Engaged Faculty Fellowship Program

Nancy Wells

Nancy WellsA 2013 Engaged Faculty Fellow, Nancy Wells is an associate professor in the Department of Design and Environmental Analysis in the College of Human Ecology. Read her faculty profile for more information.

The Story

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.”

The Strategy

  • 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.

In the News

Service learning course embraces design and health (November 20, 2013, 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

Apply Now