CCBL Founding Director
Maria Avila was the Director of the Center for Community Based Learning at Occidental College from the creation of the Center in 2001 until June 2011. She led the development of the Center’s approach to civic engagement, based on community organizing practices. She taught a class in Academic Community Engagement. She also wrote a chapter entitled: Civic Engagement, Community Development and Implications for the Academy: From Los Angeles to Ireland, in Mapping Civic Engagement within Higher Education in Ireland (2009); She also wrote an article entitled: Community Organizing Practices in Academia: A Model, and Stories of Partnerships, published by the Journal of Higher Education Outreach and Engagement, Vol. 14, No. 2, in June 2010.
Ms. Avila has presented extensively at various conferences in the US, in Mexico, and in Ireland, and her model of engagement has been referred to in several books and articles, including: Cross Border Centre for Community Development Seminar Report “Engagement: Transforming Learning 3rd Level and Community” (Seminar in Dundalk, Ireland, 2005); Frames and Discourses: Exploring the Meaning of Engagement, co-authored with Frank Fear, (2005); Harry Boyte’s Everyday Politics, (2004); Democracy and Civic Engagement: A guide for higher education, edited by The New York Times and American Association of State Colleges and Universities, (2005); University Education for Community Change: A Vital Strategy for Progress on Poverty, Race and Community building, by Andrew Mott, (2005).
Prior to Occidental College, Ms. Avila worked as Director of Community Planning and Economic Development at Los Angeles Trade Technical College and as an instructor of Community Organizing. Maria is originally from Northern Mexico, and has worked as a community organizer in Mexico and in the United States. In the US, she organized with the Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF) from 1992 through 2000. She earned a degree of Social Work at the Universidad Autonoma de Ciudad Juarez, in Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico, a BA in Psychology at the University of Illinois in Chicago, and a MA in Social Service Administration and Community Organizing at University of Chicago. She received a Fulbright award which allowed her to spend seven weeks as a Senior Specialist on civic engagement in Ireland in the fall of 2010. She has a PHD from the National University of Ireland, Maynooth.
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