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Author ORCID Identifier



Open Access Dissertation

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program


Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded


First Advisor

Jean Forward

Second Advisor

Krista Harper

Third Advisor

Kathryn Tracy

Subject Categories

Civic and Community Engagement | Community-Based Learning | Community-Based Research | Community Health and Preventive Medicine | Other Anthropology | Public Health Education and Promotion | Social and Cultural Anthropology


This dissertation is both qualitative and collaborative. It emphasizes the participant observation and ethnographic documentation of two community-researcher partnerships on community-level health interventions in Springfield, MA. Drawing upon critical theories and reflexive methods, I explore and analyze the process of building and sustaining researcher-community partnerships in an era of limited funding. Two Springfield, MA-based projects – one on healthy cooking/eating, and the other on contingency management – serve as case studies to provide a concrete picture of the complex relationships of researcher-community collaborations. I use ethnographic storytelling to provide a multi-dimensional look at two different community-research partnerships on health disparities work. I have chosen ethnography as my primary methodology because I am interested in gaining a broad understanding of Springfield as a post-industrial city – a city with both a complex support system of public health services and a community suffering from poor health outcomes. My dissertation explores the following questions: What are the factors that contribute to successful community-research partnerships? What are the challenges to creating and sustaining good community-research collaborations? And what recommendations or strategies can build social and cultural capacity for these types of partnerships?

My experience on-the-ground highlighted a gap in the literature on community-research partnerships. I discuss the need for expanding the list of collaborators to include community college faculty and students, funding agents, and grassroots community leaders – not just service agencies standing in as representatives of the community. Given my personal and professional experience over the last twelve years, I believe that, in the end, successful community-research partnerships must build on the strengths already in the community in order to create a lasting impact in the community. For Springfield, that means bringing "everyone to the table," , in other words, a diverse group of people who all have a vested interest in improving the health of Springfield residents.