Our Faculty Programs seek to support those leading or involved with engagement initiatives. Our programming provides spaces to learn how engaged research or service-learning courses can work for you, connect with other like-minded individuals, discover best methods, develop collaborations and new ideas, and explore the resources available. Click name to jump to individual profile.
SHORNA ALLRED | VICTORIA BEARD | KATHY BERGGREN | MARY JO DUDLEY | JACK ELLIOTT | BRYAN DUFF | MARCIA EAMES-SHEAVLY | CHRIS SHAFFER
FIELD OF WORK:
Associate Professor, Department of Natural Resources
Shorna partnered with residents and community organizations to develop, implement, and evaluate an urban forestry community engagement toolkit that will be disseminated for use by organizations nationwide. Her goal is to reach and empower people to be active stewards of their community’s trees and natural resources. Trees are integral to the urban environment, contributing multiple economic and environmental benefits. With our support, Shorna worked towards the effective community engagement that translates to an informed and invested citizenry taking actions to become advocates for their urban forest.
“Ultimately, the overall goal is an increased awareness, interest, and community involvement in urban forestry . . . Critical to the success of these efforts is community engagement. Indeed, lack of involvement of key stakeholders in urban greening projects has been linked to project failure.”
Shorna B. Allred’s research program blends human factors and natural sciences to improve resource management and conservation. The goal of her research is to develop a fundamental understanding of human behavior for the purposes of improving resource conservation and management. An understanding of human social, political, and psychological processes will enhance our ability to conserve and manage our natural resources and encourage an open and informed exchange of ideas.
Shorna brings an understanding of the conservation behavior of landowners and other key decision-makers and the relationship of conservation behavior to environmental outcomes. The inter-related objectives of her research program are to:
- Understand landowners’ and other decision-makers’ conservation behavior, particularly the psychology of decision-making.
- Identify and investigate innovative policy alternatives and program interventions that positively influence the conservation behavior of landowners and decision-makers.
- Improve social science survey research methods used in human dimensions of natural resources investigations.
- Facilitated community capacity building
- Explored and utilized participatory social science research methods
- Disseminated insights locally, regionally, and nationally
- Researched and designed participatory processes to engage residents, raise awareness, and help urban forestry professionals understand the needs and constraints of residents
- Created a community engagement toolkit curriculum to serve as the foundation for an online course for both upper level undergraduate and graduate students and urban forestry professionals
- Provided an online forum for interaction between Cornell students and professionals across the U.S. whereby they could share experiences, knowledge, and also establish a network of engaged professionals and students
LOOKING TO THE FUTURE:
There are many ways that people can be engaged or involved in urban forestry activities. Shorna envisions that this project is a first step toward engagement with the development of awareness of urban trees and their importance or value in the community.
This awareness may lead to an individual taking more direct actions to provide basic care to trees (e.g. watering, pruning, picking up litter near trees), participating in an urban forestry educational program, workshop or training, or volunteering to plant and take care of trees in the community. Highly engaged residents and stakeholders may mobilize people and resources needed to start their own urban forestry projects in their neighborhood, or for advocating the importance of urban forestry to local elected officials.
“There is a need to enhance urban forestry professionals’ understanding, knowledge, and skills in the citizen engagement process so professionals are better able to comprehend the needs of citizens and effectively communicate the importance of urban forestry to a diverse range of audiences.”
FIELD OF WORK:
Associate Professor, Department of City and Regional Planning
Victoria partnered with a non-governmental organization Yayasan Kota Kita to develop a planning workshop that engaged communities along the Pepe River in Surakarta (Solo), Indonesia. The collaboration focused on two issues (1) the tension between providing poor communities with access to open, public space while simultaneously protecting the poorest residents’ “right to the city”, and (2) the complex planning, coordination and collective action problems associated with providing water and sanitation services to these communities. With our support, she met with community representatives, Yayasan Kota Kita, and local government officials to develop the course and assess the possibility of a sustained campus-community partnership. This complex, international planning workshop will continue to expose graduate students to the complexity as well as the nuances of planning with poor communities in the global South.
