Skip to main content

Sandra Barnes

Professor, Department of Human and Organizational Development

Sandra Barnes focuses on the role of religion and congregations as change agents in society. She is also interested in race, class, and gender dynamics, the relationship between structural constraints and individual agency, and how these dynamics influence the experiences of residents in poor urban spaces.

Community Engagement: Professor Barnes is engaged in two major community-based projects. She has been engaged longitudinally in Gary, Indiana where she explores poverty, crime, and urban blight. While these terms are often used to describe Gary, her work interrogates whether they accurately reflect the present city or its promise, challenging common frames by exploring the legacy and the lives of its residents. In addition to a book using a comparative analysis of neighborhoods (The Cost of Being Poor, Barnes, 2005), Professor Barnes has created a 60-minute documentary contextualizing the current problems facing this once thriving rust-belt metropolis (produced by Cinematicfocus – see clip at A second project, the IAM! Experience, is a community-level intervention to combat HIV and Hepatitis C among Black men who have sex with men (BMSM) ages 18-24 years old using the evidence-based program, D-up: Defend Yourself! IAM! is funded by a 2015 Department of Health and Human Services Grant ($1.5 million over 5 years, Titled: “Capacity Building Innovations: Substance Abuse and HIV Prevention Services for African American Young Men Who Sleep with Men”). The program is designed to foster positive racial, sexual, and spiritual identities, as well as self-care. This applied and academic endeavor taps into BMSM networks to educate individuals how to engage in risk-reduction conversations.

For more information about Dr. Barnes and her work, please visit her website: