Public health professor named to BIPOC leadership cohort

For Candace Robertson-James, DrPH, helping La Salle University strengthen community partnerships is a priority.

To facilitate this progress, Robertson-James, Assistant Professor of Public Health and Director of Public Health Programs at La Salle, is one of six professionals to gain invaluable tools through the inaugural cohort of the BIPOC Leadership Collective.

The scholarship, organized by the Place-Based Justice Network (PBJN)identifies itself as a program to “elevate professionals of color in the field of community engagement (both on and off campus) to powerfully reflect on who they are, who they are called to become, and how they can work towards positive change in our field.”

The program is facilitated by PBJN Steering Committee members and is comprised of professionals of all levels of experience and expertise across its network.

Fellows will participate in a variety of programs, including a one-day retreat prior to the PBJN Institute in the summer of 2022, monthly Zoom calls, one-on-one coaching, and the PBJN Leaders Retreat in December. In collaboration with the PBJN Steering Committee, the cohort will support the PBJN network by providing leadership to their respective member institutions.

Becoming a member institution of the PBJN allowed La Salle to submit a faculty candidate for consideration for this new scholarship. “La Salle has a long commitment to community-engaged learning,” Vice President of Mission, Diversity and Inclusion Brother Ernest Miller, FSC, D. Min. “This is a program that exemplifies the university’s core values ​​of ‘teaching and learning’ and ‘service rooted in justice and solidarity’. Joining PBJN immediately opened doors for La Salle to take advantage of this new scholarship. Because of Dr. Robert-James’ commitment to community learning in our neighborhood of Belfield and beyond, she was an obvious candidate to recommend for consideration.

Candace Robertson-James, DrPH
Candace Robertson-James, DrPH, speaks about La Salle’s public health programs with prospective students and their families during an Early Explorer Experience on campus in fall 2021.

Upon hearing of her appointment, Robertson-James was eager for the chance to acquire more tools to better work with the community surrounding La Salle.

“I come from a background in public health, but I’ve been privileged to be able to work with communities in different ways throughout my career,” she explained.

Roberston-James recently completed another National Fellowship, the BMe Vanguard Fellowship Program, a leadership experience designed and facilitated by the world’s leading authorities in social innovation, influence, health, finance, storytelling, of race and culture.

While Roberston-James is in the early stages of the BIPOC Leadership Collective, she said she enjoys hearing and learning from the rest of the cohort. She is grateful to have the opportunity to network with other BIPOC leaders engaged in local and community initiatives in their institutions and describes the meetings as “a wonderful space for sharing, vulnerability and support”.

“I am intrigued and look forward to learning more about how they, through their various roles and entities, are engaging with community members across the gamut, from curriculum initiatives to faculty and courses to broader institutional perspectives,” she said.

PBJN lists multiple results he hopes fellows will benefit from the experience. These include:

  • Develop a sense of community among BIPOC community engagement professionals (institutions and community partners);
  • Demonstrate increased comfort with vulnerability and increasingly understand the importance of integrity and humility in community work;
  • Demonstrate a deeper understanding of the personal and institutional dynamics of power, oppression, and agency in community-engaged activities and practices;
  • Support the PBJ network through a collective consulting/coaching effort (which could potentially become a revenue generator);
  • Integrate anti-oppression frameworks that recognize intersectionality into community engagement practices; and
  • Create opportunities for multiple diverse voices to co-construct a new paradigm for service learning and community engagement that weaves epistemic justice with existing critical theories and practices in the field.

With her background in public health, Robertson-James is interested in learning how to add more of a community-derived element to the program, working in tandem with the scientific elements of programming.

“La Salle has a long history of community learning. This is a program that exemplifies the university’s core values ​​of “teaching and learning” and “service rooted in justice and solidarity.” Joining PBJN immediately opened doors for La Salle to take advantage of this new scholarship. Because of Dr Robert-James’ commitment to community learning in our neighborhood of Belfield and beyond, she was an obvious candidate to recommend for consideration,”

– Brother Ernest Miller, FSC, D.Min., vice president of Mission, Diversity and Inclusion

“I’ve always loved the idea of ​​having community members and community voters intimately involved in shaping my platform,” she said. “So I would love to hear more about that or have the opportunity to maybe join in on that and see what that would look like.”

From the Joint Commission’s perspective, Robertson-James said the fellowship will help provide insight into how to achieve its goals, including forming stronger community partnerships and bringing more of the Commission’s recommendations to fruition.

“One of the ways we promote and enact social justice is through the very real partnerships we have with our community and making space for that,” she said.

She said she hoped it could be a supporting beam from a larger foundation to support the work of the Joint Commission.

“I am very honored to be part of it and to see him be part of La Salle. I hope this is an opportunity to continue some of the work of this joint commission as we move forward on some of the other parts of the recommendations,” she added.

Meg Ryan

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