Community Geographer to use technology and public health expertise to improve life in Syracuse community – September, 2005.
By Carol Kim
Syracuse University has announced the appointment of Jonnell Allen as community geographer. Allen’s primary task will be to use sophisticated geographic tools such as geographic information systems (GIS) technology to support local projects in the Syracuse community. Allen joined SU on Sept. 6. She will be on the staff of the Department of Geography in the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. This new, full-time position is supported in part with funding from the Rosamond Gifford Foundation. The position was created in response to the success of the first phase of the Syracuse Hunger Project, an initiative of the Samaritan Center, which brings hot meals to the hungry of downtown Syracuse and addresses the emergency food needs in the area. “The Hunger Project showed us the real value of community-based mapping,” says Don Mitchell, professor and chair of the geography department. “It taught us to see the problems of the community—and their solutions—in new ways. But mostly it showed us how important it is to have available someone with geographical skills and the resources of the University at hand, who truly works with and for the community. Jonnell has these skills and will be a great asset to Syracuse and Central New York.” The objectives of the community geographer and the volunteer advisory board are to contribute a geographic perspective to the goals and initiatives of community partners and to ultimately affect positive change in Syracuse in the areas of social justice, community development and public health. Allen will work with community groups, organizations, social service providers, foundations, and SU students and faculty to develop innovative geographic approaches to address social and community challenges. The area Allen will cover is broadly defined, and includes the city and suburbs of Syracuse, Onondaga County and the Central New York region. Her work will result in the production of maps that may:
- Identify underserved areas for particular resources or services;
- highlight the locations of existing community resources to better inform community members about them;
- inform service providers about where their clients are located and the barriers clients may encounter while trying to access services; and
- address relationships between the natural, built and social environments and human health.
The community geographer will assist the community by making and distributing maps and providing assistance in more elaborate spatial analyses of community challenges—for example, studying the relationships between the demographic characteristics of a community, its geographic location, access to resources and health outcomes. Maps generated this way can be the departure point for community-wide decision-making by focusing attention on the objective depiction of a wide range of social and economic data. Allen will continue to work with the Syracuse Hunger project as well as new and emerging projects that explore the relationships between race, poverty, urban neighborhoods and health. Originally from Dryden, N.Y., Allen recently returned to Central New York from the University of North Carolina—Chapel Hill, where she obtained her master’s degree in public health and where she is currently a doctoral candidate in the geography department. Her research interests include the spatial analysis of health and disease, health care and social service access, and community development. Allen’s work in international public health has taken her to India and Ethiopia, where she conducted research pertaining to HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis. For more information, contact Allen at
or (315) 443-4890.