Brian Christens

Brian D. Christens

Rothermel-Bascom Associate Professor
4155 Nancy Nicholas Hall
608-265-9169

My research is on civic engagement, community organizing, empowerment, and systems change.  I study 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.  My background is primarily in psychology (community, developmental, and applied social), but I apply concepts from multiple social science disciplines and use multiple methods to understand and inform community-driven efforts to improve systems.  Consequently, I’m also engaged in applied fields such as community development and public health. I currently serve on the editorial boards of the Adolescent Research Reviewthe American Journal of Community PsychologyCommunity Development, the Journal of Community Psychology, the Journal of Youth and Adolescenceand Youth & Society.

At the University of Wisconsin–Madison, I’m a faculty member in the School of Human Ecology in the Department of Civil Society & Community Studies. I am also an affiliate faculty member in the departments of Community & Environmental SociologyPopulation Health SciencesSociology, Urban and Regional Planning, and the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies. I’m 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.

To access my publications, use the links in the Publications tab below or visit my author page on Google Scholar or ResearchGate, or use this link to access my CV.

 

2016

Wolff, T., Minkler, M., Wolfe, S. M., Berkowitz, B., Bowen, L., Butterfoss, F. D., Christens, B. D., Francisco, V. T., Himmelman, A. T., & Lee, K. S. (2016). Collaborating for equity and justice: Moving beyond collective impact. Nonprofit Quarterly.

Adams, A., Christens, B. D., Meinen, A., Korth, A., Remington, P., Lindberg, S., & Schoeller, D. (2016). The Wisconsin obesity prevention initiative: Improving child health statewide. Wisconsin Medical Journal, 115(5) 220-223.

Christens, B. D., Inzeo, P. T., Meinen, A., Hilgendorf, A. E., Berns, R., Korth, A., Pollard, E. C., McCall, A., Adams, A., & Stedman, J. (2016). Community-led collaborative action to prevent obesity. Wisconsin Medical Journal, 115(5), 259-263.

Spahr, C., Wells, A., Christens, B. D., Pollard, E., LaGro, J., Morales, A., Dennis, S., Hilgendorf, A. E., Meinen, A., Korth, A., Gaddis, J., Schoeller, D., Carrel, A., & Adams, A. K. (2016). Developing a strategy menu for community-level obesity prevention. Wisconsin Medical Journal, 115(5), 264-268.

Meinen, A., Hilgendorf, A., Adams, A., Christens, B. D., Joyner, H., Korth, A., Polzin, M., Wolfe, D., Braun, A., Hoiting, J., Paulson, J., & Cullen, B. (2016). The Wisconsin early childhood obesity prevention initiative: An example of statewide collective impact. Wisconsin Medical Journal, 115(5), 269-274.

Hilgendorf, A. E., Stedman, J., Inzeo, P. T., McCall, A., Burrows, J., Krueger, S., Christens, B. D., Pollard, E., Meinen, A., Korth, A., Adams, A., & Wolf, L. (2016). Lessons from a pilot community-led approach to obesity prevention. Wisconsin Medical Journal, 115(5), 275-279.

Christens, B. D., Speer, P. W., & Peterson, N. A. (2016). Assessing community participation: Comparing self-reported participation data with organizational attendance records. American Journal of Community Psychology, 57(3-4), 415-425. doi:10.1002/ajcp.12054

Christens, B. D. (2016). Pragmatism, praxis, and predictive theory. Global Journal of Community Psychology Practice, 7(2), 1-6.

Christens, B. D., Faust, V., Gaddis, J., Inzeo, P. T., Sarmiento, C. S., & Sparks, S. M. (2016). Action research. In L. Jason, & D. Glenwick (Eds.), Handbook of methodological approaches to community-based research: Qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods (pp. 243-251). New York: Oxford University Press.

Christens, B. D., Winn, L. T., & Duke, A. M. (2016). Empowerment and critical consciousness: A conceptual cross-fertilization. Adolescent Research Review, 1(1), 15-27. doi:10.1007/s40894-015-0019-3

Christens, B. D. (2016). Urban design and daily life: Learning from Madison, Wisconsin. In C. Kreyling (Ed.) Shaping healthy communities: The Nashville Plan (pp. 41-42). Nashville, TN: Vanderbilt University Press.

