Community Based Participatory Research (CBPR) - Community Assessments

Basic information

In 2002, the Calvin College Nursing Program initiated a community-based curriculum which increased community learning experiences for nursing students.

In line with the mission of the college that supports service-learning and community engagement, the nursing program sought to create meaningful learning experiences for students that also benefited the community. To achieve this vision, the nursing department formed community–campus partnerships with four ethnically diverse underserved neighborhoods in Grand Rapids (Burton Heights neighborhood, Baxter/Madison neighborhood, Creston/Belknap neighborhood, and Heartside neighborhood). Each partnership was founded on a commitment to the key elements of community based participatory research (Israel et al., 2003).

  • Focus on the community as a unit
  • Build on community strengths and resources
  • Encourage collaborative participation in each step of the research process
  • Foster co-learning among all partners and build community capacity
  • Provide a balance between research and action
  • Address public health concerns that are important to the local community and consider multiple determinants of health
  • Engage in systems development through a recurring process
  • Collaborate on disseminating findings to all partners
  • Be willing to commit long-term to the process

In 2002, the community campus partnership team initiated the CBPR process by designing and implementing a community assessment consisting of focus groups and surveys for each neighborhood.  This community assessment has been repeated every 7 years to listen to the voice of the community, drive nursing student learning experiences, help community and academic partners conduct program planning, and to evaluate impact of the partnership. Community assessments were completed for Burton Heights neighborhood in 2002, 2009 and 2016; Baxter/Madison neighborhood in 2003, 2010 and 2017; Creston/Belknap neighborhood in 2004, 2011, and 2018; and Heartside neighborhood in 2014.


Principle Investigator: Gail Zandee, Associate Professor of Nursing

Research Team Members -Current & Past

  • Barbara Timmermans, Associate Professor of Nursing
  • Debra Bossenbroek, previous Assistant Professor of Nursing
  • Suzan Couzens, previous Assistant Professor of Nursing
  • Beth Gordon, previous Assistant Professor of Nursing
  • Gail Heffner, director of Community Engagement
  • Dianne Slager, previous Assistant Professor of Nursing

Current & Past Research Assistants

  • Gabriela Guzman, Community Health Worker in Burton Heights neighborhood
  • Laurel Machiele, nursing student
  • Sarah Slotsema, nursing student
  • Diana Serio, nursing student
  • Lindsay Clutter, nursing student
  • Andrea Lima, nursing student  


  • Israel, B.A., Schulz, A.J., Parker, E.A., Becker, A.B., Allen, A., & Guzman, J.R. (2003). Critical issues in developing and following community based participatory research principles. In M. Minkler & N. Wallerstein (Eds.), Community-based participatory research for health; pp. 53-76. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.


Gail Zandee

Gail Zandee

Associate Professor
Full profile


  • Course code:
  • Credits:
  • Semester:
  • Department: