Dr. Jennifer Durham
At the root for my career is the concept of “citizen scholar.” This refers to an approach to academic work that emphasizes a partnership between universities and society to address current challenges. My scholarship focuses on educational and mental health disparities for children of marginalized groups and has four basic branches. Each branch promotes social justice within the context of school psychology. The first, is related to work done for policy makers such as the policy documents written for the country’s largest drop-out prevention network, Communities in Schools. The second branch is the empirical research I do that uses qualitative and participatory action methodologies. This approach to research is much more time consuming than conventional methods but is in alignment with the citizen scholar concept. Participatory action research involves working collaboratively with key stake holders of the population being studied, and implies that the subjects themselves should have a role in solving the problems they experience. The third branch of my scholarship is the writing I do for fellow practioners and students within the field. My scholarship also encompasses writing for the consumer of psychological services and general public.
A crucial part of my role as a professor has been to encourage students to think innovatively about the disparate state of mental health and educational services for traditionally underserved populations and then provide them with the skills to eradicate the inequities. Providing fertile soil for the development of innovative practices to address these challenges is embedded in the courses I teach and reflected in the following quote by Bell Hooks which illustrates my teaching philosophy.
“Urging all of us to open our minds and hearts so that we can know beyond the boundaries of what is acceptable, so that we can think and rethink, so that we can create new visions. I celebrate teaching that enables transgressions-a movement against and beyond boundaries. It is a movement which makes education the practice of freedom.” Bell Hooks, (1994)