Rebecca Morgenstern Brenner
“Engaging with communities is what we need to make people the architects of their own future. There’s no other way to do it.”
About the Fellow
- Lecturer, Cornell Institute for Public Affairs, College of Human Ecology
- Rebecca Brenner’s faculty profile
- 2018-19, Faculty Fellow in Engaged Scholarship
- 2017-18, Faculty Fellow in Engaged Learning
Access, Equity and Justice; Children, Youth, Seniors and Families; Health, Nutrition and Medicine; Law, Government and Policy
At any given time, the refugee community in Buffalo speaks between 80 and 106 languages, many of which do not have a written component, presenting unique challenges for the city’s emergency and disaster notification procedures. In partnership with Apple Domingo, director of New Americans with Jewish Family Services of Buffalo and Erie County, Rebecca Brenner’s student teams are surveying Buffalo’s immigrant community and resettlement agencies to uncover existing social networks for communication that can be tapped for more effective emergency notification. Engaging the refugee community as architects of an improved system to overcome language barriers in emergency communications will not only make make refugees less vulnerable, but it will also create greater safety for emergency responders.
California Wildfire Prevention and Recovery Planning Guidelines for Decision-Makers
Wildfires burn more 1,000 homes annually in California, and land use planning can be a useful tool in preventing housing loss to wildfires. In California, fire marshals can be key to the planning process, but many are unaware of their role in land-use planning and have limited experience in the planning process. This project seeks to remedy this problem by identifying best practices in land-use planning for fire prevention and developing a guide that is accessible to planners and fire professionals alike.
Brenner works with students to interview community leaders, fire officials, elected and appointed officials and more. After interviews are conducted, the students draft stronger policies that include land use for fire suppression in planning decision-making, and make recommendations to update existing state laws to reflect this more inclusive approach to disaster prevention.
Refugee Disaster Management Plan
The refugee population in Buffalo represents more than 100 different spoken languages, causing unique communication challenges, especially when it comes to disaster management. The refugee cohort is currently connected through caseworkers at a variety of nonprofit agencies, and these agencies do not have a comprehensive disaster management plan.
The goal of the project is to engage community members and have them take part in developing disaster management plans and pathways for information sharing. Students work with Brenner to engage with agencies — and, more importantly, get the agencies to engage community members who invest in and help create their disaster plan.
In Her Own Words
“Being a part of the Faculty Fellows program, I hope to continue to build these community-based research projects and use the opportunity to collaborate with other faculty interested in building community capacity to reduce vulnerabilities. These projects are in their early stages of development, and I would like to have a space to hear new ideas and share strategy.
“While these classes are running, there is a constant opportunity to build new projects and relationships. I also approach this opportunity with an open mind to innovate a new course, and I think this opportunity will spur the development of new relationships into new courses.”
In the News
Sustainable economic strategies spur engaged research interest (June 29, 2018, Cornell Chronicle)
Engaged Faculty Fellowship Program
A yearlong cohort program in which faculty dive deep into the theory and practice of engaged learning; meet monthly to discuss readings, share projects and workshop challenges; and help transform what it means to teach at Cornell