Claudia Isaac, University of New Mexico associate professor in Community & Regional Planning (CRP) in the School of Architecture & Planning, has been selected to receive the 2nd Annual Community Engaged Research Lectureship Award by the Office of the Vice President for Research.

As part of the award, Isaac will present a lecture on Thursday, May 4 at 5:30 p.m. in George Pearl Hall’s Garcia Auditorium. The lecture is free and open to the public.

Isaac, who has taught at UNM for 29 years, received a letter from the Office of the Vice President for Research, congratulating her selection – which is one of the highest honors the University bestows on its faculty members in recognition of research/creative activity of exceptional merit.

Renia Ehrenfeucht is the director of the CRP in the School of Architecture & Planning (SA&P). She also nominated Isaac to deliver the lecture.

Dr. Isaac’s projects not only accomplish immediate objectives but also build capacity for the organization or group to set and meet new objectives,” Ehrenfeucht wrote. “This is hard to accomplish and often overlooked in community engaged scholarship.”

Community engaged research is both Isaac’s research and passion.

“I always refer to our community partners as ‘scholars,’ because I don’t want to diminish their value in the process of authorship and ownership of materials produced as a function of the parallel collaboration that takes place between us,” Isaac said.

She often is the person on a board, committee or in an organization who takes the research and compiles it into a report or summary meeting notes, with collaborator review and comment. She believes “the process is co-creation”.

All of Isaac’s research is in response to a community need and therefore must engage the community.

“The term ‘poverty’ implies that those who live in poverty have no skills. Nothing could be further from the truth. Navigating the services the poor need is daunting in and of itself. People may not speak the language of the academy, but they are not without analytical insight,” she said.

“Dr. Isaac frames her work around poverty alleviation,” Ehrenfeucht wrote. “Given the complexity of the issue and that income disparities underlie global, national and local economies, she has worked on a wide range of related topics including economic development, violence reduction, food systems and affordable workforce housing. Many of these projects impact national and regional audiences including funding organizations and other practitioners…” Ehrenfeucht added that the most important impact of Isaac’s work resides in the community that first asked the question.

Some of the organizations with which Isaac has partnered include Albuquerque Affordable Housing Coalition, the New Mexico Resiliency Alliance, which partners with various other programs and funding sources to support community-based economic development projects statewide, engages in leadership development and also policy and advocacy work. The AgriCultura Network is the farmer-owned cooperative with which La Cosecha partners. La Cosecha began as a project of the AgriCultura Network and is now becoming its own non-profit organization. The two organizations remain in strong partnership with each other. 

“The key aspect of La Cosecha is it’s affordability for low income households that cannot usually afford locally grown, chemical free, high quality produce,” Isaac said.

“Ancient agricultural practices allowed communities to flourish. A goal is to resurrect those practices and restore food systems. The participatory evaluation of community based food systems organizations like La Cosecha CSA enables data collected from all collaborators, compiled with an external eye, to bring all the information and people together to direct collective action.”

Isaac has worked with the NM Resiliency Alliance and New Mexico MainStreet, in their work to build the economic development capacity of rural and underserved communities in NM. The NMRA has provided funding to MainStreet Organizations for the last three years for projects, and this hear has provided the first small grants to non-MainStreet communities.

According to Isaac, they received more than 40 excellent applications for three grants; and are developing a network of technical assistance providers expand on what NM MainStreet provides to aid in economic planning, designing physical plans and promoting the community.

“Her [Isaac’s] partners also emphasize her talent to communicate across different stakeholders and accurately represent different positions. She has conducted evaluation work for projects funded by the Walter K. Kellogg Foundation, The National Trust for Historic Preservation, The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and numerous state and community programs,” Ehrenfeucht wrote.

“It is important to celebrate and acknowledge Dr. Isaac’s research,” said Mark Childs, associate dean for research at SA&P. “The research and the award acknowledge to the larger community that rigorous community-based work adds great value to both the communities and the academy.”

“I’m delighted Dr. Isaac is only the second recipient of this award. It shows that the University upholds its mission to work with and support the citizens and New Mexico.”

Click here to RSVP to the lecture.