Stoltzfus named Provost's Fellow for Public Engagement

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Claudia Wheatley
Rebecca Stoltzfus
Jason Koski/University Photography
Rebecca Stoltzfus, M.S. '88, Ph.D. '92, is the new Provost's Fellow for Public Engagement. She also is a professor of nutritional science in the College of Human Ecology and director of Cornell's Global Health Program minor.

Rebecca Stoltzfus, M.S. '88, Ph.D. '92, professor of nutritional science and director of the College of Human Ecology's Program in International Nutrition and the Global Health Program minor, has been named the Provost's Fellow for Public Engagement, putting the final piece of Cornell's new initiative in support of public engagement and service learning in place.

Stoltzfus' primary responsibility will be to strengthen Cornell's capacity to support public engagement -- what Senior Vice Provost Ron Seeber called "an integrated institutional awareness" that supports Cornell's ongoing public engagement and service-learning activities while providing for additional networking and collaboration.

Stoltzfus' efforts will be closely integrated with the activities of the new Center for Community Engaged Learning and Research. The center, which was announced earlier this fall, will expand the university's public engagement and public service mission by serving as the core academic unit that connects public engagement with Cornell's educational mission. The center reports to Laura Brown, vice provost for undergraduate education, and is directed by Richard Kiely, Ph.D. '02, who was named to the position in October. Stoltzfus will report to Seeber.

Seeber, who with Brown and Susan Murphy, vice president for student and academic services, helped lead the initial study that eventually led to the center's creation, said Stoltzfus was chosen for the three-year position because she is a leading scholar in the field of global health and nutrition; has extensive experience with public engagement through leadership positions and community-based research; designed and directs Cornell's Global Health Program, which engages 50 students a year in service-learning programs around the world; knows how to balance a wide variety of stakeholders' interests and the traditions of their disciplines; and has a personal commitment to lifelong learning through service and community engagement.

Stoltzfus in Tanzania
Stoltzfus in Tanzania with Dr. Honest Massawe and members of the 2009 Cornell-Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Center collaborative course in Global Health and Development.

"Public engagement has been at the heart of my work in global health and nutrition, because the research and teaching that I do is with and for communities," Stoltzfus said. "Our students desire engagement with the world, and they want to use their education to help solve real problems. Working with students in the global health program is inspiring, because they help me to see new possibilities for engaged education, and they are willing to help create those possibilities."

Public engagement at Cornell takes place through the Public Service Center, Cornell Cooperative Extension "and, perhaps most importantly, a highly engaged faculty and student body," Stoltzfus said. She added that growing connections in New York City, including the university's collaborations with Weill Cornell Medical College, also enhance engagement with urban New York.

Stoltzfus said she is looking forward to becoming immersed in the initiative. "This is really going to be a team effort with Ron Seeber, Laura Brown, Richard Kiely and me," she said.

"Cornell is an outstandingly rich academic community, with many disciplinary perspectives [and] diverse views about action and engagement," Stoltzfus added about the challenges she expects to tackle to balance the university's engagement priorities across disciplines. "One of the creative challenges ahead is to develop some shared understandings and words that will allow us to become more cohesive in our public engagements, while also allowing our diversity to flourish."

Stoltzfus will continue to lead her graduate research program and to direct the Global Health Program minor during her appointment, though she will give up some classroom teaching.

The center is being funded for its first three years through a gift from the Einhorn Family Charitable Trust (David Einhorn '91 and Cheryl Strauss Einhorn '91) and with support from the Office of the Provost and the Division of Student and Academic Services.

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