Christens, B. D., Krauss, S. E., & Zeldin, S. (2016). Malaysian validation of a sociopolitical control scale for youth. Journal of Community Psychology, 44(4), 531-537. doi:10.1002/jcop.21777

Christens, B. D., & Cooper, D. G. (2016). Community organizing. In R. J. R. Levesque (Ed.), Encyclopedia of adolescence (2nd Ed.). Switzerland: Springer International Publishing.

Christens, B. D., & Zeldin, S. (2016). Community engagement. In R. J. R. Levesque (Ed.), Encyclopedia of adolescence (2nd Ed.). Switzerland: Springer International Publishing.

2015

Christens, B. D., & Inzeo, P. T. (2015). Widening the view: Situating collective impact among frameworks for community-led change. Community Development, 46(4), 420-435. doi:10.1080/15575330.2015.1061680

Dolan, T., Christens, B. D., & Lin, C. S. (2015). Combining youth organizing and youth participatory action research to strengthen student voice in education reform. National Society for the Study of Education, 114(1), 153-170.

Faust, V., Christens, B. D., Sparks, S. M. A., & Hilgendorf, A. E. (2015). Exploring relationships among organizational capacity, collaboration, and network change. Psychosocial Intervention, 24(3), 125-131. doi:10.1016/j.psi.2015.09.002

Sparks, S. M. A., Faust, V., Christens, B. D., & Hilgendorf, A. E. (2015). The effects of changes in organizational ecology on racial disparities in infant mortality. Journal of Community Psychology, 43(6), 701-716. doi:10.1002/jcop.21751

Christens, B. D., & Speer, P. W. (2015). Community organizing: Practice, research, and policy implications. Social Issues and Policy Review, 9(1), 193-222. doi:10.1111/sipr.12014

Christens, B. D., Peterson, N. A., Reid, R. J., & Garcia-Reid, P. (2015). Adolescents’ perceived control in the sociopolitical domain: A latent class analysis. Youth & Society, 47(4), 443-461. doi:10.1177/0044118X12467656

Collura, J. J., & Christens, B. D. (2015). Perspectives on systems change among local change agents. Journal of Community & Applied Social Psychology, 25(1), 19-33. doi:10.1002/casp.2192

Christens, B. D., Connell, C. M., Faust, V., Haber, M. G., & the Council of Education Programs (2015). Progress report: Research competencies for community research and action. The Community Psychologist, 48(4), 3-9.

2014

Speer, P. W., & Christens, B. D. (2014). Community organizing. In V. Chien & S. Wolfe (Eds.), Foundations of community psychology practice (p. 220-36). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Neal, J. W., & Christens, B. D. (2014). Linking the levels: Network and relational perspectives for community psychology. American Journal of Community Psychology, 53(3-4), 314-323. doi:10.1007/s10464-014-9654-2

Christens, B. D., Inzeo, P. T., & Faust, V. (2014). Channeling power across ecological systems: Social regularities in community organizing. American Journal of Community Psychology, 53(3-4), 419-431. [pdf]

Christens, B. D., & Freedman, D. A. (2014). Community organization and systems intervention. In T. P. Gullotta & M. Bloom (Eds.), Encyclopedia of primary prevention and health promotion (2nd ed.) (pp. 303-314). New York: Springer. [pdf]

Christens, B. D., Peterson, C. H., & Speer, P. W. (2014). Promoting psychological empowerment in adulthood. In T. P. Gullotta & M. Bloom (Eds.), Encyclopedia of primary prevention and health promotion (2nd ed.) (pp. 1766-76). New York: Springer. [pdf]

Christens, B. D., & Lin, C. S. (2014). Influences of community and organizational participation, social support, and sense of community on psychological empowerment: Income as moderator. Family and Consumer Sciences Research Journal, 42(3), 211-223. doi:10.1111/fcsr.12056

Christens, B. D., Collura, J. J., Kopish, M., & Varvodic, M. (2014). Youth organizing for school and neighborhood improvement. In K. L. Patterson & R. Silverman (Eds.), Schools and urban revitalization: Rethinking institutions and community development. (pp. 151-66). New York: Routledge. [pdf]

Pykett, A. A., Faust, V. N., Christens, B. D., & Zeldin, S. (2014). University of Wisconsin–Madison: Ph.D. In Human Ecology with emphasis in Civil Society & Community Research and M.S. In Human Ecology. The Community Psychologist, 47(1), 22. [pdf]

Wray-Lake, L., Christens, B. D., & Flanagan, C. A. (2014). Community values. In A. C. Michalos (Ed.), Encyclopedia of quality of life and well-being research. (pp. 1102-7). New York: Springer.

