Susan Roll, Ph.D. and Jennifer Wilking, Ph.D.

California State University, Chico

Susan Roll, Ph.D. and Jennifer Wilking, Ph.D.

Susan Roll, Ph.D., professor and director of Chico State's School of Social Work, and Jennifer Wilking, Ph.D., associate professor and vice chair of Chico State's Department of Political Science and Criminal Justice, are recognized for advancing student research and engagement on the issues of housing and homelessness.

Roll and Wilking developed and co-teach an innovative, multidisciplinary political science and social work course that helps students learn how research informs local policy on housing needs in the Chico community. Students are immersed in learning about homelessness issues directly from community members, as well as understanding the need for data and research in those areas. They then design and implement research to address those data needs. Students also have the opportunity to give back to the community by volunteering at local homeless shelters and by presenting their research at public events.

In qualitative interviews, students expressed a stronger sense of personal agency in responding to social problems and discovered a meaningful purpose for their coursework and connection to career goals. Students also articulated a greater understanding of conducting applied research.

“The work [of Roll and Wilkings] is critically important at this moment, when we are intensely focused on empowering students to move toward their degrees with purpose and efficiency, and when public trust in the value of higher education is in crisis," says Kate McCarthy, dean of Undergraduate Education at Chico State.