Dr. Cynthia Gonzalez is a first-generation Mexican American lifetime resident of Watts that brings a strong background in community-based participatory research, cultural anthropology and social ethnography to the understanding of community wellness. Dr. Gonzalez focuses her scholarship in the study of urban communities and its impact on overall wellness. Her approach of finding “local solutions to local problems” in urban neighborhoods is rooted in equity, social justice, critical engagement, and multidisciplinary scholarship. Influenced by her upbringing, Dr. Gonzalez is interested in developing place-based initiatives through community participatory engagement and neighborhood assessments to improve the quality of life for low-income and racial/ethnic minority residents living in under-resourced neighborhoods. She has developed partnerships between community, government, and academia through efforts like the Watts Community Studio and Los Angeles Promise Zone Young Ethnographers Program.
In order to ensure community-partnered principles, Dr. Gonzalez has served as a community advisor to numerous place-based and racial justice focused projects and led a multi-million dollar collaborative grant for the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles (HACLA) known as Watts Rising. In her role as an Assistant Professor at Charles R Drew University of Medicine and Science, Dr. Gonzalez advises on COVID-19 related projects to ensure local community representation, partnership, and inclusion and also leads a COVID-19 education project for mental health clinicians working in communities like where she grew up. Most recently, Dr. Gonzalez took on a role as the Director of the Pardee RAND Graduate School’s Community-Partnered Policy and Action PhD program in policy analysis where students prepare to be future scholars that are mindful of how social dynamics impact research, using an equity and racial justice lens. She has received numerous honors and awards for her innovative teaching in community engagement and public health. Her academic journey takes her to UCLA where she completed a BA in Chicana/o studies and public health, USC earning an MPH in biostatistics and epidemiology, and the California Institute of Integral Studies where she completed a PhD in social and cultural anthropology.