At the Provost's Awards Reception on Wednesday, October 5, 2016, Dr. Ryan Kilmer, Professor in the Department of Psychology, was presented with the 2016 Provost’s Faculty Award for Community Engagement.
Over his 17 years of conducting community-based research at UNC Charlotte, Dr. Kilmer has focused on factors influencing the development of children at-risk for emotional, behavioral, and/or academic difficulties, particularly children’s resilience and adjustment to trauma; and the use of evaluative research to guide system change, program refinement, service delivery, and policy.
His efforts to create an integrated “system of care” to address the needs of children with severe mental health problems involves the collaborative work of state and county mental health officials, university faculty from around the state, and family members.
Kilmer has been a key partner in UNC Charlotte’s relationships with both Mecklenburg and Cleveland Counties’ systems of care, working with schools and family advocacy programs to support children with mental health problems and their families. He led participatory research initiatives to understand the data collected, identify strategies for using the results to improve the system, and modify the data collection strategies to meet the needs of the project.
The most recent focus of Kilmer's community engaged scholarship is on early childhood development in Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools (CMS). Under the threat of funding cuts, Kilmer was part of an advocacy effort, using his expertise on early childhood development to address the importance of quality pre-K programs like Bright Beginnings. This led to a year-long effort in which he partnered with CMS to identify the program goals, strategies to identify how well the program was meeting those goals, and a set of processes to evaluate the program from the perspective of the teachers, schools, and parents. This was the most comprehensive evaluation of the program in its history. The success of this effort was due largely to Kilmer’s understanding of early childhood development and methods to assess that development, together with his ability to partner with school administrators and to be a major leader of a team effort.
Kilmer teaches his students to translate their community engagement work into scholarly products. Engagement is part of a shared value within the Community Psychology Research Lab and the Community Psychology Training Program where Kilmer is an integral mentor. For its approach to community engagement, the Community Psychology Training Program received the 2013 National Excellence in Education Programs Award by the American Psychological Association.