8 Apr 2021

Meet our Inaugural Civic Scholars

We are delighted to welcome our inaugural Civic Scholars to the Institute for Community Studies. These doctoral students will be working with us throughout the year to connect their studies to our work and deepen their understanding of how to work in and with communities.

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Meet the Scholars:

Alice Lemkes

Alice is a PhD student at the University of Leeds and is looking at the powerful role of narratives in regulating the lives and livelihoods of people experiencing ‘severe and multiple disadvantage’. Before starting the PhD Alice spent time working as a researcher for the Lankelly Chase Foundation where she developed her interest in participatory approaches to knowledge generation and their potential for redressing power imbalances. 

She has come to the ICS with a passion for increasing the role of community wisdom and knowledge within academic research, policy making and service provision. She hopes this will become the norm. She is looking forward to unlearning much of what she learned over the years in academia, to gaining best practice from the peer research network, and to collaborating on meaningful research activities.

When not researching, Alice is likely to be found in the highlands with her bike and a tent and is equally passionate about the role of nature connection to redressing power imbalances.

Catherine Cartwright

Catherine is a participatory artist and printmaker undertaking her PhD into trauma-sensitive arts practice, working with Devon Rape Crisis and Sexual Abuse Services, and using printmaking and artist books as creative methods. Catherine is keen to explore the potential of arts-based methodologies in supporting community engagement and democratising research.

Catherine has an MA in Museum and Gallery Education and worked in the sector for 10 years with a focus on reaching out to communities. In the past 8 years, Catherine has been working with women affected by abuse and partnering with community organisations, while developing her arts practice through an MA in Multidisciplinary Printmaking. She is also a volunteer director with Double Elephant Print Workshop, whose award-winning outreach programme focuses on mental health and well-being.  

Catherine’s PhD is funded by the South West and Wales Doctoral Training Partnership and she is based at the University of Exeter (Cultural Geography) and the University of the West of England (Centre for Fine Print Research).

Cindy Okonkwo

Cindy is currently undertaking her PhD at St Marys University, Twickenham where she has devoted her research to children with limb-loss.

Cindy is a member of the Injury and Rehabilitation Research Cluster (IRRC), and holds a dual Masters in Nursing. She is passionate about closing the widening gap in health disparities, and creating/providing communities with access to adequate support; to aid their physiological and psychological wellbeing. Offering several years of related health expertise combined with commitment to improving community health and wellbeing, she aims to support the underrepresented; families and children in such especial

Gabby Keating

Gabby is a PhD student from University of Bradford and is researching the impact of COVID-19 on post-18 transition from compulsory education in the UK. She has a particular interest in social class and social mobility and resonate with qualitative research methods as I aim to provide a voice for misrepresented groups within communities.

She says, "Research with community engagement at its heart is needed more than ever; we tend to identify ourselves by our social divisions instead of our shared values. Whilst working as part of my hometown's youth council and assisting with the town council, the issues that impacted people across all ages and social groups within the community were met with the most enthusiasm. I hope to work on projects which incite this enthusiasm to help marginalised factions in the community that may be overlooked, so I am extremely excited to work with the ICS team."

Gabriel Vivas-Martinez

Gabriel is an actor, social theatre facilitator and researcher based in London. He has worked extensively as a theatre facilitator and researcher in The Netherlands, Italy, China, Hungary, Poland, South Africa, and the UK. Gabriel is currently a freelancer trainer of social theatre methods and youth participation in educational programmes of the European Commission. He believes that researching with and alongside communities is fundamental for engaging with the realities and the lived experiences of people, promoting a research culture that connects with activism and advances the potential for social change within an ethics of care.  

He is particularly interested in developing participatory research projects with young people, especially young people with disabilities, with migrant backgrounds and LGBTIQ+ young people. For Gabriel, the research processes is a creative opportunity to foster collaboration, exchange, and transformation. Currently, he is undertaking his PhD research examining masculinity and socially engaged theatre-making at The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama - University of London.

