Professor, Department of Human and Organizational Development
Research: Professor Perkins works in three main areas: (1) Community Psychology: social capital (citizen participation, empowerment, sense of community, neighboring, networks); community development; social ecology/change; organizational change/development; program evaluation; community research methods; international & interdisciplinary studies. (2) Environment & Behavior: interdisciplinary study of community environmental problems (environmental criminology, housing/homelessness, deterioration, neighborhood revitalization, urban planning & design) and individual, community, and governmental responses. (3) Social Psychology, Law & Public Policy: research dissemination & policy use; interfaith and intercultural dialogue and understanding; disorder, crime & youth violence prevention; reactions to crime; deviance & social control theories. He is currently studying the global development of applied community studies in psychology, sociology, community development, social work, anthropology, economics, public health, public administration, urban/regional planning, education, and liberation/theology/religious studies.
Professor Perkins studies and works with voluntary associations, grassroots and non-profit community organizations, and government agencies responding to such issues, at all levels but especially local government. His conceptual orientation stresses ecological systems frameworks and multiple levels of analysis (individuals, families, organizations, communities). His populations of interest include neighborhood residents and leaders, the disenfranchised, low-income, minorities, and at-risk youths.
Teaching: Professor Perkins has taught Community Psychology, Community Intervention & Change, undergraduate Honors Seminar, social research methods (e.g. Community Inquiry), Global Dimensions of Community Development, and other courses. His teaching philosophy and methods emphasize a participatory seminar format, collegial atmosphere, and relevant and experiential learning. His students look at the community settings they live and work in and identify real-life social or environmental issues affecting them and then study and try to solve them collaboratively and systemically.
Service: Professor Perkins has served on the founding Advisory Board of the Faith & Culture Center and its Our Muslim Neighbor-Nashville Initiative, providing planning, research and evaluation consultation and supervising student interns for its programs in interfaith dialogue and mutual understanding.
He is a Co-PI of a project on mapping and analysis of neighborhood change, mobility, and housing affordability with the Vanderbilt Institute for Smart-cities Operations Research (VISOR), which is partnering with Metro government and public schools.
He has also led or co-led several applied research projects for Metro Nashville-Davidson County government, including the 2014-2015 project on Equitable Development: Promising Practices to Maximize Affordablity and Minimize Displacement in Nashville’s Urban Core, which Prepared for the Metropolitan Nashville Planning Department as part of the NashvilleNext 25-year strategic plan. Another project he co-led was the 2013-2014’s Jefferson Street: Revitalization Strategies in Historic Black Business Districts for Metro Nashville Planning Department and Jefferson Street United Merchants Partnership. In 2013 he led an undergraduate service-learning project assisting the “Mobilizing for Action through Planning and Partnerships—Nashville: Final Report to the Health Department of Metropolitan Davidson County.
Earlier, Prof. Perkins led the 2004 Mayor’s Task Force on Homelessness creating a 10-year plan and a Strategic Framework on Homelessness, which led to the current Nashville Homelessness Commission. He also directed the 2007-09 Hidden Costs of Homelessness in Nashville study for the Commission.
Community Engagement: Prof Perkins has also helped conduct several systematic and collaborative community needs assessment projects in Nashville, including the 2002-03 Nashville Immigrant Community Assessment (CoPI), the 2003-04 South Nashville Community Needs & Assets Assessment, and the 2007-08 Edgehill Community Assessment.
Three longitudinal research and consultation projects also had major service and community engagement components. The 2004-07 New SPECs project worked with United Way and several local, innovative nonprofit organizations toward Changing Paradigms in Human Services. The 2006-2011 Nashville Urban Partnership Academic Center of Excellence (NUPACE) project on organizational networks for youth violence prevention was funded by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And from 2007-2012, Perkins was co-PI of the Community Engaged Research Core of the Vanderbilt Institute for Clinical & Translational Research (VICTR)/Clinical & Translational Science Award (CTSA).
Internationally, Prof. Perkins planned and led two summer Fieldschools in Intercultural Education and action research in Southern China in 2007 and Cape Town, South Africa in 2012. In total, 27 Vanderbilt graduate and undergraduate students worked and learned collaboratively with students, faculty, and nongovernmental and local government partners on health, educational, and urban needs assessment and planning issues in poor regions of both countries.