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Pepperdine | Graduate School of Education and Psychology

Iluminar, Community Action and Research Lab

Overview and Objectives

Iluminar is the Spanish word that means to illuminate. It is our hope that the research projects and issues we choose to engage in with communities, provide more insights and “give light to” areas within psychology that need to be better understood in order to provide more just and equitable outcomes for underserved and unserved multicultural communities. Iluminar is grounded in a Community-Based Participatory Research (CBPR) theoretical framework of understanding. CBPR is conducted as an equal partnership between traditionally trained "experts" and members of a community. Iluminar utilizes a community action research approach to collaboratively develop more methods for creating knowledge. In our CBPR projects, the community participates fully in all aspects of the research process. Our projects start with the community. Community is often self-defined, but general categories of community include geographic community, a community of individuals with a common problem or issue, or a community of individuals with a common interest or goal. Equitable partnerships require sharing power, resources, credit, results, and knowledge, as well as a reciprocal appreciation of each partner's knowledge and skills at each stage of the project. The stages include defining a problem or challenge, selecting an appropriate research design, conducting research, interpreting results, and determining how the results should be used for action. Community action research integrates projects into a larger community of practitioners, consultants, researchers, and community members. Iluminar is focused on producing practical knowledge that is useful to people in tangible and practical ways that they can utilize in their everyday lives.

Dr. Miguel Gallardo is the Faculty Facilitator for Iluminar.

Our current projects include the following:

Latina/o Therapists' Experiences on Working with Mexican/Mexican American Communities: A Qualitative Investigation

This study is focused on two main objectives. The first objective is to understand the therapeutic work of Mexican and Latina/o therapists who are currently providing services to Mexican/Mexican American communities. Secondly, we hope that this understanding will elucidate some common therapeutic themes that may provide insight for various mental health professionals delivering services to the Mexican/Mexican American communities. Forty-one therapists were interviewed to understand the psychotherapeutic process when working with Mexican/Mexican American communities.

LaTEENa Empowerment

In partnership with Casa de la Familia (please visit: casadelafamilia.orgfor more information), we are currently working on conducting a mixed-methodology research study. This study is intended to assess the effectiveness of a Latina adolescent empowerment program aimed to enhance the self-esteem of Latina adolescents, as well as increase education retention rates and academic achievement. We are evaluating the effectiveness of the program while examining the effects of the program on building self-efficacy and empowerment of Latina adolescents.


Carrie Castañeda-Sound, Ph.D. (Assistant Professor, GSEP)

Susana O. Salgado, Ph.D. (Psychologist, Psychological Disabilities Coordinator, Santa Ana College)

Rachel Casas, Ph.D. (Assistant Professor, California Lutheran University)

Multiethnic Collaborative of Community Agencies (MECCA)

The Multiethnic Collaborative of Community Agencies is a network of seven community-based social service and healthcare providers including: Abrazar, ACCESS California Services, California Latino Psychological Association, Korean Community Services, OMID Multicultural Institute for Development, Orange County Children’s Therapeutic Center, and the Vietnamese Community of Orange County. Iluminar and Aliento: The Center for Latinx Communities have partnered with MECCA to conduct program evaluations of three community-based programs. For more information visit the Mecca website.

Early Intervention Services for Older Adults (EISOA)

The Socialization Program provides isolated adults, ages 26 and older, with the opportunity to reintegrate into the community by incorporating healthy activities into their daily lifestyle and improving their quality of life. Participants are assigned to activities that are custom-tailored to best suit their specific needs and interests.

Program Goals:

  • To increase social functioning by reintegrating participants into meaningful community activities to reduce the severity of depressive symptoms.
  • To empower Orange County adults to sustain active and healthy lives.

Outreach & Engagement (O&E) Program: Program Evaluation

The O&E Program aims to prevent or lessen the development of mental health conditions through distinct interventions, such as educational and life skills classes. Participants achieve short-term goals through short-term life coaching and case management. This program strives to reduce risk factors by increasing support for the participants, through referrals and linkages to other community agencies.

Program Goals:

  • Decrease the stigma (stereotypes) associated with mental health issues.
  • Outreach to our various multiethnic communities by educating community members regarding services that MECCA agencies provide.
  • Engage the participants of multiethnic communities by providing a range of social and psychological services. 

Multi-Ethnic Arts and Family Festival Stigma Reduction Arts Events

Ethnic-specific art instructors and mental health advocates will lead month-long expressive art workshops at each MECCA agency, in an effort to uniquely target each ethnic community. Consumers and family members will be trained in art expression by an art instructor at each agency. After one month of instruction, the agency will select a day to exhibit the work of the participants and showcase drawings and art pieces done by consumers and family members. Each ethnic-specific art event will be opened to the public to educate the community and to challenge the general public’s perception of mental illness through the use of art, in order to decrease stigma towards consumers and people from ethnic/cultural backgrounds.

The arts are a creative and powerful way to reduce mental health stigma. For example, bringing artwork or artistic performances to wider audiences gives the general public the opportunity to view mental health issues from the consumer’s perspective, and further enables the public to learn about illnesses and treatments. Community education and dialogue often counteract stereotypes perpetuated by the media and entertainment industries by reducing discrimination and negative attitudes associated with mental illness.

Program Goals:

  • To creatively address these issues through the use of artistic exhibits by bringing people together.
  • To assess how the expression of art will positively impact consumers of mental health services.
  • To better understand how the use of art can potentially decrease the stigma attached to mental illness.