Emily Ozer, professor of community health sciences, was chosen to receive a 2014-2015 Chancellor’s Award for Public Service in the category of Faculty Research in the Public Interest. The public service awards are presented annually to recognize UC Berkeley students, staff, faculty, and community partnerships that embody Berkeley's proud tradition of public service and commitment to improving our local and global community.
Ozer was recognized for her development of curricula and programs that support positive youth development and result in improved mental and physical health outcomes for young people. For example, her Youth-Led Participatory Action Research (YPAR) project in public schools in San Francisco has engaged more than 350 student peer leaders over the last nine years, supporting them in their work to conduct research as a tool for creating institutional change.
Nominators cited Ozer’s devotion to finding creative ways to engage and support young people in their empowerment; her long history as a leader in community-based research; and her demonstrated commitment to campus diversity. In all, she received eight nominations for the award.
Among the nominators was Laura Douglas, Adolescent and School Health Coordinator for the California Department of Public Health STD Control Branch. She wrote, “There are many youth development programs out there. Dr. Ozer is unique in her commitment to finding meaningful ways to engage youth at every stage of the process—from problem definition to the identification of existing opportunities and development of new solutions.”
Iris Lavi, a postdoctoral fellow at the School of Public Health, coordinated the nomination team. In her nomination, she noted the lasting positive effects of Ozer’s YPAR project on the young people who participated.
“I have been to several conferences in which some students who were involved in the research presented their work and discussed how this program impacted their lives,” wrote Lavi. “I was impressed by the respect these youth felt originating from the program.”
Pui Ling Tam, executive director of San Francisco Peer Resources, one of Ozer’s community partners, wrote, “Our youth—of color, low-income, often English language learners, and usually the first in their family to possibly attend college—do not have the resources as-is to successfully negotiate the demands of schooling. Further, our youth are often disproportionately pushed down or out of schools: For instance, while only 30 percent of San Francisco Unified School District students are African American, 70 percent of the youth who are suspended from school—thereby missing instructional time—are African American. Overwhelmingly, our system is not set up for Peer Resources youth—non-traditional leaders who do not see themselves as leaders—to achieve. Emily's support, research, and technical assistance helps change that overwhelming narrative.”
Ozer was presented with the award at a May 5 ceremony and reception hosted by Chancellor Nicholas B. Dirks.
By Michael S. Broder