UD and the CARe initiative

Mary Kate Elfelt, Staff Writer


A group of professors at the University of Dallas have come together to help better the lives of those in the Dallas-Fort Worth area by promoting mental health awareness, economic equality and food security.

The network bringing together economics professor Dr. Tammy Leonard, human sciences in the contemporary world professor Dr. Carla Pezzia and psychology professor Dr. Stephanie Swales is Community Assistance Research (CARe).

CARe aims to improve the communication between researchers and the public.

Through start-up funding in 2013 from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, UT Southwestern’s Dr. Sandi Pruitt and Leonard started the CARe initiative in order to better serve low- and middle-class families in the DFW area.

Leonard stated in an email that the stakeholder team is comprised of representatives from many different groups in the area.

“[Represented are] notable local community groups, including the North Texas Food Bank, CitySquare, Texas Hunger Initiative, Crossroads Community Services, Parkland, Children’s, and others,” Leonard wrote in an email.

Through CARe, DFW researchers with running projects meet twice a month to discuss their work.

By sharing their projects’ achievements and setbacks, other researchers can better improve their own work. This new network encourages better results and policies in order that the community be served and not merely examined. The partnerships that CARe facilitates serve these goals.

“Building interdisciplinary, multi-institution community-based collaborations is essential to this agenda,” the UD webpage for CARe states. “Through partnerships we hope to more efficiently disseminate research results, implications, and policy recommendations across disciplines and organizations. Through better communication among researchers and stakeholders, we will engage in research that is relevant to the policies and strategies being used to assist low- and middle-income populations.”

The interest expressed by researchers from such distinguished institutions, all with charitable outreaches, shows not only CARe’s increasing influence, but the community’s own desire for improvement.

The relationships forming between the community examiners and the community supporters will bridge the gap between classes in an effort to give help where it is needed most.

As co-director, Leonard launches efforts to aid in improving the dignity of persons in the DFW community.

This outreach also extends beyond the metroplex. Leonard’s work entails a trip to Washington, D.C. with a special interest group to share the initiative’s work with the National Science Foundation (NSF), as well as sharing other ideas and projects with researchers at Baylor University and the University of Illinois.

These nationally-shared efforts will help develop outreaches for communities that suffer in areas of basic need. UD students can hold student internships through CARe and receive credit toward some majors.

These positions are generally unpaid for those working with non-profit organizations.

There are, however, a few stipended positions for students involved in the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation-funded work.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is a national philanthropic foundation that advances and improves health and healthcare for Americans.

There are three locations in the DFW area that have received grants from the foundation, including one at the Parkland Center for Clinical Innovation and another at the American Heart Association.

Those who are interested can meet with a CARe faculty member for more information about an internship or volunteer experience.

Leonard finds working with CARe to be rewarding and eye-opening.

By guiding any interested students, CARe can allow them to engage in research and open doors to careers that positively affect low- and middle- income families.

This exposure allows further understanding of a greater world impact through better connections.


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