Story by Julissa Hernández Sánchez
Rebecca Toll, a research associate with the Colorado State University Prevention Research Center, has received the 2020 Northern Colorado’s 40 under Forty Award given by BizWest.
BizWest’s Northern Colorado 40 under Forty recognized 40 up-and-coming business leaders under 40 years of age who are making their mark on their communities through success in their professions and volunteer activities outside of work.
Promoting systemic change
Toll is being recognized for her outstanding work with the Prevention Research Center in CSU’s Department of Human Development and Family Studies, as well as her contributions to the non-profit community. Toll had previously worked over a decade in the nonprofit sector, with organizations whose work also revolved around complex issues affecting different communities.
Toll’s research focuses around the intersections of community building, collaboration, and systems thinking and how these are used as enabling factors to support the implementation of programs and practices to promote systematic change within communities. She is primarily interested in how systematic change is carried out through funding, policy, and leadership.
“I believe our communities have the ability to seek solutions and realize the change necessary to cultivate the conditions where everyone is thriving, participating, and leading together,” Toll said.
Toll’s work with the Prevention Research Center’s Advancing IDEAS for School Health grant led her role to evolve from project-specific to center-wide as the overall approach of her work is incorporated into the PRC. She also cultivated cross-sector partnerships that reflected the PRC’s efforts in advancing the health and wellness of schools and their communities across Colorado.
The Advancing IDEAS for School Health grant funded by the Colorado Health Foundation promotes the creation of strong relationships among professional development providers and the local schools and districts that they serve. This project ultimately allowed for the valuable groundwork in communicating the resources available to school and their communities.
“This work builds on the years of community building I did in the Larimer County nonprofit sector where I promoted the importance of collaboration, leadership, and strategic partnerships. I quickly moved beyond the school health portfolio and I have grown into my current role managing the PRC’s strategic partnerships,” said Toll.
“The research and engagement efforts of the Prevention Research Center focus on effecting systems change – work that seeks to tackle the root cause of an issue by addressing policies, processes, relationships, and power dynamics,” said Toll.
The PRC houses a variety of diverse projects that all work towards the following outcomes:
- Increasing the capacity of schools to address student, teacher, and family health and mental health
- Enhancing the capacity for primary care to support youth and family behavioral health needs
- Increasing community capacity to prevent substance use
- Reducing opioid misuse in communities and strengthening families and youth resilience
The ultimate goal of Toll’s research is to transform the way that communities, nonprofits, state agencies, and cross-discipline academics aid those they serve when approaching the complex challenges that these communities face.
“Ultimately, this work contributes to the values of a land-grant university to help translate the most current scientific advances into practice that is relevant, feasible, and accessible to communities,” said Toll.
The Department of Human Development and Family Studies is part of CSU’s College of Health and Human Sciences.