UC Berkeley professor receives grant to support community partnerships

photo of Emily Ozer
Emily Ozer, professor of community health sciences at UC Berkeley’s School of Public Health, hopes to use her $650,000 grant from the William T. Grant Foundation to promote community-partnered research, particularly in investigating absenteeism in the San Francisco Unified School District.

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The William T. Grant Foundation gave Emily Ozer, professor of community health sciences at UC Berkeley’s School of Public Health, $650,000 to assess campus guidelines on community partnerships.

Ozer said she will work to change UC Berkeley’s institutional guidelines in pursuing community-partnered scholarships to encourage more community-partnered research.

In addition, William T. Grant Foundation president Adam Gamoran said Ozer will work with the San Francisco Unified School District, or SFUSD, to reduce chronic absenteeism in San Francisco schools.

“All too often, research done by social scientists gets written up in academic journal articles and then remains on the shelves of libraries,” Gamoran said. “That’s not very satisfying if you are a funder of research, because our goal is actually to improve the lives of young people … Researchers and service providers working in partnership is a great way to increase the chances that findings will actually be used.”

With the grant, Ozer added that faculty and staff have more time and can focus more on making changes on campus to improve the ways community-partnered scholarships are evaluated for faculty.

The funding will help in straightening guidelines in order to better recognize faculty members’ contributions in making an impact in the world, which is not necessarily published in a journal, according to Ozer.

“I think many students come to Berkeley wanting to make a difference in the world and wanting to do research that makes a difference,” Ozer said.

Making it easier for faculty to pursue research with community organizations will in turn make it easier for faculty and students to advance their careers and benefit UC Berkeley as a whole, Ozer added.

For SFUSD, Ozer said she is working with partners in the school district to analyze administrative and quantitative data to assess patterns of chronic absenteeism.

“We’re also doing qualitative research and supporting student-led research so that the students themselves are giving their insights about their own lived experiences of absenteeism,” Ozer said.

Some of her research aims include identifying barriers for engagement, understanding students’ experiences and assessing the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Her team is also trying to better understand how to measure absenteeism and how to get the insights of teachers, students and families to find which solution works best, Ozer said.

“I’ve worked very closely with her for the last 16 years and Dr. Ozer is someone I have deep respect for because of her commitment to community-engaged work and her commitment to doing that work with a rigorous scientific lens,” said School of Public Health associate professor Colette Auerswald. “She’s thinking about how the work should be done and how the work she does can help promote the field.”

Contact Ryan Teoh at [email protected], and follow him on Twitter at @RyanTeoh001.