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Alumni - Karen Hutchins

Karen Hutchins, PhDHead_Shots_kw70676
Visiting Assistant Professor of Communications and Journalism, University of Maine

Karen Hutchins Bieluch’s doctoral research focused on building smarter, stronger community partnerships to promote sustainability. It went to the heart of the mission at UMaine’s Sustainability Solutions Initiative at the Sen. George J. Mitchell Center.

Take her survey of municipal officials in the state of Maine.

Her work with these critical stakeholders resulted in an important finding: the factor that made these officials most likely to consider a problem-solving partnership with a university was personal belief.  In other words, a municipal official’s own belief that a venture held value or that researchers could offer important perspectives led to greater openness. Working with a team from SSI’s Knowledge-to-Action Collaborative, Bieluch sent surveys to more than 2,400 municipal officials in Maine and had a rousing response, with over 1,000 surveys returned. About 86 percent of Maine municipalities are represented in the results.

Bieluch’s work has immediate, real world implications. Building research ties with communities has been a long-term challenge for universities and municipalities alike.

“I feel incredibly lucky to have had the opportunity to work with SSI during and after my PhD. Through my work and collaborations, I have learned to think and approach problems through an interdisciplinary lens, to recognize that my view has limitations and that working with others is critical for broadening my perspective. I have learned that while academic institutions offer unique and critical skills, we must work with outside partners if our research on sustainability issues is to make a difference,” Bieluch said.

For the past two semesters, Bieluch has been a Visiting Assistant Professor in UMaine’s Department of Communication and Journalism. She taught classes on research topics and health communications. This summer, she will conduct research with a team  studying citizen science program development and effectiveness in the river herring fishery.

Former SSI Project: The Knowledge-to-Action Collaborative


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