What are current students saying about the program?

Ana Ramirez (PhD candidate, Department of Anthropology)

“As an undergraduate student, I was exposed to participatory education, popular education, and Freirean pedagogy as I was learning Portuguese. I was impressed and fell in love with the methods of participatory education, and I began to teach using these methods at a local non-profit that worked with Maya residents in the area. As an undergraduate student researcher, I began to wonder what it would look like to bridge community, research, and academia together. However, I was told by my advisors that this was not possible. Therefore, as I was researching graduate programs, I was drawn to programs and professors who explored these intersections (community, research, academia, activism, etc.) in their work while maintain a high level of rigor. Currently, I feel supported by faculty who engage in various forms of participatory research, and for me participatory research represents possibilities.”

Caroline Chandler (PhD candidate, School of Public Health-Maternal and Child Health)

Participatory research is important to me because the information we learn is so much richer and more valuable when we center the people who the research is impacting. Engaging community members as full partners throughout the research process changes the research questions we ask and creates opportunities for more meaningful outcomes and actions. I believe that involving youth in my research is particularly important because they can speak most accurately about what youth are experiencing and what youth need. Teaching youth skills to actively contribute to research also empowers them as leaders in their community and prepares them for future success.”

Deborah Baron (PhD candidate, School of Public Health-Health Behavior)

“Learning how to be an effective ally that disrupts systems of privilege toward goals of equity is a life-long lesson for me, and participatory research is a critical component of this commitment. These days my research interests focus on working with adolescent girls and young women on preventing HIV and intimate partner violence. Young people know what they need, and even more so, they know what they want in health services. Participatory research is the best way to ensure everyone’s needs and preferences are met.

Kate LeMasters (PhD candidate, School of Public Health-Epidemiology)

“The longer I have been a graduate student at UNC, the more I’ve realized that participatory and engaged research is what motivates me and that research is far more meaningful if it is based in equitable partnership with community members and organizations. Through participatory research, we as researchers are able to partner with communities to create long-term sustainable change to improve health in ways that communities care about, which is, I think, the entire reason for public health existing. If we aren’t engaging in participatory research, we miss the mark and often perpetuate health inequities. But, when we do engage, we are able to walk alongside communities and create the changes they want to see.”

Pallavi Gupta (PhD candidate, Department of Geography)

“For me personally, research is much more than an academic exercise. With widening inequalities and growing alienation among people, mistrust and misrepresentation of communities, voices of those we interact with have to be presented with much care, time and thought. Participatory research is a commitment. It involves respect, mutual learning, and  introspection while working with communities.”

Lucia Stavig (PhD candidate, Department of Anthropology)

“There has been so much research done ON indigenous peoples, but much less done WITH and FOR them. After seeing so many documentaries about the forced sterilization of indigenous women in Peru, I wanted to do a project that did not explot their pain. As a Peruvian-American woman who grew up in and out of the Andes, I wanted create a project that spoke about the forced sterilizations from affected women’s trails and travails, but also their resilience. My current project is documenting affected women’s attempts to heal from illness related to forced sterilization and their hopes to spread this healing to their communities and Peru at large.”

Sonny Kelley (PhD candidate, Department of Communication)

“During the Summer of 2015, I started research doing performance/performed ethnography work youth in Fayetteville, NC funded by the GCPR Seed Grant.  My dissertation entitled Pipelines to Pathways: Performatively Reframing and Reclaiming Black Youth Identitypresents a critical performance-centered approach to the criminalization of Black youth and the School to Prison Pipeline.  I seek innovative and effective approaches to addressing the sundry gaps that exist in education, health and welfare between thriving and marginalized students, as well as the School-to-Prison Pipeline that disproportionately threatens marginalized youth in the United States.”