Engaged Scholars: Jill Clark

Photo of Jill Clark

Engaged Scholars: Jill Clark

April 2022

Engaged Scholars is a monthly series highlighting Ohio State faculty who have made an impact in our communities through their community-engaged research and teaching.

Jill Clark, PhD
Associate Professor
John Glenn College of Public Affairs

Additonal appointments:
Director of Undergraduate Studies, John Glenn College of Public Affairs
Associate Professor, City and Regional Planning (courtesy)
Associate Professor, Geography (affiliated)

I am interested in how we can collectively govern the food system to advance equity and well-being. As such, my research, teaching, and service center on community and state governance of food systems and inclusive and equitable public participation. A couple of current projects include Modeling the Future of Food in Your Neighborhood, which co-develops tools to promote a more equitable food system in the city of Cleveland, and Pathways to Prosperity, which aims to strengthen the value-added food and agricultural sector in rural communities to increase community wealth. I develop questions and I learn from my community service. I was one of the inaugural co-chairs of the Franklin County Local Food Council and currently serve on the city-county Local Food Board. I started the Ohio Food Policy Network and am an advisory board member for Johns Hopkins national Food Policy Network.

Why is it important to engage the community in your research and teaching?

I believe that at the heart of land-grant university research is public scholarship. As such, I am committed to contributing to public practice and improving the public good. One of the best ways to understand how to honor this commitment is being engaged with the very people who practice and the people who are impacted by practice.

What led you to the path of engaged scholarship? How did you get started?

The roots of my engaged scholarship go back to my days before coming to Ohio State as a practitioner, and then my experience with OSU Extension. My research trajectory grows from those roots, from the public issues I was addressing in both those roles and my drive to work with others to improve society.

How has your scholarship benefited from engaging with community partners?

My scholarship benefits from engagement with community member in many ways. A couple of ways are: Engaging with community members brings a meaningful purpose to my work and engaging with community partners brings me an understanding of the issues at hand that simply cannot be gained otherwise.

What has been a highlight of your community engagement experience?

One highlight has been to see how a locally engaged project is changing local policy and then turned into a national program. A previous student of mine, Caitlyn Marquis, led a food policy audit with the Franklin County Local Food Council, which I was co-chairing at the time. Working with the council, I wrote an article about how the audit was a tool for community and policy change in Columbus and Franklin County by increasing the capacity of the council. Another team of engaged scholars was doing similar work in their community. Our collective work was noticed by the North American Food Systems Network (NAFSN), a network of scholars and practitioners. NAFSN is currently developing a certification program that will be rolled out nationally.

What advice would you give to faculty and students who are interested in engaging the community in their scholarship?

Foremost, start relationships before you start asking research questions. You could do this as community member through volunteering. You might discover that you are not asking the right question or there is a more pressing and meaningful question to answer. You might meet and team up future collaborators. Second, seek out a mentor who has successfully navigated being an engaged scholar. You might join one of the Office of Outreach and Engagement communities of practice to identify potential candidates! Third, dont think of teaching, service, and research as separate endeavors. This is advice that I received from my dean, Trevor Brown, early on in my career and it has served me well. This hybrid thinking challenged me to think about a holistic agenda.

Sample Engaged Scholarship

Selected Projects

Modeling the Future of Food in Your Neighborhood (foodNEST 2.0): https://case.edu/swetland/research/modeling-future-food-your-neighborhood-foodnest-20-0

Pathways to Prosperity: https://localfoodeconomics.com/pathways/pathways-to-prosperity/

Selected Publications

Freedman, DA, Clark, JK, Lounsbury, DW, Boswell, L, Burns, M, Jackson, MB, Mikelbank, K, Donley, G, Worley Bell, L, Mitchell, J, Ciesielski, TH, Embaye, M, Kyung Lee, E, Roche, A, Gill, I, Yamoah, O. (2021). Deliberative and Situated Systems Research to Advance Nutrition Equity in Racialized Urban Neighborhoods. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, nqab380, https://doi.org/10.1093/ajcn/nqab380.

Clark, JK. (2021). Public values and public participation: A case of collaborative governance of a planning process. American Review of Public Administration, 51(3): 199-212.

Clark, JK. (2018). From civic group to advocacy coalition: Using a food policy audit as a tool for change. Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development, 8(1), 21-38.

Clark, JK & Inwood, SM. (2016). Scaling-up regional fruit and vegetable distribution: potential for adaptive change in the food system. Agriculture and Human Values, 33(3), 503-519.

Clark, JK, Spees, C, Kaiser, M, Hicks, R, Hoy, C & Rogers, C. (2015). Community-university engagement via a boundary object: the case of food mapping in Columbus, Ohio. Journal of Public Scholarship in Higher Education, 5, 126-142.