Tufts Community Research Center provides funding to local groups

The Tufts Community Research Center (TCRC) recently provided seed grant funding to the Mystic River Watershed Association (MyRWA) and the Southern Jamaica Plain Health Center.

TCRC has regularly provided this funding since 2006 as a means of strengthening ties between researchers from Tufts and the surrounding community, according to TCRC Director and professor of public health and community medicine Doug Brugge.

“The philosophy is to support community collaborative research,” said Peter Levine, the Lincoln Filene professor of Citizenship & Public Affairs. “[The funding] actually produces better research…because it allows the community to contribute values and ideas.”

Levine added that the members of the TCRC board reflect this pro-collaboration attitude.

“TCRC is unique and excellent in that it is managed by a board that is half Tufts faculty and half community partners,” he said.

The board considered nine applications for funding, according to Brugge. He explained that he and his colleagues were most intrigued by research proposals that demonstrated a strong collaboration between Tufts and its community partners.

“We have two main criteria,” he said. “First, is it a strong proposal, well thought-out and likely to be successful? And [second], does it incorporate a good partnership between the university and the community?”

Brugge said that thanks to greater funding from Tisch College this year TCRC was able to sponsor an additional research project.

The funding will support an environmental project that MyRWA is organizing with Kate Munson, a first-year graduate student in the School of Engineering, according to Patrick Herron, MyRWA’s water quality monitoring director. Munson is assessing the Mystic River’s level of phosphorus, which often flows into rivers through storm water, Herron said.

By studying samples taken from the river system, Munson said she hopes to produce data that will be useful for future scientists working to lower levels of pollutants within Mystic River.

“We are extremely grateful for the relationship we have with Tufts, and the award of the TCRC funds,” Herron said. “With these funds in hand, MyRWA is able to approach other funders to expand this work to other parts of the watershed and complete a full assessment of nutrient pollutants to the Mystic River.”

Meanwhile, the Southern Jamaica Plain Health Center (SJPHC) will use the funding from Tufts to support a pilot program developed by Linda Sprague Martinez, an assistant professor of Public Health and Community Medicine.

The project will consist of a 10-week series of group discussions, each featuring 10 African-American participants from Boston-area universities, according to the grant proposal. Discussions will focus on issues relating to race, identity and self-care.

Martinez explained that half the $6,000 grant will be used as a stipend for group participants, while the other half will be paid to the licensed social worker who will be facilitating the group.

“I think one of the big goals of the grant is to test whether the goal of [the project] is effective… and to make additional connections with researchers researching racism here at Tufts,” she said.

Levine said he believes that Tufts and its partners will benefit from these grants.

“Tufts aspires to be a global leader in civic engagement,” Levine said. “One of the ways that we contribute is through research. The latest grants from TCRC exemplify excellent partnerships and high-quality research.”