“Due to the complexity associated with planning in an international setting, the number of community/institutional/government actors involved, and the need to build trust… a long-term relationship has the potential to facilitate a meaningful experience for both the students as well as the community far beyond what is possible through short term or one-off encounters.”
Victoria Beard brings a focus on international urbanization and planning to the Faculty Fellows program. Victoria’s research explores the intersection of collective action, social movements, transnational processes, and community-based planning in the contexts of poverty and the global south. With two ongoing research projects, she works to examine community-based planning and poverty alleviation in Indonesia, Thailand, and Cambodia as well as transnational community-based planning in Southern California and Oaxaca.
Victoria has also worked as a planning practitioner for organizations such as the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank, AusAID, and RAND during the past 15 years. Her professional work has focused on sustainable development for community-based organizations; designing, implementing, and evaluating government programs that address poverty; and applied social science research, monitoring, and evaluation.
- Critically examined models of service learning and engaged research
- Built on the experiences of colleagues who implement service learning courses and engaged research
- Developed a better understanding of the power, institutional, and community relationships involved in global service learning projects
- Explored approaches for addressing imbalances in community-based planning
- Designed a graduate planning workshop course with rigorous service learning and engaged research components
- Traveled to Indonesia to facilitate an ongoing partnership among the Department of City and Regional Planning at Cornell, Atma Jaya University in Yogyakarta, the communities in Solo, the non-governmental organization Yayasan Kota Kita, and the local government in Solo.
- Invited Indonesian representatives to Ithaca to meet with students.
- Pursued funds to support a small number of students from the workshop course who were interested in traveling to Indonesia.
LOOKING TO THE FUTURE:
Over the next several years, Victoria hopes to facilitate Cornell’s campus-community partnerships in Thailand, Cambodia, and Burma through the Department of City and Regional Planning and the Southeast Asia Program.
“Ultimately, I hope the campus-community partnership will facilitate opportunities for student internships, engaged research, international student recruitment, and knowledge flows and exchanges in both directions.”
At the heart of community-based planning are concerns about community engagement and public participation.
- How can the different actors, communities, civil society organizations, government and the international development agencies improve coordination?
- The presence of civil society organizations is new and limited in Indonesia. What is their potential for representing and organizing communities?
- How can poor communities gain better information about planning processes and gain more control over outcomes?
FIELD OF WORK:
Senior Lecturer, Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management
Kathy created, implemented, and assessed a short curriculum that addresses the richness and opportunities of the differently abled for Ithaca City Schools (grades 6-8). The Illuminating Differently Abled Awareness (IDAA) project began in December 2012 with the initial application to the Faculty Fellows Program. The objective of the initial proposal was to teach students in the Ithaca School District about the richness and opportunities of the differently abled through the creation, implementation, and assessment of a short curriculum of three modules across three class periods.
“The goal of this project was for teachers, administration, and students to display awareness, respect, curiosity, and empathy around issues and individuals of different ability.”
Kathy was thrilled to join the Dyson community following her faculty appointment in the CALS Communication Department for the past 20 years. She looked forward to contributing and learning from the Dyson faculty as a member of the decision making structure. Kathy’s interests in curriculum development and course revision resulted in an international Clarion award for best new curriculum in the communication field. Her teaching and advising efforts have been recognized with the President’s Carpenter Award and the CALS Circle Award. Far more important than any award, Kathy’s witnessing the growth and development of her students provided infinite satisfaction and motivation.
- Took on three undergraduate students to help with the development and implementation of the curriculum
- Developed curriculum around diversity, disability awareness, and disability advocacy
- Sparked conversations about disability and inclusion among students with their peers, teachers and parents
- Launched a pilot of the lesson plans in four eighth grade classes over two weeks at the end of the semester
- Created a website where the curriculum has been made available online for public access in order to have a further reach and is intended as a tool for educators, leaders and facilitators in school systems, camps, scout troops, or any groups dealing with children and young adults
LOOKING TO THE FUTURE:
In order to facilitate the dissemination of the curriculum, Kathy developed a website to showcase the curriculum in an easy-to-access, simple manner.
“We feel that using conferences, as part of our marketing strategy would allow us to reach out to a greater, broader audience that we wouldn’t achieve the same way through just contacting agencies, teachers, etc. Moreover, since the educators could actually experience the curriculum, they may be more inclined to implement it.”
