Intellectual Merit: The six-week summer REU site engages a diverse group of students, faculty and community members in community-based geographic inquiry of social and environmental disparities in Atlanta neighborhoods, including examinations of neighborhood change, property markets, air quality, urban green spaces, and neighborhood visioning. With an explicit focus on community geography, university-community partnerships and participatory methodologies, the research training program is among the first of its kind for undergraduates in the United States. The REU aims to develop well-prepared, ethical researchers who are committed to community-based research for addressing social and environmental disparities. The site also seeks to develop a new conceptual framework for community geography, an emerging subfield of geography that draws from Participatory GIS (PGIS), mixed methodologies, and critical urban theory. Community geography places explicit emphasis on identifying the spatial thinking and local knowledges that emerge from neighborhood residents' experiences and seeks to affect positive community change, in a variety of ways, whether it is to visualize challenges and assets, improve service delivery, or more accurately identify geographic disparities. Undergraduates and faculty mentors in this project investigate the spatial thinking and local knowledges of residents who seek to address social and environmental disparities in Atlanta.
Broader Impacts: The most important impact is that the site is among the first U.S.-based undergraduate training programs explicitly focused on community-based geographic inquiry where undergraduates develop their interests in community geography. Second, there is an opportunity for knowledge discovery to identify and mitigate social and environmental disparities in urban neighborhoods. Third, each student will be confronted with real-life examples/conflicts in research ethics. Fourth, there is practical significance for local communities as shared products and data are developed in the forms of maps, datasets, an online GIS server, non-technical reports, oral histories and multimedia. Finally, knowledge and practices gained from the site can lead to disciplinary transformation as the team develops a new conceptual framework for community geography.