Michael Mata Flips Community-Partnered Residency Online
May 11, 2020
The community-partnered stream's inaugural practitioner-in-residence, the Rev. Michael Mata, arrived on campus on March 11. With the arrival of COVID-19, his four-week "residency" soon flipped (and was extended), with many successful online events.
Mata is a senior consultant with Freedom Road, LLC, and has designed and administered community and learning programs for over thirty years, focused in the areas of community development, urban youth work, public health, intercultural relations, community-based learning, organizational and leadership development.
During his residency, he had planned to hold several in-person workshops on topics related to community development and transformation.
But even his welcome event, an informal lunch with students scheduled for Thursday, March 12, was significantly curtailed by the looming pandemic — only four students were able to attend. Jalal Awan, Jarrett Catlin, David DeSmet, and Alexandra Mendoza-Graf said they appreciated the chance to meet Mata.
Mendoza-Graf added, "He gave a chance for us to talk about our work and our interests, and we had a great conversation where he brought in his perspective from the field about our various areas of interest. I found it very helpful for contextualizing the work the that I’m doing and thinking about it from a different perspective outside of strictly research."
Catlin commented, "I really enjoyed getting to have a conversation with Michael. His broad experience and deep connection to Los Angeles made for great conversation. He also showed an interest in each of us as students and genuinely wanted to contribute to our growth. I’m sad to have been remote during his time at Pardee RAND, as I know I would have liked talking with him in the hallways."
After his one day on campus, Mata did a neat pivot to online offerings, meeting via Microsoft Teams with students and faculty and offering the same program of events, virtually.
“I was sorry that his residency had to become virtual, as I know he would have been able to work more closely with students in person, but am confident there will be future opportunities to have him present among us.”— Kathryn Derose
Prof. Kathryn Derose, who invited Mata to be a practitioner-in-residence, said, "I was sorry that his residency had to become virtual, as I know he would have been able to work more closely with students in person, but am confident there will be future opportunities to have him present among us."
Mata agreed that an in-person residency would have been better, but he appreciated the opportunity regardless. He also welcomed the school's updated curriculum.
“I commend Pardee RAND for initiating the Community-Partnered Policy in Action stream, where students are ‘embedded’ in communities, coming alongside and working with organizations, residents and other stakeholders to develop policies that have positive impact on lives that are often overlooked, neglected or marginalized,” he said. “It is forward thinking, innovative and needed!”
The stream is premised on the idea that community leaders possess a wealth of knowledge and experience that can help improve understanding of policy issues and solutions. Derose said the Practitioner-in-Residence Program aims to foster learning from and with these community leaders. During their residency, practitioners will offer seminars, workshops, and other opportunities for learning for students, faculty, and other RAND researchers.
Mata's residency was scheduled to end April 11, but because of COVID-19 the School extended it to early May. His seminars — Mailboxes, Stucco, and Graffitti: The Urban Landscape as Text; Asset-Based Community Development; and Going Beyond “Fish-Giving”: Escaping the Traps of Charity and Development Strategies — were all well attended.
Three students, in fact, took the seminars for tutorial (0.5 unit) credit, completing additional readings and assignments. Gaby Alvarado, Tara Blagg, and Heather Gomez-Bendana all said they appreciated the opportunity.
Blagg commented on the series, "The seminars with Rev. Mata were very useful, accessible and enlightening. Even though I am a social worker and had learned about strengths-based community and policy development before, he framed it in a unique way that really stressed empowerment, partnership and transformation over the more common top-down approach. I think his message about the effectiveness of this approach can be applied in all research and policy design areas, and I hope it gets incorporated into the broader Pardee RAND curriculum and spread to the rest of RAND’s researchers."
Mata agreed that the overall tutorial ended up being better than the individual seminars. “I was getting use to the Teams platform so the seminars were not as interactive as I would have wanted,” he said, adding, “The time I spent with those in the tutorial was more engaging and responsive to the interests of the students.”
Mata also coauthored a commentary with Kathryn Derose while he was "in residence." Published by The Health Care Blog, the essay is about The Important Role of Faith-based Organizations in the Context of COVID-19.
“I don’t think [COVID-19] should impede the kinds of outcomes sought through partnering. It will mean being more thoughtful, strategic and innovative in how to go about doing it.”— Michael Mata
He said the pandemic makes partnering with communities for policy research more important than ever.
“I don’t think [COVID-19] should impede the kinds of outcomes sought through partnering. It will mean being more thoughtful, strategic and innovative in how to go about doing it,” he said.
“The key word here is ‘partner,’ which means the process and approach will include partners on developing the means toward effective community-based research and action,” whatever form that may take in the current environment.
Derose said of Mata, "I have benefitted greatly from Michael’s sage advice on multiple research projects over the past 15 years — on how to engage a diverse array of faith communities to address health inequalities related to HIV, obesity, and diabetes. As a member of the Community-Partnered Advisory Group, he has been instrumental in helping us design evaluation tools for our community externships."
As an ordained minister, Mata has nearly 20 years of experience in urban pastoral leadership, including being part of the pastoral team at Los Angeles First Church of the Nazarene, a multi-ethnic/multi-congregation church with a highly regarded community program. He has also served as the director of the graduate program in Transformational Urban Leadership at Azusa Pacific University, Tools for Transformation director for World Vision's U.S. programs, the Mildred M. Hutchinson Assistant Professor of Urban Ministry, and Director of the Urban Leadership Institute at the Claremont School of Theology.
He has served on boards and advisory councils of local and national community, ecumenical and academic organizations, currently sits on the Community-Partnered Policy and Action stream’s Community Advisory Board, and is also working on RAND’s ongoing studies of the role of urban congregations in addressing health disparities.