FIELD OF WORK:
Director, Cornell Farmworker Program
Through the Faculty Fellows in Engaged Learning and Research Program, Mary Jo enhanced her capacity in regards to “Student and Faculty Engagement with Farmworkers: How Can We Better Measure Our Impacts?” in three critical areas: 1) learning about approaches to better assess our impact on farmworkers and their families; 2) developing strategies to better document our impact to identify funding sources to ensure the program’s financial viability. Mary Jo greatly benefited from this opportunity by sharing ideas, and exploring theories and pedagogical models to address some of the practical challenges faced as students are engaged with faculty and farmworkers.
Through this project, Mary Jo examined ways to overcome these challenges, and explored successful approaches to assessing the impacts of engaged learning and research on farmworkers and other similar populations.
“It can be challenging to establish culturally and linguistically appropriate and meaningful approaches to assess short and long-term impacts of programs that work with low literacy migrant populations. Community engagement with the current farmworker population requires that we are mindful of culture, language, and literacy as well as the time and financial constraints farmworkers experience when interacting with students and faculty.”
Mary Jo Dudley is the Director of the Cornell Farmworker Program (a collaborative effort of CALS, CHE, and CCE), and a faculty member of the Department of Development Sociology. She has extensive research interests in immigrant workers, farmworkers, US-Latin American relations, migration from Latin America to the US, and immigrant communities in the US. She is currently involved in research on farmworkers’ contributions, farmworkers’ perceptions about life in their new communities, farmworker empowerment, and gender and participation.
Mary Jo Dudley’s extension efforts include addressing farmworker needs through supporting the provision of on-farm language instruction, increasing farmworkers’ understanding of New York State and federal laws, farmworker empowerment through capacity building activities, and facilitating workshops on immigration issues as they relate to farmworkers. Her extension activities also include education on diversity issues, workshops to improve communication between farmworkers, their employers, and members of the communities in which they live.
- Asked colleagues about their experience and knowledge in this area
- Conducted a literature review to ascertain what has been written about how other organizations effectively evaluate their efforts with similar populations
- Returned to some farms and gained better insights from farmworker participants on their perspectives on assessment and evaluation
- Convened a group of workers that are interested in developing a more effective and comfortable way of assessing how they experience interactions
- Learned more about effective strategies for measuring both short term and long term impacts on how students and faculty are affected as a result of their interactions with farmworkers
- Shared what is learned and discussed challenges with other Faculty Fellows
- Explored other approaches to better assess and document student learning, especially how there can be better documentation of long-term learning with participating Cornell faculty
LOOKING TO THE FUTURE:
While Mary Jo has been successful in locating funding for specific projects, it has been difficult to locate funding to support travel to farms to conduct on-farm workshops, and staff time required to develop new educational materials and workshops. Mary Jo is interested in locating funding that could support the Cornell Farmworker Program efforts to build capacity among the farmworker community to advocate for themselves.
FIELD OF WORK:
Associate Professor, Department of Design and Environmental Analysis
Ghana and the Dominican Republic
Jack Elliott used his time as a fellow to increase his capacity to infuse his community-engaged design projects with additional outreach experience in order to enhance student learning. In both the Dominican Republic and Ghana, Jack and his students designed and developed sustainable building approaches. Additionally, they coordinated and built an assembly space for an AIDS clinic in Punta Cana while strengthening community ties in the goldfields of Ghana, involving both private and public sector support.
“Despite all of the environmental benefits of this building system, one of the key selling points for this initiative was the inclusion of a Cornell student participation component. I want to make sure that this aspect of the program is done right, with the greatest benefits to the students, as well as to the stakeholders and to the clients.”
Jack Elliott has three areas of expertise in teaching, involving three types of design literacies. These are visual literacy in design (DEA 1101), computer literacy in design (DEA2030), and ecological literacy in design (DEA4220). His research interests are related to the idea of “Nature inside,” both in a theoretical sense and in a practical sense. In the theoretical domain, he is interested in those aspects of material culture of the built environment that express a society’s set of values as they pertain to the natural world, especially regarding environmental ethics and aesthetics.
