By Jenny Zhen Duan
Being part of the Community Psychology class and completing a community-partnered project has been one of the highlights of my academic career. Most often, students are only presented with theoretical information on how to promote positive social change. I was glad that part of the course involved hands-on experience by joining a community partner (Cincinnati Health Department) and using our skills as researchers for a greater good.
Initially, I thought that it would be difficult to make decisions because the class was large and multidisciplinary. However, I found that the opposite occurred. Students worked very well together and built on each other’s strengths, very similar to true community-based efforts. For example, during the planning process, we were deciding whether to recruit undergraduate students or community members as research participants. While recruiting students would have been probably easier for us as a team, we felt very passionately about going to the community and reaching out to those who would benefit from the sexual health information we were providing. We found it to be important to “give voice” to members who are less represented in research. Therefore, my classmates and I worked with their contacts in order to recruit participants out in the community. These contacts, or organizations, included social service agencies, churches, and residents from a low-income neighborhood in Cincinnati.
I believe that by doing this, we enriched our research quality while also making us feel more ownership of the research project itself, which is another crucial component of community-partnered research. It was satisfying to apply the same principles that we were learning in class towards a project aimed at improving sexual health. It was even more rewarding to work and network with other like-minded individuals committed to bridging the gap on health disparities and feeling that the community will benefit from this work.