...to my electronic professional portfolio, or "e-folio."  Here you can learn something about my background, my interests, and the kinds of work that I do.  You will find links on this site to courses I teach, things I have written, talks I have given, and software I use. Please note that links will open in new windows.

Please feel welcomed to contact me about anything that interests you in these pages.  I  can be reached by e-mail at rstoecker@wisc.edu, or at the following office:

Department of Community and Environmental Sociology, 350 Agricultural Hall, 1450 Linden Drive, Madison, Wisconsin  53706.

     phone:  608-890-0764
     fax: 608-262-6022

A Brief Biography:

Raised in a small town called Mukwonago, Wisconsin, after being born at the end of the post-WWII baby boom in 1959, I was both too young and too geographically isolated to have much direct experience with social movement and social change activities.  But somehow I still became infected with the culture of the time.  And I set out to find ways of promoting progressive social change.

As an undergraduate student at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, I gravitated to an alternative first-year program called Integrated Liberal Studies, which focused on issue-oriented education rather than disciplinary-focused education.  We didn't learn about physics, and political science, and chemistry, and history.  Instead we took courses like "Energy" where we learned about the laws of thermodynamics, 1970s government energy policy, changes in the forms of energy usage over time, and other things that taught us the lessons of those disciplines in the context of a real issue.  The experience forever ruined my ability to think in terms of a single discipline, and I consequently ended up designing my own major that integrated a variety of social sciences.

Partly because I was looking for an excuse to stay in town while my life partner finished her undergraduate degree, and partly because I was still looking for the best way to support social change, I then enrolled in a Masters program in Counseling.  I learned half of the communication skills I practice today from my mentors in that program.

When we graduated and moved to the University of Minnesota where I began work as a Ph.D. student in Sociology (changing the world one person at a time using counseling was too slow for me so I decided it would be more efficient to work on entire societies instead), I began to receive the other half of my training in communication skills.  The training came outside of the academy, however, as I got caught up with a most amazing set of neighborhood activists in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood of Minneapolis who had not only saved their community from the wrecking ball, but had gone on to rehabilitate their neighborhood housing that was left to rot by absentee owners. I finally found my niche for working with social change--the neighborhood community--and received my Ph.D. in 1988.

I then became an Assistant Professor at the University of Toledo, where  I was involved in working with neighborhood organizations--helping them do strategic planning, conduct needs assessments, and evaluate their impact.  We now have a model for this kind of work--where academics partner with community-based social change efforts--called community-based research or CBR. You can read more about CBR in the research section of this e-folio.  I have also continued to work with the neighborhood in Minneapolis that started it all, and have even had a number of opportunities to work with community projects in Melbourne, Australia.

I am now a Professor in the Department of Community and Environmental Sociology at the University of Wisconsin, with an associate affiliation at the Center for Community and Economic Development, beginning July 2005.  This position has taken me into expanded work in academy-community partnerships and community leadership development. I have been involved in work trying to amplify the community voice in service learning, and provide strong information technology support for nonprofit organizations, and build community power. Most recently, I and my students have worked with The Urban Community Arts Network, Justified Anger, Community Shares of Wisconsin, SouthWest Madison Community Organizers, The Natural Step Monona, and the Madison Area Cooperative Housing Alliance.

Research Interests:

It is important to me that you not think of my "research" work as something that is designed mostly to fit on a shelf.  Nearly all of the research I do these days is part of the work of community organizations striving for social change.  The most recent books I've worked on are focused on building the capacity of the community sector.  You can click on the book graphics to find out more.

book:  Research Methods for Community Change                      book:  Community-Based Research and Higher Education

book:  The Unheard Voices:  Community Organizations and Service Learning                      book:  The Landscape of Rural Service Learning, and What It Teaches Us All                      book:  Liberating Service Learning, and the Rest of Higher Education Civic Engagement

Consequently, all of my research, teaching, and community work these days starts with the word "community."  The two main topics I work on are called community organizing and development, and community-based research and service learning.  

For those of you who want to know more, you can view my full curriculum vita (for those not familiar with the term, it is a very long resume)

Teaching Interests:

Similar to my research interests, my teaching interests also start with the concept of community.  I have recently taught these classroom-based courses:

Community Response to Pandemics

Community Organizing

Community Development

Becoming a Community-Engaged Scholar

My other courses involve engagement with community groups. My students have worked with me on intense community engagement projects, including:

Community-Based Research: This course involved a dozen students in conducting interviews with 65 community groups on their perceptions of service-learning. It led to a major community project producing a set of community standards for service-learning and the book The Unheard Voices.

Community-Based Research with The Natural Step Monona . This course involved a dozen students in working with The Natural Step Monona to distribute 3100 surveys door to door in the Monona community to learn about community sustainability issues. It led to a long-term partnership with TNS Monona involving two more courses, helping shift water conservation policy in the City of Monona, and engaging over a dozen other Monona community groups in water conservation activities.

Community-Based Research with Southwest Madison Community Organizers and the Theresa Terrace Leaders group . This course is part of another long-term partnership, involving two classes of students, and supporting resident organizing that won a new community center for the residents of the Theresa Terrace area of southwest Madison.

Community-Based Research with Neighborhood House--Madison's oldest community center. This course renewed a relationship I had with Neighborhood House some years earlier, and involved I and the students collecting data from interviews and archives on all 100 years of the organization's history.

Community-Based Research with the Urban Community Arts Network--an organization dedicated to eliminating racialized discrimination against Hip-Hop culture in Madison. I have done four courses with UCAN, all research projects documenting and challenging discrimination in the city.

Community Engagement:

Since moving to Wisconsin, my career has shifted more and more toward higher education community engagement. Now, most of my teaching and research are directly involved with various community organizing and development efforts, and you may have learned from the previous sections. Some of my more recent rewarding involvements include:

Co-coordination of the TechShop Madison project with Katherine Loving and Eric Howland--a three year project to build the information technology capacity of community groups.

Community-based research with the Madison Area Cooperative Housing Alliance.The Urban Community Arts Network, Justified Anger, Community Shares of Wisconsin, The Natural Step Monona, and SouthWest Madison Community Organizers.

Strategic planning facilitation with The Grassroots Leadership College, Community GroundWorks, the Madison Area GROW Coalition, Rural Urban FLOW, and many others.

Facilitation, Training, and Speaking:

I do a variety of facilitation, training and speaking activities.   Much of that work revolves around helping to develop higher ed-community partnership programs and to facilitate community-based research projects.  But I also work with community groups to support their capacity development. My expertise includes:

  • planning process facilitation
  • community-based research design and facilitation
  • empowerment evaluation
  • service-learning

I have been doing more and more training with community groups and academics around maximizing the community impact of service-learning and community-based research, especially with my University of Wisconsin-Extension work. I have had the pleasure of facilitating workshops with national and international groups, community coalitions, academic-community partnerships, and higher education institutions ranging from community colleges to Research I universities and everything in between. You can learn about some of the groups I have worked with over the past decade in my CV.