He is currently investigating topics related to rusticity and sustainability, particularly in furniture and furnishings. In the practical sense, he is interested in “pulling” technology through the design project situated in a real world context. He uses the prototype as a stimulant for design discourse, a conductor for technological developments, and an exemplar for commercial enterprise. These prototypes range in scale from the artifact to the edifice; from a pair of benches installed on the National Mall in Washington to a certified “green” building project for the National Park Service in the Grand Canyon.
- Developed a long-term relationship with a spontaneous Haitian settlement known as Veron
- Researched about the provision of significant public works to help create a greater sense of place and identity, qualities that are both currently in short supply in this Haitian settlement
- Designed and built a new assembly space for an AIDS clinic in the Veron settlement
- Introduced a new approach to building that Jack developed at Cornell, which uses a bamboo-based spaceframe that reduces local forestry pressures, sequesters carbon, and extends the life of the building through its design for disassembly and reuse. The design can also phyto-remediate contaminated soils, reduce soil erosion, and most importantly, introduce a new form of local revenue and employment.
LOOKING TO THE FUTURE:
Jack intends that students will learn about the power of doing, of engaging physically with the real world rather than engaging abstractly or remotely. He also hopes, for this and future projects, to provide students with an opportunity to learn about the value of service in the form of giving-back and as a personal path to leadership through the efforts of construction onsite off-campus as well as this logistical support in Ithaca. The expected educational value of participation in this service-learning project of construction and research is to gain a more global perspective on the differences and inequalities that exist in these parts of the world and to learn what it takes to make a positive difference.
“Building these projects is important but it is not the only part of the research. Follow-up investigations will be undertaken to assess the local responses to the new interventions and to determine new lines of building research based on these findings. In this way, student engagement with the local stakeholders will be extended and deepened and the built responses will be better suited to the local physical and cultural conditions.”
FIELD OF WORK:
Lecturer in Education
Bryan re-designed the fieldwork for EDUC 4040 (Engaging Students in Learning). Rather than observing and providing assistance in local classrooms, his students now plan and run an afterschool program at nearby DeWitt Middle School. The result for his students: authentic experience with planning, teaching, and reflecting. The results for the middle school kids: a team-produced short story with illustrations and a creative performance or product made within budgetary and other parameters.
“The Faculty Fellows program offered technical support from folks with lots of experience in service learning, as well as inspiration from other teachers on campus who are reinvigorating their professional practice.”
A former high school teacher, Dr. Duff has taught education courses and done education outreach since 2007. He is committed to attracting curious, lively, big-hearted people into teaching or at least into careers or avocations that help young people become their best possible selves.
- Students in EDUC 4040 study principles of learning and motivation and then put these principles to work to design a mini-course on story-telling and a small set of elective mini-courses for the afterschool program
- Students work in pairs when they are actually teaching, and they reflect in writing immediately after each episode
- Class time is spent de-briefing, de-bugging, and relating students’ experiences to the principles and research-based strategies that students read about
LOOKING TO THE FUTURE:
Bryan hopes that the course will continue to open students’ eyes to the intellectual and interpersonal challenges—and joys—of effectively teaching a diverse class of students. This story suggests that the revamped course is off to a promising start.
FIELD OF WORK:
Senior Extension Associate/Senior Lecturer Department of Horticulture
Marcia has been in the Department of Horticulture through many of its iterations, in several roles. As an undergraduate student in Floriculture and Ornamental Horticulture, a research technician in Pomology, an extension support specialist in Fruit and Vegetable Science, a Senior Extension Associate, and most recently, Senior Lecturer in Horticulture, Marcia’s lasting impression of the department is the dedication of the compassionate and hard-working faculty and staff to students, and the commitment to the very humanity of those students. As a department with a strong Cooperative Extension commitment, she is keenly interested in how faculty colleagues engage students in their work in the Extension arena.
In order to showcase how engaged learning takes place across and throughout the Department of Horticulture, Marcia originally intended to interview faculty colleagues in Horticulture in order to strengthen cohesion among colleagues, document individual approaches, identify themes that cut across those efforts, and surface opportunities for collaboration. Based on guidance from several perspectives, she is partnering with communications to highlight this work as an example of engaged learning excellence in the Plant Sciences at Cornell University.
