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Political Science and Criminal Justice

Interdisciplinary, Community Based Research Course on Housing & Homelessness

Beginning in the fall of 2017, Professor Jennifer Wilking joined colleagues in Social Work and Psychology (fall 2017 and 2018) to offer students an interdisciplinary, community-based research course focusing on the challenge of homelessness.

The course links classes in two to three disciplines around one question: How does research inform policy? As a community-based research class, the research is intentionally selected to inform local needs for research and data. For example, in fall of 2017, students surveyed individuals experiencing homelessness as well as housed respondents around their needs and preferences for approaches to this complex problem. In the fall of 2018, the class further engaged in community research needs around housing: students piloted the Point in Time survey, a federally mandated effort that determines community funding, and students have interviewed stakeholders around several community-identified issues, such as housing for criminal offenders, and for those being discharged from the hospital. During the fall 2019 course, students explored community housing challenges in the wake of the Camp Fire, examining impacts for three groups: Chico State Students, Camp Fire survivors and individuals who were experiencing homelessness prior to the Camp Fire.

Students in the fall 2018 course volunteering at the Jesus Center on Make a Difference Day

Students in the fall 2018 course volunteering at the Jesus Center on Make a Difference Day

In the fall of 2017 and 2018, three class sections participated in the course, Jennifer Wilking’s Introduction to Research Methods (POLS 331), Susan Roll’s Social Work Policy, Programs and Services, and Mariah Kornbluh’s Community Psychology course (PSYC 401). In the fall of 2020, Political Science and Social Work students will be joined by students in Community Health (PHHA 321) to explore intersections of housing and health.

Students in these courses meet with their disciplinary peers on Tuesdays in smaller classrooms, and all of the classes meet together on Thursdays for joint learning and to work in interdisciplinary groups. Thus far, each semester has entailed original data collection and analysis as well as a detailed policy proposal. Students in the courses hear multiple presentations from community stakeholders around homelessness early in the fall semester. The semester culminates in public presentations to the university and community stakeholders regarding the research and policy proposals, including to the City Council (in 2018).

 To learn more about the fall 2019 iteration of the course, see Ashley Gebb’s story in Chico State Today(opens in new window)

In February 2020, Social Work Senior Rosario Zepeda co-presented research with Drs. Susan Roll and Jen Wilking at the CA Higher Education Basic Needs Alliance Summit. Rosario was a student in the fall 2019 Interdisciplinary course, and shared her experience during the presentation, Cultivating Students as Co-Researchers in Basic Needs Research.  

Dr. Susan Roll (SWRK), Senior Rosario Zepeda (SWRK), and Dr. Jen Wilking (POLS)

 Dr. Susan Roll (SWRK), Senior Rosario Zepeda (SWRK), and Dr. Jen Wilking (POLS)

Political Statements is the official newsletter of the Department of Political Science and Criminal Justice at California State University, Chico.

With over 1,000 total majors, the Department of Political Science and Criminal Justice is one of the largest departments at Chico State. Students choose courses from a rich curriculum, providing close student-faculty contact in each of the following majors of study: U.S. politics, legal studies, criminal justice, international relations, and public administration. The department also offers a Master of Public Administration and a Master of Arts in Political Science.

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