Social Work Spotlight: Meet Post-Doctoral Research Fellow Allison Laskey
Detroiters have been at the heart of the rally cry for social justice for decades. With the development of the Black Lives Matter movement in 2020, researchers including Post-Doctoral Research Fellow Allison Laskey were drawn to Wayne State for its commitment to working hand-in-hand with expert Detroit residents committed to partnerships that create knowledge and social change to benefit all.
Before coming to Wayne, Laskey earned a PhD in Urban Planning and Environmental Policy at University of California, Irvine. Under the guidance of WSU Associate Professor Richard Smith and Associate Dean for Research Joanne Sobeck from the School of Social Work, Laskey also works with team members from Engineering, Health Sciences, Communications, and Political Science on a National Science Foundation (NSF) supported grant on Water Health Infrastructure Resilience and Learning (WHIRL).
What is the focus of your research?
My research focuses on racial justice and resilience. I study racial justice in urban America, particularly Detroit. My research expands theory and applications in urban policy to promote meaningful community engagement and empowerment. To this end, my work identifies where and how policy channels shut out marginalized people’s voices. As a whole, my work elucidates the collective ways these marginalized communities endeavor to impose their voices and vision into these policy channels using a diverse array of tactics and strategies.
I also study resilience as it relates to the interdependencies of water and public health systems. My role on the WHIRL team has centered around conducting a national survey of public water systems and local public health departments, as well as an additional survey of state drinking water administrators. I have also been working with a subteam to review various approaches to resilience in order to draw interdisciplinary propositions about the construct. A key interest of mine is resilience for sustainable and equitable urban development.
How do you partner with our Detroit community?
My research involves learning from working class Black-led grassroots organizations in Detroit. As I learn from them to produce research, an integral part of the research design is to contribute to the organizations by volunteering as a notetaker, editor, and consultant. For four years, I volunteered with a resident association on the Eastside, Charlevoix Village Association (CVA), who is fighting for housing justice and equitable development as their neighborhood revitalizes. Since the Black Lives Matter Movement has erupted across the country, I have worked with the movement organization Detroit Will Breathe (DWB) to pursue an agenda for racial justice and against police brutality. Organizing with CVA and DWB has allowed me to work in tandem with other organizations and active residents across the city with goals of social justice and community development. My research contributes to the organizational functions of my community collaborators, including research, civic participation, and protest.
Why did you choose Wayne State?
Wayne State is Detroit’s hometown university, and it is one of the principal employers in the city.
As someone dedicated to research and engagement oriented toward learning from and benefiting Detroit, there is no better choice for me than Wayne State. It is exciting to be part of the School of Social Work and to join their notable track record of engaged research and practice serving Detroit.
What kind of classes are you interested in teaching?
I had the wonderful opportunity to develop and teach an undergraduate seminar on Sustainable Cities and a Master’s level Environmental Planning course for Wayne State’s Department of Urban Studies and Planning. I have further interest in teaching courses in social justice and qualitative methods.