“Despite knowing in general that my colleagues engage in service learning, take students out into the field, and involve them in various communities across New York state, at the end of the day, none of us really knows the details of one another’s work…taking the time to talk with colleagues one-on-one about their teaching has been a rare privilege.”
As a senior lecturer and senior extension associate in Horticulture, Marcia believes that we have a lot to learn from plants: scientific and engineering concepts and principles, certainly, but also lessons about caring, well-being, beauty, and stewardship. She therefore devotes nearly all of her professional time to bringing people and plants together, whether the people are students at Cornell, online students around the world, or members of communities from New York to Belize. As passionate as she is about plants and their potential to teach us intellectual and affective lessons, she is equally committed to the how of education because she knows that we learn as much from the how as from the what. Whether she is modeling how to observe and describe a leaf in detail or facilitating a student discussion about designing an outdoor sofa made of sod, she does so in ways that manifest dispositions that she believes are key to personal growth and social welfare: reflection, community-mindedness, and experiential participation.
Marcia Eames-Sheavly is the children and youth program leader for Cornell Garden-Based Learning. She has authored many educational resources, publications, book chapters, and articles, and collaborates with others to plan conferences and workshops to foster educator professional development. She teaches several classes in the Horticulture Department, and works with diverse students in individual study. She is also an artist; her work has been shown widely in NYS. Marcia also provides statewide leadership and coordination of a multidisciplinary garden-based learning extension program for children and youth educators. She collaborates with her Cornell Garden-Based Learning co-leader; professional development educator Liz Falk; and state and national partners to strengthen the research link to garden-based learning, and is passionate in particular about engaging the voice of young people in the planning, design, implementation, and overall organization of garden programs.
- Targeted faculty who self-identify as teaching through the lens of public engagement, and/or academic service learning.
- Crafted a set of interview questions, with guidance from Richard Kiely and other Faculty Fellows.
- Hired Lauren Nelson to assist with interviews.
- Met with Plant Science faculty members, administrators, and two focus groups of students enrolled in plant science courses.
- Actively encouraged faculty members to share, engage with, and learn from others through the Engaged Cornell forum.
- Met with Craig Cramer, the Horticulture Department communications specialist, to determine and develop the ideal published products.
- Working with Craig Cramer to create a video of inspiring highlights from the process.
LOOKING TO THE FUTURE:
Marcia intends for her work to help strengthen the Plant Sciences by celebrating a discipline-wide model of excellence. This in turn, will ideally draw students into the discipline to experience the number and quality of opportunities for engaged learning. In the future, she hopes Cornell University will be further acknowledged as a center of engaged excellence in which an ethics of genuine compassion is solidly fostered, practiced, and promoted.
“I believe a university can be a community in which an ethics of genuine compassion can be practiced, and in which we can learn from one another, to reframe traditional foundations for education into a transformative and engaged endeavor that cultivates each person in the fullest possible way. I am eager to foster and contribute to such a community.”
The Heart of Higher Education, a Call to Renewal: Transforming the Academy through Collegial Conversations
by Parker Palmer, Alfred Zajonc, Megan Scribner
FIELD OF WORK:
Associate Professor, Department of Biomedical Engineering
Catharine Clark — Postdoctoral Associate, Department of Biomedical Engineering
Professor Chris Schaffer and post-doctoral scholar Dr. Catharine Clark co-developed the interdisciplinary senior level course, Science Policy Bootcamp: From Concept to Conclusion. Offered for the first time in Fall 2013 to students training in engineering as well as the physical and biological sciences, the course aims to show students the myriad opportunities and desperate need for scientists to participate in public policy making.
“As scientific and technological discoveries continue to change our world and society at a rapid pace, it has become imperative that our policymaking approach be informed by science. From energy policy to climate change, from health care to bioterrorism, from science education to technology innovation, it has become critical to have professional scientists and engineers actively engaged in the policymaking process. However, a fundamental issue facing today’s government is the fact that too few scientists have experience with the inner workings of public policymaking and too few policymakers have significant science or engineering knowledge. This large gap between the two fields needs to be bridged if we are to have a society where science influences the course we take.”
