- Community‐based/participatory action research and evaluation
- Food‐, health‐, land- and environmental justice
- Participatory urban/community (re)development and land use
- Community empowerment and self-determination
- Urban agriculture and its role in promoting community health, engagement, and self-determination
Dr. Kerry Vachta is a senior researcher at Spark Policy Institute. Dr. Vachta has a Ph.D. in Forestry (1999) from Michigan State University with emphases in community/social forestry and urban/community and environmental sociology and an M.A. in Ecological Psychology (1993).
Throughout her almost 30-year-long career in community-based, participatory action, and evaluation research, Dr. Vachta has partnered with people and organizations in the governmental, academic, non-profit and community-based sectors who are working to create innovative and effective solutions to complex social issues and inequities in a range of settings. As a result, she has extensive experience designing and implementing qualitative, quantitative and multi-level/multi-method projects and tools that are tailored for each partner to provide evidence-based support for those working to create positive social change. She also taught undergraduate and graduate level courses in qualitative, quantitative and action research methods and has applied that experience to help build the evaluation capacity of her partner organizations.
Those 30 years are bookended by two unique participatory action and evaluation research initiatives that shaped and demonstrate Dr. Vachta’s interests and expertise: the Urban Resources Initiative (URI/MSU) (’91-’99) and the Detroit Child Health Incubator Research Project (CHIRP) (’11-’17). Both projects were partnerships with community-based organizations in Detroit working for land-, food-, environmental- and/or health-justice through urban agriculture and complimentary activities. Through her involvement in these projects, Dr. Vachta developed expertise in forming and participating in equitable community partnerships and facilitating participatory research and evaluation to help guide and support efforts to address community-defined interests and goals and to promote community well-being and collective self-determination.