aashish Kumar characterizes the need for nonprofit and civic organizations to promote themselves through digital and social media. He researched this challenge within local community organizations and identified a need for training that would allow them to maintain sustainable digital practices. Upon applying for and receiving a grant from the Long Island Community Foundation, Professor Kumar organized training sessions for 17 participants and intensive mentoring for four. The organizations went on to use digital and social media to advance their causes in robust ways.

The work featured in this issue is a sampling of the research that connects Hofstra with the surrounding community in mutually beneficial ways. The Provost’s Office is proud to help our community partners pursue and conduct research that contributes to their sustainability and success.

Gail M. Simmons, PhD
Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs, Hofstra University