Chris Schaffer received his undergraduate degree from the University of Florida in 1995 and his Ph.D. from Harvard University, working with Eric Mazur, in 2001. Both of his degrees are in Physics. As a post-doc at UCSD, Chris worked with David Kleinfeld in the Physics and Neuroscience departments. He is currently an Associate Professor at Cornell University in the Department of Biomedical Engineering. His research has centered on the development of optical tools for in vivo manipulation of biological structures and the use of these tools to study the role of cortical microvascular lesions in neurological disease, with a current focus on the role of microvascular disruptions in Alzheimer’s disease.
- Emphasized real-world science policy work throughout the class
- Student teams identified an issue at the intersection of science and public policy and researched it deeply
- The teams identified the current problems, long term goals, and paths to get there
- They then produced the documents necessary to drive policy change: reports, draft legislation, op-eds, social media, etc.
- Toward the end of the semester and continuing now, these teams then implemented their strategy in an attempt to prove policy
LOOKING TO THE FUTURE:
Science Policy Bootcamp: Concept to Conclusion, is an interdisciplinary service-learning undergraduate course that is designed to contribute to students’ future civic engagement in the realm of public policy.
This course led to the development of a science policy track in a recently funded Broadening Experiences in Scientific Best (BEST) grant from the NIH, with Prof. Schaffer as a co-PI. This grant aims to help PhD students and post docs learn about the wide variety of career options available to them and to gain relevant experience in a chosen career path. Science Policy Bootcamp will serve as the entry way to the science policy track of this program.
“This course was one of the most interesting I have ever taught and one where I saw my students take real ownership of their work to a greater degree than before. The quality of the work that was accomplished was amazing and I can’t wait to teach this course again next Fall.”
Here are a couple of success stories for student teams:
One group has made great progress encouraging Cornell to adopt an open-access policy, where all scholarly work is deposited in an institutionally-maintained digital archive that is freely accessible. They published an op-ed on this in the Cornell Daily Sun and currently have a resolution pending before the University Assembly.
Another group advocated for a more rational policy for regulating genetically modified foods and published an op-ed on their great ideas in a national newspaper.
FIELD OF WORK:
Extension Associate, Department of Natural Resources
Hudson Valley & Long Island, New York
With her fellowship, Kristi specifically focused her project on a case study directed at engaging Master Naturalist volunteers in efforts to aid fellow Master Naturalists affected by Hurricane Sandy. Many of the program’s current trainees and participants are from the lower Hudson Valley region of New York, New York City, and Long Island. Recently, Hurricane Sandy brought devastation to these areas. In addition to personal losses, some Master Naturalists reported impacts to the places where they volunteer and participate in outreach. Impacts include loss of education center facilities, as well as direct destruction of habitats and ecosystems in the communities where they are engaged.
In response to a preliminary call to action, Master Naturalist Volunteers from other areas of the state have expressed interest in traveling to affected areas where they would concurrently contribute meaningful service in support of fellow members of the Master Naturalist Community, while fulfilling their own volunteer commitments where a volunteer citizen steward group might play a role following an environmental crisis.
“Given that we expect disasters like Hurricane Sandy to increase in frequency and magnitude, understanding how the growing number of volunteer environmental stewards can contribute to social and ecological resilience post-crisis is important.”
Kristi Sullivan’s professional goal is to encourage and support approaches to conserving wildlife and biodiversity for future generations. Primary audiences are private forest landowners, land managers, and educators. To complement her extension program, her research objectives are 1) to develop practical methods for restoring habitat complexity that has been lost throughout the Northeast as a result of decades of lost intensive land use; and 2) to determine effective means to sustain and conserve native wildlife in the face of environmental change.
- Strengthened the Master Naturalist Volunteer Program and expand it into a more reciprocal program
- Explored new and better ways to maintain engagement, provide enhanced learning opportunities, and strengthen the connection among community members
- Organized and oversaw two experiential service-learning trips to hurricane-affected locations. The locations will be chosen with the help of volunteers in the area, and will include sites of personal importance to current Master Naturalist volunteers.
