Brian D. Christens, is the Rothermel-Bascom Associate Professor of Human Ecology in the Department of Civil Society & Community Studies. He is also an affiliate faculty member in the departments of Community & Environmental Sociology, Population Health Sciences, Sociology, Urban and Regional Planning, and the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies. He is faculty director of the Center for Community and Nonprofit Studies – a hub for faculty, staff, students, and community/nonprofit partners collaborating on research and action.
Christens’s research is on civic engagement, community organizing, empowerment, and systems change. He studies processes that enhance people’s and organizations’ ability to take actions to benefit the groups and communities to which they belong. Much of this work takes place alongside community and youth organizing efforts and community-driven health promotion initiatives. An overarching goal is to identify the mechanisms – at multiple levels of analysis – that account for links between engagement in empowerment processes and well-being. Christens’s background is primarily in psychology (community, developmental, and applied social), but he applies concepts from multiple social science disciplines and use multiple methods to understand and inform community-driven efforts to improve systems. Consequently, he is also engaged in applied fields such as community development and public health. He serves on the editorial boards of the Adolescent Research Review, the American Journal of Community Psychology, Community Development, the Journal of Community Psychology, the Journal of Youth and Adolescence, and Youth & Society.
Christens earned his Ph.D. in 2008 from Vanderbilt University, where his dissertation work received the 2009 Newbrough Graduate Award for best scholarly work in Human & Organizational Development. In 2012, he received the Michele Alexander Early Career Award for scholarship and service from the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues. He is an editorial board member of Youth & Society and the Journal of Youth and Adolescence.