Knox College Assistant Professor of Anthropology-Sociology Teresa Irene Gonzales has been awarded a prestigious Career Enhancement Fellowship, funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and administered by the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation.
The fellowship allows exceptional junior faculty to pursue scholarly research and writing in order to facilitate the acquisition of tenure. A total of 30 fellowships are awarded each year.
Gonzales will use the fellowship to finish her book and meet with relevant publishers. The book project analyzes how neighborhood organizations in low-income communities of color respond to large-scale redevelopment initiatives. As part of this, she demonstrates the ways that neighborhood groups creatively reimagine public space, mobilize residents, and engage in collaborative community organizing. Her book focuses on the $40 million New Communities Program in two neighborhoods in Chicago: Englewood and Little Village.
Gonzales is "a shining example of a faculty member at Knox who understands the clear and vital connections between scholarship and teaching," said Laura Behling, vice president for academic affairs and Dean of the College. "Her work, on collaborative community organizing in two Chicago neighborhoods, is an important contribution to her discipline, as the Woodrow Wilson Fellowship recognizes."
"Her work also has opened up new areas of inquiry for Knox students, many of whom are interested in community and social justice work," Behling added. "The Woodrow Wilson Fellowship is a significant accomplishment for Teresa, highly competitive nationally among the most promising of junior scholars, and underscores the creative approaches to real-world issues that she's brought to the campus."
As part of her research for the book project, Gonzales has completed more than 40 interviews and more than two years of ethnographic observation. Knox students also have played a role in the project.
"I've been able to hire two research assistants and train them in analysis and transcription, and walk them through the process of research," Gonzales said.
That is an example of how Knox undergraduates benefit from opportunities that, at other institutions, often are reserved only for graduate students, she said.
"We view [students] as capable, intelligent, interesting individuals who can do this work," Gonzales explained. "It's not that I'm asking [undergraduate] students to do this because there's nobody else. I'm asking students to do this because I know they can do it."
She added that her book project has informed courses she teaches at Knox on the topics of community engagement and community economic development.
Gonzales said that fellowships such as hers and a separate one recently awarded to Robert W. Murphy Chair of Political Science Karen Kampwirth highlight "the intellectual curiosity and rigor of faculty at places like this."
"I think at smaller colleges, there's space for greater intellectual creativity to happen," she added.
Gonzales' year-long fellowship begins in June. It includes a $30,000 maximum stipend to Knox College; a $1,500 research, travel or publication grant to Gonzales; a mentoring program; and participation in the 2017 Career Enhancement Retreat.
Gonzales joined the Knox faculty in 2014. Her academic research interests include organizational ecology, urban studies, community development, civic participation, and playfulness. Her teaching interests include community and civic engagement, community and local economic development, and urban sociology.
According to the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation, the Career Enhancement Fellowship Program seeks to increase the presence of minority junior faculty members and other faculty members committed to eradicating racial disparities in core fields in the arts and humanities.
Founded in 1945, the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation identifies and develops the nation's best minds to meet its most critical challenges. The Foundation supports its Fellows as the next generation of leaders shaping American society.