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Ph.D. in Community Research and Action

Please note: The Ph.D. program in Community Research and Action (CRA) will not be admitting a cohort for the Fall 2021 admissions cycle. This decision was made in response to the budgetary impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. While departments and programs at Vanderbilt and other institutions are using a variety of strategies to address these impacts, pausing admissions to graduate programs is not uncommon. Our decision to forgo a new cohort of Ph.D. students in 2021 will help to ensure that we have the resources to support both current students and the students we plan to admit in the future. We are very confident that we will resume admissions to this Ph.D. program with the cycle for the Fall 2022 cohort. In the interim, we encourage you to look into our department’s master’s degree program in Community Development and Action (CDA), which will be admitting students for Fall 2021. Although it is more focused on preparation for professional practice, CDA covers many of the same substantive issues and interdisciplinary perspectives that interest students in CRA and can serve as preparation for further study at the doctoral level.

 

CRA Students and Facuty

About the Program 

The Ph.D. degree in Community Research and Action (CRA) prepares action-oriented researchers for academic or policy-related careers in applied community studies with a social justice orientation. If your areas of interest include community psychology, community development, social program evaluation, organizational change, health or mental health policy, prevention, urban change and social policy, and the like, the CRA program offers an intellectual community where your knowledge and field skills will be enhanced. In keeping with Peabody College's mission to provide research and education that makes a difference in the lives of children, youth, and adults in the community, we prepare students to use action research to promote human and organizational development at the local, national, and international levels.


CRA is the successor to Peabody's long-standing program in community psychology and reflects a move in the field toward interdisciplinary thinking. You will study qualitative and quantitative methods, evaluation research, community theory, and social ethics, among a variety of community studies-related topics, and be able to draw on course offerings across Vanderbilt's schools and departments. As a CRA student you will focus on four thematic areas:

  • Analysis of problem solving at multiple levels: individual, family, organization, community, and society
  • Interdisciplinary perspectives and approaches to practice
  • Collaborative action research aimed at transforming institutions and promoting lifelong human development
  • Dynamic understanding of social change to inform and evaluate community action

 

Program Aims

CRA is designed to train researchers for academic or policy-related careers in applied community studies (e.g., community psychology, community development, social program evaluation, organizational change, health or mental health policy, prevention, urban change and social policy). Recognizing the expanding connections between community and education broadly conceived (e.g., school-based prevention programs, community service-learning, organized parent involvement, community-based adult education, the "learning community" model of community development), CRA is designed to train action-researchers in applied community studies. Action research is a cyclical process of informed social action followed by evaluation and renewed action, ideally with the full participation of those affected.

The Ph.D. in CRA is distinctive in its combination of community psychology, with its emphasis on rigorous applied research, and community development, with its strong tradition of empirically grounded practice. "Research" and "Action" in CRA are not separate curricular or career tracks. Rather, they are equal and inextricably linked areas of professional identity and expertise in a scientist-practitioner model. In that regard, the name CRA signals a connection with the Society for Community Research and Action (SCRA), the main international professional society in community psychology.

Note: This program does not offer clinical training. However, Peabody and Vanderbilt offer a M.Ed. in Human Development Counseling as well as doctoral training in clinical psychology.