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Director of community research hopes to foster connections

Katharine French-Fuller has been appointed as the new director of community research at the Center for Community Engaged Learning. Although she has been promoted to this new status, she is very familiar with all the job’s requirements.

Katharine French-Fuller, has been appointed
Katharine French-Fuller has been appointed the director of community research for the Center for Community Engaged Learning. Photo credit:

French-Fuller has a Ph.D. in Latin American history and a master’s degree in Latin American studies. Understanding the history of power dynamics, equities, inequities and distributions of wealth in her community is critical for the projects she takes part in, and her experience and education allow her to serve the community.

The Center for Community Engaged Learning connects the community with the campus. The extension was founded seven years ago.

“We try to meet the community’s needs through research. The community tells us what they need,” Fuller explained.

Around the same time as the founding of the extension, French-Fuller was hired as a consultant for student affairs and worked at the grant office on campus as well. An example of past research she has conducted is the survey that was administered to furloughed government employees two years ago, for which she received national and state attention in the media.

She explained that the staff at the center consists of a data community research coordinator, grant event specialist, three undergraduate research assistants who are paid and five research fellows: four professors and one Ph.D. student.

CCEL works with a lot of non-profit organizations tackling everything from educational issues to food security or access to foods of choice. “Taking a more applied approach to figure out how we can use research as a benefit for the people and the community is what motivates me to continue research,” French-Fuller said.

They’ve also put up a COVID-19 dashboard that shows statistics of hospitalizations and the number of cases per day. One of the things they are researching is the huge impact the virus has on underrepresented ethnicities and domestic violence rates. They even found that calls to the 211 help hotline skyrocketed with mental health concerns.

French-Fuller feels there is a lot of potential in this field and hopes to help non-profits implement more efficient projects for the community in the future.

She also wants to emphasize the people she works with and how unifying their different skills and mindsets are.

“It’s important to remember that when working with the community, everyone has to respect each others’ knowledge and research,” French-Fuller explained.

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Lucas Moore, News reporter

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