Alisa Pykett, Ph.D.

Postdoctoral Fellow 2019-20



Dr. Alisa Pykett is currently a Postdoctoral Research Associate at the University of Wisconsin-Madison working on a project that examines how local, place-based environmental projects promote young people’s civic agency and commitment to their communities. She will join the Self, Virtue, and Public Life Project in August 2019. Her scholarship focuses on the settings and processes that foster civic development among youth and emerging adults. She also studies the experiences across the lifespan that impact people’s understanding of the commons and their commitment to the common good. As an applied social scientist who values community-based research, Dr. Pykett often collaborates with community organizations in research and evaluation. She recently completed her PhD in the Civil Society and Community Research program in the School of Human Ecology at the University of Wisconsin and holds a master’s degree in Social Work from the Indiana University School of Social Work.

Research Plans

During the postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Oklahoma, Dr. Pykett will engage in scholarship focused on civic development and community and organizational settings. For her dissertation, she examined the individual-level civic and leadership development of young adults participating in an alternative institution for civic practice – a justice-focused model of national service with program sites in over 20 U.S. cities. In the program, participants complete 10-month apprenticeships in community-based organizations and engage in community leadership training in a cohort. The unique aspects of the model, such as local leadership and commitment to and success in recruiting young people who may have fewer pathways into community work, hold particular promise for strengthening the civic development of young adults and the civic ties within the communities in which they live. Building on her dissertation work, she will examine how aspects of the settings influenced participant development by analyzing survey data and in-depth participant interviews she conducted as part of the project. The interviews explored participants’ feelings of belongingness, agency, and commitment to their communities.

Dr. Pykett will also further develop a body of work on the conceptualization and study of transformative spaces and settings. Building on initial fieldwork and previously theorized democratic spaces, including third place, mini-publics, empowering settings, and free spaces, this works seeks to understand the role these spaces may play as catalysts and anchors for building a robust civil society and for developing civic agency and fostering hope among individuals.