RESEARCH INTERESTS

My work draws on the fields of public policy and administration, political science, and sociology. The underlying theme that runs through my work is the issue of power and the importance of civic and political participation in local democracy. I recently wrote a blog post on the subject. Check it out.

My work is published in State and Local Government Review, Risk, Hazards, and Crisis in Public Policy, Journal of Public Affairs Education, and Feminist Formations (forthcoming). My book project, Power, Participation, and Protest: The Political Impact of Municipal Takeover on Local Democracy, is currently under contract with Temple University Press.

I am also the co-editor of three edited volumes: Feminist Pedagogy, Practice, and Activism: Improving Lives of Women and Girls (with Jennifer Martin and Martina Sharp-Grier; Routledge, 2017); Grand Rapids Grassroots: An Anthology (with Dani Vilella; Belt Publishing, anticipated 2017); and, Community Development and Public Administration: Empowerment through the Enhancement of Democratic Principles (with Jason D. Rivera; Routedge, anticipated 2018). I have also written articles for PA Times and The Society Pages.

URBAN AND PUBLIC AFFAIRS: Politics and Policy

My interest in urban politics  and policy, focuses on issues related to community and economic development as well as broader social policy issues. My current research examines the political impact of municipal takeover, the state-directed policy which suspends local governing authority and replaces it with a state-appointed manager. My dissertation explored the political impact of municipal takeover in Flint, Michigan, which I discussed in a PA Times article.

LOCAL GOVERNANCE & DEMOCRACY: Civic and Political Participation

I am interested in the ways in which policies and broader social institutions  construct democracy. My work on the political and participatory impact of emergency (financial) management and municipal takeover, for example, focuses on two key elements: 1. how the appointment of an emergency manager impacts local governance; and 2.how changes to local governance influences community responses, including that of the local nonprofits, community based organizations, and grassroots activists.

The project draws heavily on policy feedback and social construction theories of citizenship and democracy. I use this framework to uncover how municipal takeovers (e.g.  emergency [financial] manager) reshaped local governance and democracy in Flint, Michigan. Municipal takeovers, which place authority for local decision making in the hands of a single individual, have a divergent impact on local stakeholders: while some gain greater access (and benefits) from decisions made under the policy, others are isolated or exempt from meaningful participation. However, in the Flint case, those who were excluded formed new pathways for participation, relying heavily on community organizing, coalition building, and political protest to make their voices heard.

COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT, ORGANIZATION & ORGANIZING

I define community development broadly. While the concept is often synonymous with affordable housing or economic development, I instead draw on a broader conceptualization of community development that emphasizes the role community organizations, grassroots and neighborhood associations working to address local problems in a collective, community- driven fashion, sometimes in collaboration with local government and sometimes despite local governing arrangements.

In collaboration with colleagues, I have published and presented research on related topics, such as community resilience and nonprofit response in the wake of natural disasters, the role of foundations in community development and organizational political advocacy, and intersectionality in social movement framing.

Also falling under this area of research is my work on nonprofit advocacy. Here, my research brings together the literature in nonprofit, social movement, and community organizing to further our understanding of the ways in which organizations, whether formal nonprofits or grassroots associations, organize communities politically to impact policy (at all stages of the policy process).

ACTIVISM: Gender and Social Justice Work

My interest in activism combines my professional experience, activist background, and interest in promoting progressive social change through scholarship. In addition to my role as editor of the activism section in Feminist Pedagogy, Practice, and Activism (Routledge, 2017), I have collaborated with colleagues on a range of projects that focus on activism. In the FPPA book, I have a co-authored chapter (with Adrienne Trier-Bieniek) that explores how university-based women’s centers define and foster feminist activism.

My paper, Unpacking the Imposter in Feminist Community Activism: AMemorial of a Detroit Snob, examines the intersection of feminism and community activism in the context of a regionally-famous Detroit activist. This paper, co-authored with Jennifer L. Martin, is forthcoming in Feminist Formations.

The book Grand Rapids Grassroots: An Anthology also focuses closely on grassroots life and activism in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The book is due out in Novem

ber, but you can get a sense of what the book is about from an interview I did with Rapid Growth Media.

PEDAGOGY: Critical Perspectives on Teaching & Learning

I am also interested in issues of pedagogy, particularly as it relates to community development and social justice: how can we challenge students to see themselves as agents of social change? My previous work in this area examines the importance of intercultural competency, intersectionality and social justice in the context of service learning, civic engagement, and participatory research.

I have written about my teaching experience and philosophy on numerous occasions in the Journal of Public Affairs Education, where I also served as a guest editor for a symposium on community development pedagogy and currently serve on the board of editors.