Community Connectors: Karima Samadi
Community Connectors is a monthly series highlighting Ohio State staff members who have shown leadership in partnering with our communities to make an impact. Photo: Karima Samadi (standing left) meets with community partners, the Franklin County Local Food Council.
Karima Samadi, MPH, CHES
Food and Agriculture Integration Specialist, CFAES Knowledge Exchange
College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences
Community engagement is an extension of my work. I've engaged in both community-based participatory research projects, as well as grassroots community organizations to help influence policy, systems and environment change.
Why is engaging the community important to you and your work?
As a public health professional, community is integral to our work because members of the community are viewed as colleagues, collaborators, key stakeholders, knowledge keepers and customers of our service. Having worked in higher education for nearly a decade, it's imperative we "ground truth" our work to understand and truly fulfil our land-grant mission: to teach, to conduct research and to engage communities - to meet their needs. In terms of research, we must strive to shorten the gap between research findings and implementation-action-change. My work as an integrator at the Knowledge Exchange allows me to facilitate those research connections for broader impacts.
What lessons have you learned from the community that have helped you as a university staff member?
I have learned so much from the community. Most importantly, it's humbled my approach to engagement and challenged the idea of knowledge and scholarship. Often the academy is seen as the creator and keeper of knowledge, but we're simply the collectors and curators of knowledge from the community. By reframing our perspective, we open the concept of scholarship beyond the doors of our ivory towers and acknowledge the power of indigenous knowledge and untold history.
What has been your favorite moment from your community-engagement work?
One of my favorite moments was in Butler County, Ohio. I was with my HEAL MAPPS project team from OSU Extension and the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity and we were hosting a community conversation where community researchers shared their photovoice project. A state representative was in the audience and was so captivated by the stories, having been made aware of barriers to food access and food security, that she tweeted our StoryMap and connected with our team on next steps. It was like seeing implementation-action-change happen in real-time!
What advice do you have for other staff members who are interested in getting involved in community engagement?
Bulldoze those barriers, be humble and be prepared to listen! Often, we learn more from the community than they learn from us. The Office of Outreach and Engagement is a great place to collaborate with a community of practice, OSU Extension is the leader of community programs/partnerships, and the STEAM Factory creates space to learn from fellow practitioners. If you're engaging in community-based participatory research, make sure to involve your community partner from Day 0 to ensure true co-creation. My good friend Kip Holly created the "Principles of Equitable and Inclusive Civic Engagement" in collaboration with community partners, and it serves as an excellent guide - my favorite principle is "Embracing the Gifts of Diversity" because it leads to deeper understanding by recognizing that we all bring something to the table.