- Evaluated whether volunteer efforts focused on helping (or being helped by) their Master Naturalist peers creates a more rewarding experience for individual volunteers and increases the likelihood of continued volunteer service
- Evaluated whether volunteer efforts focused on helping their Master Naturalist peers strengthen the Master Naturalist community as a whole
- Used feedback generated through the project, modify the Master Naturalist Program to provide better-targeted services using innovative approaches to new problems
LOOKING TO THE FUTURE:
Ultimately, the goal of Kristi’s project is to create a model program for addressing environmental crises.
FIELD OF WORK:
Associate Professor, Department of Design and Environmental Analysis
With a solid background in engaged teaching and research, Nancy Wells used her Faculty Fellowship to develop and deliver, in partnership with Nutrition post-doctoral fellow Margaret Demment, a new undergraduate service‐learning course: Healthy Places: how planning & design affect public health. Drawing from the fields of urban planning, public health, architecture, landscape architecture, nutrition, and environmental psychology, the “Healthy Places” course examines how the physical environment influences health and health behaviors.
The course considers a wide variety of contexts, spanning the “micro” to “macro” scale, including rooms and buildings to parks and cities; from dishes and plates to parks and policy. Similarly, the course conceptualizes “health” broadly to include both physical and mental health as well as health behaviors such as physical activity and diet. By including a service learning component in this new course, Nancy offers students an opportunity to apply course content to the real world, to facilitate their making a difference in the community and to instill in them an appreciation of service that will hopefully affect their future work and life endeavors.
“As a Cornell master’s student in the early 1990’s, the seeds of my service‐oriented pedagogy were sowed when I enrolled in the ‘housing and feeding the homeless’ class cross‐listed in Human Service Studies and the Hotel School. Ann Hales and her co‐instructors orchestrated an extraordinary learning experience…
With an inaugural class of 24 students hailing from 11 majors and 4 departments, our first semester of the ‘Healthy Places’ course, was a gratifying start. The interdisciplinary group was ideal to grapple with the linkages between place and health and to collaborate with community partners to conduct ‘health impact assessments’ of local projects and policies.”
Nancy Wells is an environmental psychologist who studies people’s relationship to the built and natural environment through the life course. Professor Wells teaches graduate Research Methods and courses focused on the influence of the environment on public health. Wells strives to identify synergies in teaching, mentoring, research and outreach. These connections are exemplified in the Wells research lab, which serves as a teaching and mentorship laboratory aimed at doing research well, and doing good through research. Nancy Wells’ courses typically include a community outreach component to emphasize real world challenges and potential solutions.
Although Dr. Wells does not have an Extension appointment, she regularly collaborates with Extension staff. The USDA-funded Healthy Gardens, Healthy Youth project, for example, involves collaboration with 30 Extension Educators in four states (Iowa, Arkansas, Washington and New York) to examine the influence of school gardens on children’s diet and health. The related School Gardens and Physical Activity study, supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation through its Active Living Research program is also a partnership with Extension Educators — in New York State. Retirees in Service to the Environment (RISE) is a Cooperative Extension-based project that trains retirees regarding environmental issues and facilitates involvement to address local environmental challenges.
- Cultivated a stronger foundation in engaged learning pedagogy.
- Launched a new, multidisciplinary undergraduate service‐learning course.
- Trained undergraduate students to conduct health impact assessment or “HIA’s” working with local community partners.
- Developed a toolkit of strategies to sustain and grow the new course.
- Learned some approaches for the management of partnerships between students and community organizations and assignment management.
LOOKING TO THE FUTURE:
In the future, Nancy aims to leverage her time with the Faculty Fellow program to generate various ideas for course adaptations in upcoming years and improve the course’s effectiveness over time. She also intends to teach this course each fall in the coming years and grow enrollment to 40 – 50 students.
“As a Faculty Fellow, I would like to develop my capacity to deliver a large, interdisciplinary, undergraduate service‐learning course. By expanding my repertoire of methodologies and my understanding of pedagogies, I feel that I can build upon my existing skills and deliver a course that will have a long‐term impact on scores of students for many years.”
Dannenberg, A.L., Frumkin, H., Jackson, R.J. (Eds.) (2011). Making Healthy Places: Designing & building for health, well‐being & sustainability. Island Press: Washington D.C.
