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KU Urban Planning alumna wins early-career award

Monday, September 08, 2014

LAWRENCE — Jomella Watson-Thompson, assistant professor in applied behavioral science and associate director for the KU Work Group for Community Health and Development, has been selected as the recipient of the 2014 Ernest A. Lynton Award for the Scholarship of Engagement for Early Career Faculty.

The Lynton Award, given annually by the New England Resource Center for Higher Education, recognizes one pre-tenure or early-career faculty member who connects teaching, research, and service to community engagement.

Watson-Thompson actively cultivates community collaborations to address community health and development issues. She examines the effects of community-based processes and interventions, including programs and environmental changes, to address the interrelated conditions affecting community health. Watson-Thompson’s research focuses on the issues of neighborhood development, positive youth development, and adolescent substance abuse and violence prevention, particularly in urban neighborhoods and communities that experience disparities. Her research integrates approaches from applied behavioral science, community psychology, prevention science, and urban and community development.

Watson-Thompson positions herself as community member, advocate and co-learner in her community-based participatory research. She provides training, technical support and evaluation to community-based initiatives, including in Kansas City, where she resides. Watson-Thompson engages youth, residents and students as collective learners, problem-solvers and community leaders who work collaboratively to support improvements in communities through a reciprocal processes of knowledge and resource exchange.

"It is important that we, as an academic community, leverage opportunities to positively impact the environment in which residents, particularly children and youth, work, live and play,” she said. “I endeavor to serve as a symbol in both the classroom and community, and often lead from behind, such as in the informal training and technical supports I provide, along with my students, in the development of the neighborhood association in the area I reside."

In her courses, Watson-Thompson incorporates service learning such that her students also work with community partners and interact with real-world challenges beyond the classroom. She encourages her students to examine the structures, interventions and environments that contribute to maintaining or addressing challenges experienced in the communities in with which they work.

The 2014 Lynton Award will be presented at the 20th Annual Conference of the Coalition of Urban and Metropolitan Universities (CUMU), held October 5-7 at Syracuse University, Syracuse, New York. CUMU is a co-sponsor of the Award.

Watson-Thompson will also deliver the keynote address at the third-annual Lynton Colloquium on the Scholarship of Engagement, on September 15, 2014, at the University of Massachusetts Boston.


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