“This was a course that encouraged us to examine our positionality,” said graduate student Rehan Aslam, “and I had a lot more to bring to the table than I thought I did.”
Tovar says she wants students from marginalized communities to feel safe in her class and speaking to others in the space. She wants them to feel heard. “I want students to question business as usual,” she said.
According to graduate student Ellis Silva, the course fostered a sense of her belonging in the broader community and gave her a new perspective on those she serves, and how best to serve them. “A lot of the class is about how to communicate better. Public health is by and for the community, in an equal partnership with researchers.”
The Community-Engaged Research course also builds connections to local networks of support groups, non-profits, and advocacy organizations. As Silva described, those connections don’t happen overnight. “Taking the time to build trust, and letting [community members] guide the research gets them involved,” she said. Aslam echoed that sentiment, “Public health is a collaborative partnership; this course taught me that sometimes it’s not science, it’s activism.”