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Paul W. Speer

Professor and Chair, Department of Human and Organizational Development

Research:  Paul Speer's research interests focus on community organizing, social power and community change. He studies the processes and mechanisms of community organizations as these groups work to alter social conditions in their communities. Additionally, he is interested in linking these organizational processes to their associated impacts on the broader community as well as the impacts on individual participants.

Teaching:  Paul teaches Community Development Theory, a course examining various theories that address the development of urban areas in the postwar era. The course examines the intersection of economics, politics, demographics, technology and other forces shaping the urban form and the quality of interactions in these spaces. He also teaches community organizing, a course exploring expressions of agency by local actors on more macro-level processes, and the tools and methods for developing power to enhance agentic actions. He’s also recently taught Philanthropy and Social Problem Solving, Research Experience, and HOD Honors. 

Service:  He is currently Chair of the Department of Human & Organizational Development, and is also serving on the editorial boards of Journal of Urban Affairs, American Journal of Community Psychology, and the Vanderbilt University Press.

Community Engagement:  He is currently involved in several community-based studies that draw on action research and participatory engagement with residents. He is working with an NIJ-funded study of youth safety and wellbeing and a CDC-funded study of using media to alter community norms to reduce youth violence. He is also working with the Martha O’Bryan Center on violence prevention thru an NIJ-funded effort.