Presenting the Recipients of the 2020 Howard R. Swearer Engaged Faculty Awards for Research and Teaching

May 19, 2020

This year’s recipients, like last year’s inaugural winners, represent a snapshot of the engaged scholarship produced by faculty at Brown. This scholarship comes from multiple disciplines, employing various methodologies to co-create knowledge on numerous subjects of value to a range of both local and international communities.

Howard R. Swearer Engaged Faculty Award for Research

Dr. Elena Shih, Manning Assistant Professor of American Studies and Ethnic Studies, has been engaged locally and internationally since her arrival at Brown. In 2015, she formed a human trafficking research cluster at the Center for the Study of Slavery & Justice to examine and create public programming around contemporary forms of human bondage. Dr. Shih writes that her approach “is driven by a politics of redistribution and amplification. I consider it not only a priority to amplify the stakeholder voices that are commonly ignored, but also to advocate for their fair compensation, and to illuminate the larger structures of power that continually silence these perspectives.” Bella Robinson, Executive Director of COYOTE RI, writing in support of Dr. Shih’s nomination echoes this facet of her praxis, “Elena...has helped COYOTE build a local, national, and global platform for our work, and along the way has introduced her students into the more ethical ways of engaging with community research.” This collaborative work has not only garnered academic awards but also had an impact on state policy. The selection committee lauded Dr. Shih’s commitment to community-based and participatory action research methods of defining the research questions and agenda with community partners and specifically noted her co-authorship of findings with partners. Dr. Shih’s engaged research connects the local and international contexts as well. Dr. Anthony Bogues, in his supporting letter, writes, “Within the past five years, Shih has spearheaded an ambitious research program that centers relationships with two Providence-based community partners: COYOTE-RI and the Providence Youth Student Movement, in addition to the Issara Institute and Empower Foundation in Thailand.” Her “ability to bring a diverse set of stakeholders to campus,’ he adds, “is matched by her commitment to bringing students off the hill to engage into the communities that directly experience the forms of racialized state violence her research interrogates.” One such student, Royce Fellow Emma Wexler, comments, “Her model of rigorous ethical and engaged scholarship has not only been influential to me, but also inspired many of my fellow pursue engaged scholarship.”

Howard R. Swearer Engaged Faculty Award for Teaching

Brad Brockmann, Assistant Professor of the Practice in the Department of Health Services, Policy and Practice at the School of Public Health, has taught community-engaged courses, mentored students in their professional and academic development, and supported local leaders and community initiatives since arriving in Providence in 2010 when he became the first Executive Director of the Center for Prisoner Health and Human Rights at The Miriam Hospital. As previously spotlighted, his courses such as "Incarceration, Disparities, and Health" and "Designing Education for Better Prisoner and Community Health” provide opportunities for students to work on collaborative projects that respond to the intersections of criminal justice, public health, poverty, and race. The selection committee was particularly impressed with the range of long-term collaborations that Professor Brockmann has maintained. Holly Cekala, former Executive Director of RICARES, writes in support of his nomination, “Brad invited me to come speak to the first class he taught at Brown, and he has invited me and other members of the community who have been affected by incarceration and addiction to be part of every class he has taught since then. He values our voices and our opinions.” This commitment to community-engaged pedagogy is further evidenced through Professor Brockmann’s own words, “From 2011 to 2017 we placed over 140 Brown students in internships at the Center [for Prisoner Health and Human Rights] and with researchers around the state. The successful internships were a direct way to engage students in a meaningful, tangible way around issues that directly impacted, and entailed their engagement with, the community.” The selection committee further noted the level of engagement that both undergraduate and graduate students in his courses experience, commending his mentorship and passion. “As his former student and now as his TA,” Julianne Skarha writes, “I see how Brad has the utmost respect for his students and treats each of them as individuals capable of making a difference in this area. His goal – as educator, mentor, advocate and community ally – is to engage us all in wanting to understand the challenges and injustices of a broken criminal justice and woefully inadequate health care system that primarily targets low income, marginalized and vulnerable individuals. And to take steps, small and large, to begin to change that dynamic.”