(Pictured: Makini Kweli, Tawana Petty, Cheryl Danley, Roxanne Moore-Jones, and Jennifer Kautz. Hanifa Adjuman of DBCFSN appears on the right. Not pictured: Erin Shawgo or Kerry Vachta.)

Because the work that the CHIRP Research Team does requires them to be behind the scenes except during occasional data collection and evaluation activities, we decided to take a moment to formally introduce them to the world! Please say hello to the CHIRP Research Team!

Hello, I’m Kerry Vachta. I’m the “Principle Investigator/Project Director for CHIRP and an Extension Specialist at Michigan State University in Participatory Research in Environment and Community Health. I have a PhD in forestry from MSU (focusing on social forestry and urban and environmental studies) and a Master’s in ecological psychology. My dissertation work involved helping block clubs and other community-based organizations in Detroit use vacant lands for agroforestry-based gardens and other projects like orchards and tree nurseries. (Agroforestry is where we use trees, shrubs and other plants that improve soil quality instead of chemical fertilizers and other synthetic inputs.)

I was interested in how the groups often used those projects as an organizing tool to draw in folks (e.g. younger folks and men most often) who don’t typically participate in community-based organizations and also used the process to develop strategic planning and leadership skills.  After that, I was the Director of Environmental Programs and Offerings at Antioch college and then an Assistant Professor of Environment, Community and Social Change at Penn State Harrisburg before coming back to Detroit to direct the Evaluation Research Unit at WSUs Center for Urban Studies in 2005. I co-authored the grant that funds CHIRP during that time and have served as PI/PD since we were awarded in 2011.

The CHIRP Research Team (CRT) includes:

Makini Kweli (in purple)

Project Manager, Makini Kweli. Makini has a Masters in public administration. Makini was hired in the first few months of the CRT and has helped to develop many of the administrative and management tools we use to keep the project going and the partners funded. She has primary responsibility for a lot of the business functions – things like processing invoices so the partners get the funds they need to do their work and providing training so they know how to keep their records and generate invoices and hands on assistance. She’s also taken on a greater role in the research more recently –honing her data management skills and some preliminary data analysis.

Project Coordinator, Cheryl Danley. Cheryl joined the team more recently and is responsible for coordinating the activities of our part time project assistants on things like getting quarterly Healthy Living Logbooks mailed and processed on schedule and divvying up data entry responsibilities. She keeps track of where we are with data entry and processing. She also schedules our monthly PD meetings – reserves rooms, contacts the group with any agenda items, etc.

Cheryl Danley (l) and Jennifer Kautz (r)

Dissemination Coach, Jennifer Kautz. It’s Jennifer’s job to document what happens in CHIRP-funded program activities and then develop materials that we can share with other communities so they can adopt similar programming. She is now identifying and working with groups who have not been involved with CHIRP before to pilot test the materials she developed to make sure they can get good outcomes using those to guide their program activities.

Current Project Assistants, Roxanne Moore and Erin Shawgo. Former PA, Tawana Petty.

RJProfilePic.pngThe Project Assistants are responsible for data coding and data entry, transcribing recordings of interviews and meetings, assisting with preparing mailings and assisting with research and clerical tasks.

Erin is our newest member. In addition to heerinshawgor other PA duties, she created and helps to maintain the map of resources to support healthy families in Detroit that is part of the
CHIRP313.org website.  Tawana Petty was also a CHIRP Project Assistant.

To see learn more about what the CHIRP Research Team does, check out Part 1 and Part 3 of their interview!