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Students support local organizations through community research initiative

March 17, 2011

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    Jen Schildmeyer ’11, community research fellow

Portland, Oregon

Through a distinctive community initiative, Jen Schildmeyer ’11 is collaborating with the local organization Outside In to assess the benefit of a tattoo-removal program for homeless and low-income Portlanders.

Schildmeyer is one of three community research fellows selected by the Center for Career and Community Engagement at Lewis & Clark. The initiative joins student researchers, faculty members, and local organizations to answer pressing research questions identified by the organization.

A sociology/anthropology and psychology double major, Schildmeyer is applying what she has learned at Lewis & Clark about the field of program evaluation to her project, an analysis of Outside In’s Project Erase. One of the many programs Outside In offers to support homeless youth and other low-income people, Project Erase removes tattoos from people who have experienced gang involvement or homelessness and find their tattoos to be a barrier toward reintegration into society.

“The more I’ve learned about the project, the more I’ve realized what a unique and important service it is,” Schildmeyer said. “The goal of partnering with Outside In is to gather data that can help the organization to apply for funding for Project Erase and to figure out what needs they are filling successfully and what ways they might be able to adapt their practices to make Project Erase all the more effective.”

Throughout the spring, Schildmeyer is working closely with Outside In and a faculty advisor, assistant professor of sociology Tim Mechlinski.

“Having the guidance of a faculty advisor is invaluable when you’re trying a project like this for the first time,” she said. “This experience seems like an extension of my psychology capstone course, Jerusha Detweiler-Bedell’s Community Psychology, which I took last semester. That class introduced me to the field of program evaluation, and it just seemed to click with both my interests and my skill set.”

The Center for Career and Community Engagement launched the Community Research Initiative with the goal of fostering symbiotic partnerships that fulfill the research needs of the organization while providing unparalleled real-world experience for the student.

“This type of work is really exciting to me because I hope to go into program evaluation professionally,” Schildmeyer said. “This project is really a culmination of topics that I’ve focused on in both my psychology and sociology/anthropology majors and my interests outside of school. The opportunity to do this work as an undergrad just seems amazing to me, and I think it will be a strong boost to my resume when I apply to graduate programs.”

Two other research projects have also received funding from the Community Research Initiative.

Economics major Leah Scott-Zechlin ’11, with the guidance of Associate Professor and Department Chair of Sociology/Anthropology Bruce Podobnik, is assisting the Student Alliance Project, a youth-led program that seeks to cultivate a new cadre of multicultural young leaders in Oregon and Southwest Washington. Scott-Zechlin’s research goal is to design an effective model for identifying the strengths and needs of a high school community as a potential Student Alliance Project site.

Sociology/anthropology major Rhiannon Troutman ’11, with the guidance of Associate Professor of Anthropology Deborah Heath, is working with the Sexual and Gender Minority Resource Center in Portland. Troutman’s project will explore the possibility of developing a housing program for transgender youth who are transitioning out of foster care.

The Center for Career and Community Engagement will award one more fellowship later this spring. The Community Research Initiative was made possible by a grant from Trust Management Services.

The center works with students throughout their time at Lewis & Clark to help them discover their goals and interests, connect to opportunities in the community that enrich their academic experience, and prepare for successful lives beyond college.

Learn more about another new initiative launched by the Center for Career and Community Engagement this spring, a radio program helping to prepare students for life after graduation.

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