January 10, 2024

Transforming Communities Institute Launches New Initiatives

A bicyclist pulls a trailer.  Full Size  A volunteer pulls crates of food across USU's Logan campus on a bicycle trailer.A volunteer pulls crates of food across USU's Logan campus on a bicycle trailer.

By Andrea DeHaan, CHaSS Communications Editor

Utah State University’s Transforming Communities Institute (TCI) announces the launch of two new initiatives: the “Transforming Communities” open-access journal and the Community-Engaged Scholar Network.

TCI will hold an event on Jan. 23 to commemorate the launch of these new resources, which aim to help TCI share best practices and facilitate community-led change, while developing effective solutions to address Utah’s most urgent needs.

“There are pressing challenges impacting communities across Utah, including housing and homelessness, food security, domestic violence, substance misuse, and access to healthcare and other resources, among others,” said TCI Director Jayme Walters. “USU’s land grant mission calls us to engage in work and use resources in ways that benefit Utah communities. These new initiatives provide faculty, staff, students, and community partners across the state with platforms to collaborate, develop, and implement solutions that will improve the quality for our neighbors.”

The goal of the new “Transforming Communities” journal is to connect researchers, practitioners, and community stakeholders to enhance community well-being. The publication will highlight various forms of research and provide free access to evidence-based practices with an emphasis on serving historically marginalized populations.

The new journal will publish one to two issues per year, accept submissions on a rolling basis, and follow an open peer review process. It features two main sections: “Research Advances,” which includes original research articles and multimedia submissions, and “Community Voices,” which accepts various types of submissions, including commentaries, case studies, and policy briefs.

“Busy practitioners do not have time to consume a 30-page article with a lot of jargon,” Walters said. “The journal provides an opportunity for community practitioners, leaders, and residents to access information that doesn’t cost them anything and is presented in a digestible format.”

Following its launch, “Transforming Communities” will be accessible at  https://digitalcommons.usu.edu/tcjournal/

Additionally, the institute, together with USU’s Center for Community Engagement, is developing the Community-Engaged Scholar Network (CESN). It is hoped this network, which invites faculty, staff, students, and individuals in the community to participate, will build bridges between academic and non-academic stakeholders involved in meeting community challenges faced in the state of Utah. 

Beyond networking opportunities, the CESN will offer professional development and training, support for related research, and consulting on community-engaged scholarship. TCI’s new journal will aid CESN in disseminating relevant research.

“The goal of CESN is [for] community-engaged scholars at USU [to] communicate, connect, and collaborate to reduce duplication of efforts, maximize resources, and increase the impact of communities throughout Utah,” said Walters, calling this work “part of our land-grant mission, and … a way for us to ensure we are coordinated in our efforts.”

In addition, TCI is pleased to be among the sponsors of a conference in Moab next month. The Conference on Community-Engaged Scholarship and Teaching. According to TCI Researcher and Conference Coordinator Teresa Larsen, it will focus on “the collaborative relationships between Utah communities and institutions of higher education, to amplify community voices in multidisciplinary research and education.” The event is open to academics and community practitioners alike.

Taken together, these resources represent vital outreach to individuals serving community needs throughout Utah.

“Community-engaged research is a cornerstone of our college, and as a land-grant institution … is of the utmost importance to help us meet our mission to serve Utahns,” said Julia Gossard, associate dean of research in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, where the TCI is housed.

“With a peer-reviewed, open-access journal that showcases pathbreaking research on community-engaged research, the Transforming Communities Institute and CHaSS are poised to continue developing creative solutions and relationships with our stakeholders,” Gossard said.

More information about the TCI and related initiatives can be found on its website: https://chass.usu.edu/social-work/transforming-communities-institute/

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