Researcher Spotlight

Rachel Jackson-Gordon
Research Associate

Rachel Jackson-Gordon is a Research Associate at the UNC Charlotte Urban Institute, where she started in May 2022. She earned her M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Cincinnati’s Educational Studies’ Research Methods program, where she focused on Educational and Community-Based Action Research. Rachel has worked in the research and evaluation field for six years. Prior to this role, she worked at the University of Cincinnati Evaluation Services Center, where she helped evaluate local, regional, and national programs related to public health, education, and social justice. 

What are your main research interests?

Methodologically, I’m interested in the use of participatory and mixed methods research. I aim to provide space for individuals and groups – especially those who may often be excluded – to share their stories and support more relevant research through these approaches. Substantively, I have a specific interest in violence prevention. Broadly, I’m interested in youth development and the wellbeing of marginalized communities.  

What drew you to your field?

Research has the power to help communities thrive when used appropriately and with intention. In the spectrum of fields where people can help other people, social and community research has always seemed to me like a good way to address the underlying systems that prevent people and their communities from thriving.

What do you find rewarding about your work?

I find it rewarding to connect with diverse community members and organizations around shared missions. One of my favorite parts of research and evaluation work is when we’re able to support the sustainment of programs or organizations that are helping people through our findings. I also enjoy when we are able to identify challenges facing programs – that can then lead to their improvement.

What do you hope to accomplish or change through your work?

Ideally, our community will one day be so supportive and equitable that trauma and oppression will be naturally minimized. In the meantime, I hope to use my experience to support programs, organizations, and governments in making decisions grounded in research that reflect the needs of those most impacted.