Before coming to Temple to conduct research in sociology, Keith McIntosh studied at both Grand Valley State University, a school “in the middle of a cornfield, out in the country” in his home state of Michigan, and the University of York in the United Kingdom.
Grand Valley State University’s remote location made McIntosh feel separated from the outside world as he studied sociology and art history, two majors that required him to think about others and their different experiences.
“A lot of the issues we discussed weren’t really relevant to our lives,” he said. “The placement of Temple in North Philly forces everyone to confront a lot of these issues.”
Even compared to his time studying social research at the University of York, McIntosh said he prefers Temple’s research facilities because he feels like he’s “part of a team” in the school’s tight-knit sociology department, as he pursues his Ph.D. in sociology.
Temple is one of the nation’s top public research universities, supported by the recent elevation of the university to the top tier of Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education, a ranking of institutions based on empirical data. This status puts Temple among the top 4 percent of any four-year public university. One of the university’s strong suits is biomedical research.
“I’ve found [research] better here because [Temple] takes so many things into account when they do research,” said Tariem Burroughs, the community engagement specialist at the Center for Bioethics, Urban Health and Policy in the Lewis Katz School of Medicine. “They really see how it affects the individual … and how they can possibly be an improvement to their life.”
Burroughs said the connection between Temple and the surrounding community is not only positive but necessary, considering Temple University Hospital is “right in the heart of a community.”
“It’s important that [Temple] continues to have that relationship … so more people can access care from the hospital, and our medical students can see that Temple in itself is not a bubble and that it actually exists in the real world,” Burroughs added. “By doing that, we’re able to continue finding new ways to help and promote wellness in the community by actually having them be active partners in it.”
Burroughs, along with the center, works to conduct research projects that also serve the community. Burroughs currently serves as program director for Bridging the Gaps, a program that helps medical students connect the skills they learn in school to the world around them. Within the program, he runs an interdisciplinary summer program that works with students in health and social service fields to give them more experience in community clinical service in distressed areas.
The center also works with Philadelphia CeaseFire, a violence intervention program originally started in Chicago that works with the Philadelphia Police Department’s 22nd District to spread awareness about gun violence to reduce the amount of youth homicides, among various other research projects.
McIntosh said that while the STEM research programs at Temple have contributed greatly to the community, social science research is equally as important.
McIntosh said he loves sociology because it is “fiercely relevant to the real world” — sociological issues like racism, sexism and class affect many North Philadelphia residents.
“The hope for most social scientists is the knowledge they gain isn’t regulated to the ivy tower or to a dusty book in the library,” he said. “But one way or another it finds its way into the real world to make a change.”
It’s important for STEM researchers and social science researchers to work together, McIntosh said, but it’s equally important for researchers at Temple to work with the world around them.
There’s no “template” for enacting change, McIntosh said, but Temple’s research is a good “stepping off point for building a better relationship between the community and the university.”
“You can’t exist in this bubble,” Burroughs added. “You’re in the heart of North Philadelphia, you need to have a partnership with the community.”
Emily Thomas can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.