Dana Williamson

PhD Student, Behavioral Sciences And Health Education
Dana Williamson
Academic Institution: Emory University Location: Atlanta, Georgia Cohort Start Year: 2016
Research Topics: Community/Civic Engagement, Environmental Justice

Dana Williamson’s research focuses on understanding community organizing strategies to address issues related to environmental justice. She is particularly interested in community mobilization as a response to environmental stress and racism, how community mobilization can serve as a buffer for environmental stressors, and how communities maintain a sense of resilience despite varying exposures and lack of resources.

Dana Williamson is a third-year doctoral student in the Department of Behavioral Sciences and Health Education at the Rollins School of Public Health, Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. Dana was born and raised in Detroit, Michigan, earned her BA in Biology and Chemistry from Oberlin College and received her MPH from Emory University. Finding meaningful ways to impact lives and contribute to society has not only been a professional aim of Dana’s, but also a very personal goal that has radiated throughout her life. Her love for community, volunteerism, and advocacy with vulnerable populations is a fundamental part of who she is. She has diverse public health experience that includes working as an emergency medical technician, a health communications specialist with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and a project director for an NIH funded, culturally sensitive intervention educating about organ and tissue donation. She is dedicated to service, prevention, and creating collaborative solutions to the complexities of health inequities that plague low-income and minority communities. Dana’s diverse experiences have maintained a core theme of a health disparities lens. This perspective is crucial to addressing key questions about society, inequities, health consequences, and lack of resources. Dana is pursuing a doctoral degree because she recognizes the immediacy for change, the need for advocacy, and the interdisciplinary teamwork that is needed to create solutions to the complexities of health inequities.

Understanding Capacity-building Efforts to Address Environmental Justice Concerns

In the United States, environmental racism has plagued our society for decades and the communities that are affected the most also tend to be overburdened with limited resources and poor infrastructure directly impacting their ability to counteract and respond to multiple environmental exposures. In addressing these issues from an environmental justice (EJ) lens, solutions must be rooted in collaborative efforts with intentional focus on building capacity, community participation, and community decision-making. Capacity building is fundamental for promoting solidarity in the development of local solutions to problems and enacting broader environmental decision making and policy change; however, models for building capacity, evaluating capacity building approaches and measurement of capacity with respect to environmental change are lacking. This dissertation introduced a systematic approach to evaluating previously published EJ research using a community capacity theoretical perspective; used mixed methods to evaluate the U.S. EPA Environmental Justice Academy to assess the degree to which communities were strengthened to address environmental concerns; and used a multiple-case study approach, incorporating dimensions of community capacity theory, to delineate approaches utilized by EJ Academy trainees in striving for policy, systems, and environmental change.


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