Research and Social Justice

UROC's Christina Melander


UROC Research Fellow Christina Melander works with community stakeholders on social justice concerns.

Since graduating with a Masters of Social Work degree from the University of Minnesota’s School of Social Work in 2015, Robert J. Jones Urban Research and Outreach-Engagement Center's Research Fellow Christina Melander has worked to identify sex trafficking trends throughout Minnesota. She hopes to expand her work to lead independent research that furthers scholarship for social justice.

Melander does most of her work on projects within the Robert J. Jones Urban Research and Outreach-Engagement Center (UROC) Sex Trading, Trafficking and Community Well-Being Initiative, including “Mapping the Demand: Sex Buyers in Minnesota,” which uses stakeholder interviews, law enforcement data, and news coverage of trafficking to study sex buyers. Melander supervises undergraduate and graduate students, contributes to research design, and collects and analyzes data for the project. This work builds on findings from “Mapping the Market,” which examined sex trafficking of juvenile girls in Minneapolis. The scope of this current research is much broader. “This part of the project really branches out. Rather than just looking at juvenile girls, ‘Mapping the Demand’ looks at all ages and genders across Minnesota,” said Melander.

She is currently applying her expertise in community-based research design to UROC’s project on workplace environments in strip clubs, “Workplace Perspectives on Erotic Dancing”. In partnership with the Minneapolis Department of Health and the Women’s Foundation of Minnesota, UROC researchers are using a community-based participatory approach to understand the strengths and challenges for entertainers at strip clubs in Minneapolis.

The research is being conducted with guidance from a Community Advisory Group that includes industry stakeholders. Melander acknowledges the role of authentic community partnership, saying, “It’s important that our interviewing process was influenced by actual experiences of knowledgeable community members. All of our research is grounded in knowing and benefitting the community.”