Nahed Ahmed

Nahed is a Ph.D. researcher at York St John University, powered by (HESPAL) of the British Council. She is interested in understanding the role and the relationship between Female Entrepreneurship & Social Capital in the context of the Gaza Strip.

She has published papers on Women's Small Projects and Female Entrepreneurship in international conferences and at the British Academy of Management.

She has worked as a senior lecturer in Business School for more than 10 years and has worked in many senior positions at the University of Gaza, the University of Palestine, AL-Quds Open University, and as the former Vice Dean for Academic Affairs for Nama’a College in Gaza.

She has been working for more than 8 years in Women and Youth Palestinian Organizations and the Ministry of Youth and Sports on managerial skills development programs, including on housewives' small enterprises, funding graduate small enterprises, and women craft projects inside prisons.

Over the last 12 years, she has founded and managed many different charitable events for helping Palestinian children in need as "Winter Coat, School Bag, and Eid Package" funded by the Palestinian House in Sweden, the Palestinian communities in Qatar, Emirates, and America.

Nahed believes in the value of time and that every crisis is an opportunity to learn and survive. She strongly believes that effective and directed research can significantly drive communities to positive changes and great development. Community research is a process of inclusive participation that supports mutual respect of values, strategies, and actions for the authentic partnership of people affiliated by geographic location, shared interest, or similar circumstances to address issues affecting community wellbeing, that provide useful information and helps decision-making.

Nisha Waller

Nisha Waller is a Criminology PhD Balliol Dervorguilla and ESRC Scholar at the University of Oxford. Her research focuses on collective punishment. She is exploring the relationship between complicity law (often referred to as ‘joint enterprise’) in the UK and its relationship to the criminalisation of young black men.

Nisha believes that people on the ground best understand the issues faced in their community. She therefore thinks that we should be ‘close’ to those who inform our research and involve them in decisions that impact them. Nisha intends to build alliances with community members, contribute towards ‘sites of resistance’, and merge different forms of knowledge to produce impactful research that seeks to alleviate injustice.

Through her organisation CoSign200, Nisha produces educational content through informal social media channels, encouraging young people to become active citizens who critically engage with social issues, rather than distance themselves from mainstream institutions. Nisha has recently collaborated with Kingston University, offering students an opportunity to explore what it is like to work with community-led organisations and produce research that acknowledges community perspectives.  

Nisha also holds an MSC in Criminology and Criminal Justice from the University of Oxford and BA in Sociology and Criminology from the University of Westminster.

Thomas Rolfe

Thomas is currently a PhD Candidate in Museum and Heritage Management at Bath Spa University, where his research title is: Community representation, social cohesion, and museums: audience engagement in Bath, Bristol and L.A. In these cities he is conducting research with three museums: The Roman Baths, M-Shed, and LA Plaza Cultura y Artes. His goal with this research is to identify the challenges of community engagement and representation within museums. Wihin this, he is reviewing current museum engagement initiatives and programmes, by conducting community-based research. With this he is able to conduct evaluative reports, prioritising the community voice at the centre of new strategy and policy development within museums.  

He says, "I believe that everyone has the right to the equal access of art and culture, and that museums are responsible to ensuring everyone has this right. It is here where I also believe that museums are critical to creating more socially cohesive societies. Where through successfully targeted community engagement projects, they can help communities overcome current challenges of inequality, exclusion, and racial injustices. This is why I believe community-based research is vitally important and where as a researcher I strive to have this at the very centre of my work."

Alongside this, he currently works within the Heritage Services at Bath and North East Somerset Council, as a Group Sales Officer, Visitor Experience Supervisor and Visitor Experience Host. These positions see him work across their three museum sites: The Roman Baths, Fashion Museum and Assembly Rooms and The Victoria Art Gallery. Prior to this he has a background in illustration and printmaking, with a BA in Illustration from Cardiff Metropolitan University and an MA in Arts Management from Bath Spa University.