Christens, B. D., & Inzeo, P. T. (2014). Participation in community organizing. In A. C. Michalos (Ed.), Encyclopedia of quality of life and well-being research. (pp. 4633-9). New York: Springer.

2013

Speer, P. W., & Christens, B. D. (2013). An approach to scholarly impact through strategic engagement in community-based research. Journal of Social Issues, 69(4), 734-753. doi:10.1111/josi.12039

Christens, B. D. (2013). In search of powerful empowerment. Health Education Research, 28(3), 371-374. doi:10.1093/her/cyt045

Christens, B. D., Collura, J. C., & Tahir, F. (2013). Critical hopefulness: A person-centered analysis of the intersection of cognitive and emotional empowerment. American Journal of Community Psychology, 52(1-2), 170-184. [pdf]

Jimenez, T. R., Christens, B. D., & Zeldin, S. (2013). New graduate programs in community psychology research & action. The Community Psychologist, 46(4), 22-23.

Zeldin, S., Christens, B. D., & Powers, J. (2013). The psychology and practice of youth-adult partnership: Bridging generations for youth development and community change. American Journal of Community Psychology, 51(3-4), 385-397. doi:10.1007/s10464-012-9558-y

Flanagan, C. A., & Christens, B. D. (2013). Civic engagement. In J. J. Froh & A. C. Parks (Eds.), Activities for teaching positive psychology: A guide for instructors (pp. 161-165). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

2012

Christens, B. D. (2012). Toward relational empowerment. American Journal of Community Psychology, 50(1-2), 114-128. doi:10.1007/s10464-011-9483-5

Christens, B. D. (2012). Targeting empowerment in community development: A community psychology approach to enhancing local power and well-being. Community Development Journal, 47(4), 538-554. [pdf]

Christens, B. D., & Collura, J. J. (2012). Local community organizers and activists encountering globalization: An exploratory study of their perceptions and adaptations. Journal of Social Issues, 68(3), 592-611. doi:10.1111/j.1540-4560.2012.01765.x

Lloyd, R. D., & Christens, B. D. (2012). Reaching for Dubai: Nashville dreams of a 21st century skyline. In M. Peterson & G. McDonagh (Eds.), Global downtowns. (pp. 114-35). Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.

Christens, B. D., & Peterson, N. A. (2012). The role of empowerment in youth development: A study of sociopolitical control as mediator of ecological systems’ influence on developmental outcomes. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 41(5), 623-635. doi:10.1007/s10964-011-9724-9

Speer, P. W., & Christens, B. D. (2012). Local community organizing and change: Altering policy in the housing and community development system in Kansas City. Journal of Community & Applied Social Psychology, 22(5), 414-427. [pdf]

2011

Christens, B. D. (2011). Tips on building a broad base of engaged and empowered volunteers. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Center for Nonprofits. [pdf]

Christens, B. D., & Dolan, T. (2011). Interweaving youth development, community development, and social change through youth organizing. Youth & Society, 43(2), 528-548. [pdf]

Christens, B. D., & Kirshner, B. (2011). Taking stock of youth organizing: An interdisciplinary perspective. New Directions for Child and Adolescent Development, 134, 27-41. doi:10.1002/cd.309

Christens, B. D., Peterson, N. A., & Speer, P. W. (2011). Community participation and psychological empowerment: Testing reciprocal causality using a cross-lagged panel design and latent constructs. Health Education & Behavior, 38(4), 339-347. doi:10.1177/1090198110372880

Christens, B. D., & Speer, P. W. (2011). Contextual influences on participation in community organizing: A multilevel longitudinal study. American Journal of Community Psychology, 47(3-4), 253-263. [pdf]

Christens, B. D., Speer, P. W., & Peterson, N. A. (2011). Social class as moderator of the relationship between (dis)empowering processes and psychological empowerment. Journal of Community Psychology, 39(2), 170-182. [pdf]

