Keesha Benson, PhD

Director of Learning

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Keesha Benson

Dr. Keesha Benson is an inclusive and equity-centered community practitioner with over 15 years of experience engaging in community-level work with children and families, nonprofit organizations, and community stakeholders. Her work has crossed multiple disciplines including child welfare, public health, business, and education. Her service in both a programmatic and research capacity on numerous community grant projects has led to an in-depth understanding of community engagement at various levels with culturally diverse populations. She is dedicated to cultural humility and ensuring that community work is completed in an inclusive and culturally relevant manner.

Dr. Benson received both her Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Social Work with a focus in community intervention, and a Master of Social Work (MSW) from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She also holds a Master of Business Administration (MBA) and Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Business Administration from Florida A&M University. As someone trained in community intervention and community participatory practice, she is passionate about ensuring that stakeholders have access to the needed resources and information that leads to long-standing transformative change.

Most recently, Dr. Benson served in a leadership capacity on two Foundation for a Healthy St. Petersburg Transformative Grant Projects. As the Director of Thrive by Five Pinellas she worked with community partners and stakeholders in the establishment of an equitable and responsive early childhood system in Pinellas County. During her tenure as the Manager for the Grow Smarter Initiative, she facilitated the multi-sector work of 90+ organizations towards equitable economic growth for the city of St. Petersburg.

Prior to returning to her hometown (St. Petersburg, FL), Dr. Benson served as an Assistant Professor of Instruction at Temple University School of Social Work, College of Public Health in Philadelphia, PA. As a graduate of the Provost Teaching Institute, and a Faculty Fellow with the Center for the Advancement of Teaching, Dr. Benson developed and facilitated the Inaugural Inclusive Teaching Institute for faculty across the university. Her experience as an Associate with the Strong Couples Strong Children project, a federally funded healthy marriage and responsible fatherhood initiative based in Durham (North Carolina), allowed her to engage in a community partner approach to addressing the needs of low-income expectant parents as they navigated the co-parental relationship for improved child outcomes.

Dr. Benson lives in St. Petersburg with her husband and three young children who she credits for much of her self-discovery and refining, she affectionately refers to this season of life as perfect chaos. As a sixth-generation resident of St. Pete she loves and respects the deep history of this city. She understands firsthand the importance of the collective work to ensure equitable, accessible, responsive, and accountable social institutions for the residents of St. Petersburg; and holds reverence for Activist Lilla Watson’s words “If you have come here to help me you are wasting your time, but if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.”

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