Peter Guarnaccia in New Brunswick, NJ
Researcher: Peter Guarnaccia
Region: United States of America
Peter Guarnaccia, a professor in the Department of Human Ecology and Investigator at the Institute for Health, Health Care Policy and Aging Research, is deeply involved in studying the issues of community health and development in the Mexican communities of New Brunswick, New Jersey, and Oaxaca, Mexico.
Although thousands of miles apart, the two communities have much in common. "New Brunswick is positioned at one end of a transnational migration corridor that starts in Oaxaca, a largely indigenous state in southern Mexico," Guarnaccia explained. Over the years, New Brunswick has become a diverse city with a rapidly growing community of Oaxacan migrants. That unusual demographic provides researchers with a unique opportunity for scholarship, pedagogy, and community development.
Working with Daniel Goldstein, director of the Center for Latin American Studies, Guarnaccia envisions transforming the Oaxaca-to-New-Brunswick corridor as "a multisited space of transnational knowledge production, education, and interinstitutional exchange that would include Rutgers, New Brunswick, and Oaxaca, as well as the State University System of Oaxaca [SUNEO]." The project, called "Transnational New Brunswick," would include the development of an international service learning course on community health issues in Oaxaca. The course would be used to enhance undergraduate education through research and service learning experiences, and would aim to improve the lives and health of Mexican community residents in New Brunswick and Oaxaca.
Since 2008, Guarnaccia and others at Rutgers have developed collaborative relationships with SUNEO. In June 2009, Rutgers Center for Latin American Studies established a Memorandum of Understanding with SUNEO to facilitate future cooperation and collaboration. Rutgers faculty and administrators have also reached out to leaders of New Brunswick's Mexican community.
These community leaders have worked with faculty and staff of the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences to grow marigolds for the annual Day of the Dead celebration. They have also worked with Rutgers New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station to develop a New Brunswick 4-H chapter that engages Mexican youth in a range of activities, including the local farmer's market. Others in the community have helped a Rutgers nursing faculty member to train promotoras--health and education outreach workers--in order improve health outcomes, increase exercise, and reduce obesity.
Through these efforts, Rutgers has cultivated strong relationships with the New Brunswick Mexican community, and has found new opportunities for research, education, and outreach.