Jonnell Robinson is the only person to serve as Community Geographer at Syracuse University, since the position was created in 2005. In this uncommon role Robinson learns from the public and non-profit leaders in the Syracuse area about pressing local issues, she invites university employees and students into the discussion, and she employs analytic tools such as geographic information systems (GIS) to reveal possible solutions. Her lecture on this emerging community engagement process, “Breaking Down the Town-Gown Divide: Participatory Action Research and Community Geography in Syracuse” will be held on Wednesday, March 27, at 5:30pm in Ely Hall room 200. This event is free and open to the public and co-sponsored by the geography department, the program in Urban Studies, and the Campus-Community Advisory Committee.
The Syracuse Hunger Project coalition of agencies, academia, and government initially recommended that the university establish a Community Geographer — now a permanent faculty position — after GIS mapping and spatial analysis provided by the geography department shed new light on hunger in Syracuse and indicated areas where local collaborative solutions were possible. Robinson’s work has evolved to concentrate on four subject areas: community and economic development; neighborhood revitalization; social, environmental, and transportation justice; and health inequalities and disparities.
“We’re really focused on mixed methods to get at a problem, and every project we do is one hundred percent community defined,” Robinson commented to the American Association of Geographers newsletter. “Real problems are complex, and often no one discipline can tackle these complex problems.”
Earlier, Jonnell Robinson consulted for the global women’s health non-profit Ipas and the Wildlife Conservation Society. She has researched for the World Wildlife Fund, the University of North Carolina School of Public Health, the Cecil G. Sheps Center for Health Services Research, and the Miz-Hasab Research Center. Robinson earned both her PhD. in geography and Master’s in Public Health from the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill, and her Bachelor’s degree in Political Science and International Studies from Niagara University.
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