Faculty Discuss Their Scholarship

Today, we talk to three faculty in the Social Work & Sociology Department, Dr. Katharine Dill on field education, Dr. Martha Garcia on community collaborations, and Dr. Justin Sean Myers on food justice activism.


Dr. Katharine Dill’s work centers on how to facilitate knowledge mobilization and innovation in social work field education supervision.  From her experience, “field supervisors have a real thirst for knowledge yet lack the time as they are too busy putting out fires.”  To address this problem she is working on providing resources and trainings for field supervisors so that “they can address the emotional reactions of students to field experiences and help them face adversity in their field placements, which entails having challenging discussions about challenging issues.”  To this end Dr. Dill is contributing to The Field Educator, an online journal of social work that promotes knowledge exchange among the social work field education community. Through writing for this knowledge mobilization portal, Dr. Dill hopes to help students grow and develop as social workers through strengthening field education.

More information on Dr. Dill can be found on her personal website.


Dr. Martha Garcia’s work “focuses on how to create robust, engaged, and empowering collaborations between academics, professionals, and community members that aim to address inequities in marginalized communities.”  This interest has emerged because she has “seen so many organizations fail, and collaborations fail because of different lived experiences and different interests that emerged out of one’s class, race, and gender.” Through conducting focus groups and simulated exercises, Dr. Garcia’s work “investigates the skills, knowledge, and values that academics need to have to participate in meaningful community collaborations, and then how faculty can teach these skills, knowledge, and values to students.” 

In looking at how social workers, psychologists, public health workers, nurses, and lawyers interact with each other and with community members, Dr. Garcia found that there are many barriers to creating engaged community development projects, including, “the inability to listen to another’s perspective, integrate it into their own way of thinking, and respect it.”  Another problem was “the inability to work through difference and conflict by finding common ground, gelling around this commonality, and coalescing in a group.”  Both of these issues resulted from the people coming together lacking the capacity, skill set, and desire “to move beyond conflict and create consensus.” 

If interested, you can read such work here and here.


Dr. Myers’ scholarship investigates how grassroots organizations are utilizing food to address social, economic, and environmental injustice. His recent work analyzes the efforts of East New York Farms! (ENYF!), a food justice organization located in a low-income Black, Latinx, and Caribbean community in Brooklyn, to address food access barriers through community gardens, urban farms, and farmers markets. In working with the organization he found that “ENYF! engages in two major practices that work towards food justice, culinary justice, and land justice.”   

“First, ENYF! farmers market is not a traditional farmers market.  It merges the selling of local food with interracial empowerment and culinary justice through celebrating black and Caribbean foodways. ENYF! specializes in the staples of residents – bitter melon, hot peppers, collard greens, bush beans, long beans, malabar spinach, okra and callaloo – and emphasizes their cultural importance to the community through festivals, pot-lucks, and anti-oppression workshops where culinary traditions are reaffirmed and common bonds can be forged across difference through the sharing of stories, knowledge, and skills.”

“Second, the organization assists residents in claiming a right to vacant land for farming purposes. The community has a large immigrant population, many of whom grew up on farms, come from farming families that are only a generation or two removed from the land, or have identities rooted in food cultivation. Many want to grow their own food, but they have faced significant obstacles in obtaining access to and control over land because City Hall devalues their cultural claims to the land in favor of growth oriented economic redevelopment.  This is why ENYF! has been so important and helpful for residents, through their organizational connections and power they have been able to legitimate residents claims to land, as well as remove vacant lots from the market and place them into land trusts so they protected forever.”

In closing he stated, “This is what food justice looks like, bottom-up community mobilizations that are organic to the community, speak to their needs, make sense to the community, and empower the community to address problems head-on.”

You can read more about his work at his personal website