From 1978 1987, as Deputy Director and a co-founder of the Hispanic Health Council in Hartford, CT. U.S.A., she built its research and training infrastructure in Hispanic health related issues, as well as leading national studies in tobacco use, reproductive health, multilevel mental health interventions and HIV. In 1987, she became the founding director of the Institute for Community Research, an innovative, multimillion dollar, community research organization, conducting collaborative applied research in education, cultural studies and folklore, Participatory Action Research and multilevel intervention research in the U.S., China and India.. The Hispanic Health Council and the Institute for Community Research manifest and operationalize her research and social justice values and ideas at the organizational level. Through the hard work of teams of scholar/activists, these community research institutions have had wide reaching influence on social, cultural and health related transformations in Connecticut, elsewhere in the U.S. and internationally as well as on new ways of linking communities and universities in action-oriented community engagement models.
Dr. Schensul’s research cuts across the developmental spectrum, addressing contributions of ethnography to disparities and structural inequities in early childhood development, adolescent and young adult substance use and sexual risk, reproductive health, and chronic diseases of older adulthood. She is the recipient of more than twenty mixed methods or qualitative National Institutes of Health research grants, as well as other federal, state, and foundation grants. Bilingual in Spanish, she has worked in Latin America, South Asia, and in East and West Africa and for a decade, with collaborators in India on HIV and substance use. In recent years, she has expanded ICR’s active research program to India, joining forces with government, NGO and community networks to build ethnographic and mixed methods research capacity, and to attract NIH funding to study the effects of alcohol and tobacco on HIV risk and women’s reproductive health.
Dr. Schensul has organized or participated in many conferences and workshops on community engagement in research and scholar activism. She has over eighty five peer-reviewed journal articles, and seven edited substantive special issues of journals including Anthropology and Education Quarterly, AIDS and Behavior, American Behavioral Scientist, and the American Journal of Community Psychology. Her collaborative work in research methodology is reflected in a book (with Don Stull) entitled Collaborative Research and Social Change, the widely celebrated seven volume series, The Ethnographers' Toolkit, with Margaret LeCompte, and in other articles and book chapters on ethnography and advocacy, community building, applied educational anthropology and sustainability of interventions.
Internationally known for research and service to marginalized communities she (with Stephen Schensul) was the recipient of the Kimball Award for Public Policy Research in Anthropology awarded biannually by the American Anthropology Association). In 2010, she received the Bronislaw Malinowski Award for Lifetime Achievement in Anthropology awarded by the Society for Applied Anthropology. She has served as president of the Society for Applied Anthropology and the Council on Anthropology and Education and is an elected board member of the American Anthropological Association. Dr. Schensul holds adjunct faculty positions in the Departments of Anthropology and Community Medicine, University of Connecticut, and is a research affiliate at Yale where she teaches qualitative research methods in HIV/AIDS. She consults to universities and community organizations on community engagement and methods in community based research. Committed to linking anthropology with other disciplines, she is active across disciplines working together with community psychologists, prevention researchers, and public health participatory research activists to develop interdisciplinary transformations favoring social justice, and community university engagement models.