Collura, J. J., Christens, B. D., & Zeldin, S. (2011). Broadening the frame of violence prevention through the promotion of youth community engagement. In M. Paludi (Ed.), The psychology of teen violence and victimization, Vol 2: Prevention strategies for families and schools. (pp. 221-38). Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger. [pdf]

Flanagan, C. A., & Christens, B. D. (2011). Youth civic development: Historical context and emerging issues. New Directions for Child and Adolescent Development, 134, 1-9. [pdf]

Christens, B. D. (2011). Psychological empowerment. In K. Dowding (Ed.), Encyclopedia of power. (pp. 539-40). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Zeldin, S., Petrokubi, J., McCart, S., Khanna, N., Collura, J., & Christens, B. D. (2011). Strategies for sustaining quality youth-adult partnership in organizational decision making. The Prevention Researcher, 18(Suppl), 7-11. [pdf]

Peterson, N. A., Peterson, C. H., Agre, L., Christens, B. D., & Morton, C. M. (2011). Measuring youth empowerment: Validation of a sociopolitical control scale for youth in an urban community context. Journal of Community Psychology, 39(5), 592-605. doi:10.1002/jcop.20456

Christens, B. D., & Zeldin, S. (2011). Community engagement. In R. J. R. Levesque (Ed.), Encyclopedia of adolescence. (pp. 479-87). New York: Springer.

2010

Christens, B. D. (2010). Public relationship building in grassroots community organizing: Relational intervention for individual and systems change. Journal of Community Psychology, 38(7), 886-900. [pdf]

Speer, P. W., Peterson, N. A., Zippay, A., & Christens, B. D. (2010). Participation in congregation-based organizing: Mixed-method study of civic engagement. In M. Roberts-DeGennaro & S. J. Fogel (Eds.), Using evidence to inform practice for community and organizational change. (pp. 200-17). Chicago: Lyceum. [pdf]

2004-09

Christens, B. D. (2009). Suburban decentralization and the new urbanism: A pragmatic inquiry into value-based claims. Journal of Architectural and Planning Research, 26(1), 30-43. [pdf]

Christens, B. D., & Perkins, D. D. (2008). Transdisciplinary, multilevel action research to enhance ecological and psychopolitical validity. Journal of Community Psychology, 36(2), 214-231. [pdf]

Christens, B. D., Jones, D. L., & Speer, P. W. (2008). Power, conflict, and spirituality: A qualitative study of faith-based community organizing. Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 9(1), Art. 21. [link]

Christens, B. D., Hanlin, C. E., & Speer, P. W. (2007). Getting the social organism thinking: Strategy for systems change. American Journal of Community Psychology, 39(3-4), 229-238. [pdf]

Heflinger, C. A., & Christens, B. D. (2006). Rural behavioral health services for children and adolescents: An ecological and community psychology analysis. Journal of Community Psychology, 34(4), 379-400. doi:10.1002/jcop.20105

Christens, B. D., & Speer, P. W. (2006). Tyranny/transformation: Power and paradox in participatory development (review essay). Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 7(2), Art. 22. [link]

Christens, B. D., & Speer, P. W. (2005). Predicting violent crime using urban and suburban densities. Behavior and Social Issues, 14(2), 113-127. [pdf]

Hughes, J. C., Brestan, E. V., Christens, B. D., Klinger, L. J., & Valle, L. A. (2004). Problem-solving interactions between mothers and children. Child & Family Behavior Therapy, 26(1), 1-16. doi:10.1300/J019v26n01_01

Christens, B. D., Hulan, H., Ivy, M., & Partridge, W. (2004). Community research in highland Ecuador: Reflections on an international field school experience. The Community Psychologist, 37(1), 45-47.

As Faculty Director of the Center for Community & Nonprofit Studies (The CommNS), I work with teams of researchers and community partners on projects that integrate research and action toward community improvement. The CommNS is a campus-wide center with projects in the following focal areas:

  • Community Wellbeing & Empowerment
  • Youth Development & Civic Engagement
  • Sustainable Community Systems
  • Program Evaluation & Community Outreach

 

I work with and advise graduate students in the Civil Society & Community Research program. I teach graduate courses on Community Power and Collective Action and Mixed-methods in Community-based Action Research.

I also teach classes on the nonprofit sector in the Community & Nonprofit Leadership undergraduate major, including most recently, a course on Leadership and Management for Nonprofit Organizations.