FIELD OF WORK:
Executive Director, Center for Transformative Action
With our support, Anke created rigorous assessment tools and strategies for two educational programs in social entrepreneurship, the Finger Lakes Social Entrepreneurship Institute and AEM 338, Social Entrepreneurs, Innovators, and Problem Solvers. In AEM 338, assessment relied on standard student evaluations, a final reflection piece, and unstructured feedback from alumni. Anke used the fellowship opportunity to develop richer strategies for assessing the impact of a variety of pedagogical tools used in the course. She also developed move effective methods for evaluating student learning from experiential activities, in and outside the classroom. Furthermore, she worked on developing an evaluation instrument so that participants in the community-based Finger Lakes Social Entrepreneurship Institute could better articulate what they learned, the relationships they forged, and how these might inform their work as social entrepreneurs and changemakers after the Institute.
Social Entrepreneurs, Innovators and Problem Solvers
“This course introduces you to social entrepreneurs, innovators, and visionaries—people who are coming up with new methods to resolve pressing social problems. We contrast traditional methods of activism with a new approach that combines the pragmatic approach of social entrepreneurship with the compassionate, collaborative engagement of Transformative Action. This cutting-edge movement tends to be less ideological, less adversarial, more locally specific and more solutions-oriented than previous collective actions for change. You will learn about social entrepreneurs and innovators through readings, case studies and guest lectures. In addition, you will develop a set of skills, tools and practices intended to support you in being an agent for change, no matter where you go from here. This learning process will involve self-reflection, critical analysis, research, and action.”
Finger Lakes Social Entrepreneurship Institute
“The Finger Lakes Social Entrepreneurship Institute provides two and a half days of plenary sessions, workshops, and discussion for people with innovative ideas to transform society’s most pressing social problems. The purposes of the Institute are to exchange ideas, provide tools, and help grow the social support system that allows each participant to contribute to the transformation of our economy so that it is socially just, ecologically sound, resilient, and has equity as the driver for growth.”
Anke Wessels is the Executive Director of the Center for Transformative Action (CTA), an independent education-based 501(c)3 affiliated with Cornell University, which provides education for, and fiscal sponsorship to transformative social entrepreneurs with innovative non-profit ventures. The Center for Transformative Action’s services allow these change makers to focus on their social mission while CTA provides a well-established back office infrastructure, with business services and mentorship that most start up nonprofits are unable to afford. CTA also offers educational programs–courses, conferences, and workshops–to help a diverse group of new or experienced social entrepreneurs develop the skills necessary to establish effective social ventures, and learn the leadership practices associated with Transformative Action. Transformative Action is an alternative paradigm for social action that moves us beyond complaint, competition and “us vs. them” thinking. Inspired by the non-violent organizing that erupted in the last century, Transformative Action has three components: (1) break the silence that surrounds injustice, (2) build bridges across difference to transform animosity into understanding and adversaries into allies, and (3) articulate an inspiring, proactive vision.
Anke received her BA in French and Economics, her MS in Agricultural Economics, and her PhD in Geography, specializing in Environmental Politics and Social Movements. She was previously on the faculty at Syracuse University.
- Drew on the service-learning literature to develop more robust assessment and evaluation tools for Finger Lakes Social Entrepreneurship Institute and AEM 338, Social Entrepreneurs, Innovators, and Problem Solvers.
- Prioritized and enhanced the most effective pedagogical approaches (including engaged learning) to better serve the participants in both these educational programs.
- Shared data with colleagues who are developing similar programs.
LOOKING TO THE FUTURE:
Anke is sharing what she learned from this fellowship with faculty across the country who are designing educational opportunities for social entrepreneurs on and off campus.
“I learned a great deal about the world of social entrepreneurship and an unexpected amount about myself. I leave the class with new perspectives, a renewed sense of clarity and purpose. Your class challenged and pushed me in a way I hadn’t been pressed before, and I thank you for digging and leaving me no place to hide, no excuse to make and force me to face myself and genuinely evaluate some things that are really hard to look at sometimes.”
“Although the class was one I took just out of interest, it changed the way that I see the world and the people around me. You have equipped me with life skills that I would have been lost without, and above all, a compassion and understanding for those around me.”