2014 Lynton Award Recipient
The annual Ernest A. Lynton Award for the Scholarship of Engagement for Early Career Faculty recognizes a faculty member who connects his or her teaching, research, and service to community engagement. The award is designated for either pre-tenure faculty at tenure-granting campuses or early career faculty (i.e., within the first six years) at campuses with long-terms contracts.
This year, NERCHE and the Center for Engaged Democracy (CED) at Merrimack College are pleased to present the Lynton Award to Dr. Jomella Watson-Thompson, Assistant Professor in the Department of Applied Behavioral Science, and Associate Director for the Work Group for Community Health and Development at the University of Kansas. Through her collaborative research, teaching, and service, Dr. Watson-Thompson actively seeks partners in communities to collectively address community health and development issues through the application of community-based behavioral psychology. Her research has focused on neighborhood development, positive youth development, and adolescent substance-abuse and violence prevention. Dr. Watson-Thompson supports community capacity-building efforts to address social determinants of health through community-based participatory research with populations and communities experiencing disparities, particularly in urban neighborhoods. Her research has focused on examining the effects of community-based processes and interventions to promote community mobilization for addressing the interrelated conditions affecting community health, which facilitates program and environmental changes, including needed policy change. Dr. Watson-Thompson has extensive experience providing training, technical support, and evaluation for community-based initiatives. Dr. Watson-Thompson attained her B.A. in Urban Studies from Jackson State University in Jackson, Mississippi, a Masters of Urban Planning, a M.A. in Applied Behavioral Science, and a Ph.D. in Behavioral Psychology, all from the University of Kansas.
Dr. Watson-Thompson’s commitment to social justice is evident in all aspects of her work and life. Her value-, change-, and impact-driven work is strengthened by a solid integration of her personal and professional life. Evidence of this is her commitment to living in Kansas City (a 40-minute commute from the Lawrence campus), to ensure opportunities for rapport building, civic engagement modeling, and active involvement in addressing community health and development outcomes, locally. Her nominator states, “She believes that being in solidarity with the socio-economically disadvantaged is integral to her life and faith. She believes that the most effective way to impact the community is to model the desired behaviors in environments where problems are occurring to both allow people to see different alternatives and reduce barriers to academia.”
Across her innovative and multi-faceted research, scholarship, and service in the communities surrounding the University of Kansas, Dr. Watson-Thompson centers her work in her roles as a community member, advocate, and co-learner. Engaging youth, residents, and students as problem-solvers and community leaders, she explores the complexities surrounding health disparities and social determinants of health, specifically in urban populations and neighborhoods, and how community mobilization and capacity-building efforts can contribute to problem-solving and sustainable change. Integrating approaches in applied behavioral science, community psychology, prevention science, and urban and community development, she partners with communities to address these larger issues through the application of community-based behavioral psychology. With a particular interest in neighborhood development, positive youth development, and adolescent substance-abuse and violence prevention, her teaching and scholarship not only address realities outside the classroom, but encourage students to examine more deeply the environments, structures, and interventions which sustain these realities.
In describing her work, Dr. Watson-Thompson writes, “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. 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.” Her commitment to community engaged work between universities and communities is evident in the relationships she has developed with community members and organizations through a true “reciprocal process of knowledge exchange”, and through her contributions to further community-engaged work at the institutional and national levels.
As both a practitioner and leader in “building positive history in disenfranchised communities” through partnerships and sustainable development, Dr. Watson-Thompson is an exemplar of demonstrable community-engaged scholarship and action.
The 2014 Lynton Award was presented at the 20th Annual Conference of the Coalition of Urban and Metropolitan Universities (CUMU), “Universities as Anchor Institutions: Driving Change,” held from October 5-7, 2014, at Syracuse University, Syracuse, NY. CUMU was a co-sponsor of the Award.
In addition, Dr. Watson-Thompson deliver the keynote address at the annual Lynton Colloquium on the Scholarship of Engagement, held on September 15, 2014, at the University of Massachusetts Boston. Download a copy of Dr. Watson-Thompson's presentation here >>
Read Dr. Watson-Thompson's article--"Exploring Community-Engaged Scholarship as an Intervention to Change and Improve Communities"--which appeared in Metropolitan Universities journal (Vol. 26, Issue 1).