Society is asking questions we don’t know the answers to. How do we eliminate poverty? How do we eliminate structural racism and other pervasive inequities? What role can and should local government serve in solving problems? How do we measure well-being and improve it?
Entertaining these questions and seeking these answers is what drives me. I cannot think of a better way to spend a life than seeking to improve lives through creative solutions based on research.
I am a passionate community development academic and practitioner who cares deeply about understanding how to create better cities. Having completed my Bachelor’s degree in a liberal arts environment at Centre College, my research journey started at Virginia Tech. I received an M.S. in Forestry in 2016 with a focus on local opposition to sustainable development. My interest in cultivating stronger communities continued through my work with Big Lick SOUP, Cityworks (X)po, CoLab, and, most recently, REACH in Roanoke. All of this work has been focused on finding innovative solutions to community issues. Along the way, I have had the privilege of becoming well-versed in leadership, project management, problem-solving, and collaboration.
Now, I have returned to academia to pursue my Ph.D. in Planning, Governance, and Globalization. This is driven by my twofold desire to teach the next generation of leaders how to better engage with our local communities and to deepen our understanding of the intersection of trust and community development. I have seen far too many community planners and other well-meaning individuals seek to get engaged but fail because of their lack of proper understanding of how communities work. So, my goal is to contribute to our understanding of how communities and neighborhoods work as well as communicate this information to leaders across all sectors. Additionally, it is my goal to take the lessons we learn in academia and return them to our local communities through consulting and community projects.
There are no easy answers to the big questions we face, but I do feel understanding how trust works can help us make change. We may not know what that looks like, but that just makes the search even more rewarding.