June 23, 2016

Dr. Alexandra Lightfoot, headshot

Dr. Alexandra Lightfoot

Alexandra Lightfoot, EdD, research assistant professor of health behavior at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, is one of 10 faculty members at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill selected for the sixth class of Thorp Faculty Engaged Scholars.

The scholars will develop projects in partnership with community organizations including Durham’s Historic Stagville, where they will study the skills and expertise of enslaved laborers, and Chatham County’s The Farm at Penny Lane, where they aim to improve housing and other community-based services for individuals with severe and persistent mental illness.

Lightfoot uses a community-based participatory research (CBPR) approach to address health disparities with communities across North Carolina. She works closely with community partners to engage youth and their adult supporters to improve adolescent sexual health and reduce STI/HIV risk. She also partners with interdisciplinary researchers and communities to address gaps in cancer treatment and outcomes between African-American and white cancer patients, and implicit bias among health-care providers toward Latino/a adolescents.

As a Thorp Faculty Engaged Scholar, Lightfoot hopes to bring together her prior work in education with her current work in public health. Her project will focus on gaining an understanding of the longitudinal impact of an anti-racism program that she co-created using participatory photography. The project helped adolescents explore racial identity and pre-service teachers prepare for racial diversity in classrooms. Her goal is to spark ideas and collaborations for future adolescent-focused research addressing racial inequities at the intersection of health and education.

Since the Faculty Engaged Scholars program began in 2007, 53 faculty members from 11 UNC schools and 21 departments have been selected to participate. In 2013, thanks to a $1 million gift from an anonymous donor, The Chancellor Holden Thorp Faculty Engaged Scholars Endowment was established at the Carolina Center for Public Service. Every other year, eight to 10 faculty members are selected for the program, which is aimed at understanding and pursuing community engagement through scholarly endeavors.

During the two-year experience, scholars participate in sessions in community settings focused on exemplary University-community partnerships. While developing their own projects with community partners, scholars form a learning community, with the course directors providing guidance and support.

The growing network of Thorp Faculty Engaged Scholars reports outcomes including new interdisciplinary collaborations, successful grant applications and both traditional and nontraditional products of their scholarship. Through these efforts, the program continues to build strong university-community relationships.

Read about other 2016 awardees on the Carolina Center for Public Service website.

Gillings School of Global Public Health contact: David Pesci, director of communications, (919) 962-2600 or dpesci@unc.edu

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