Social sciences, arts, humanities focus of Atkinson Center pilot

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Joe Schwartz

Cornell’s Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future has selected 11 faculty members for the pilot class of its new Fellowship for Humanities, Social Sciences and Arts, a program designed to give faculty time to develop ideas about sustainability into concrete action, such as creating new courses, writing books or organizing conferences.

“Imagining, preserving and creating a sustainable and equitable world is among the most important challenges we face today – and the social sciences, humanities and arts must be central to the conversation,” said Wendy Wolford, the Robert A. and Ruth E. Polson Professor of Development Sociology and faculty director of economic development at the Atkinson Center.

Wendy Wolford
Jason Koski/University Photography
Wendy Wolford, professor of development sociology, and faculty director of economic development at the Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future, speaks recently at the 2015 Institute for the Social Sciences.

“The concept of sustainability is often conceived very narrowly – as simply a technological problem – but sustainability is a much more fundamental issue, one that requires rethinking basic economic, social and political ideas. This fellowship is an opportunity to expand the concept and the culture of sustainability on campus and beyond,” Wolford said.

The faculty-in-residence fellowship provides resources for teaching leave and a small research budget for a semester, to enable faculty to work on projects related to sustainability – such as preparing books, exploratory research, course development, public engagement, artistic work and high-level conferences.

Project topics – ranging from international climate justice to subconscious stereotypes in sustainability messaging, economic modeling of payments for ecosystem services and the politics of energy policy – span the globe, from art installations in Ithaca to studying coal and oil cultures in China and Russia.

For fall 2015, the fellows are: Anindita Banerjee, associate professor of comparative literature; Panle Barwick, associate professor of economics; Gustavo Flores-Macías, assistant professor of government; Ying Hua, assistant professor of design and environmental analysis; Gregory Poe, professor in the Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management; and Jonathon Schuldt, assistant professor of communication.

For spring 2016, the fellows are: Jack Elliott, associate professor of design and environmental analysis; Ravi Kanbur, the T.H. Lee Professor of World Affairs; Neema Kudva, associate professor of city and regional planning; Victor Seow, assistant professor of history; and Lindy Williams, professor of development sociology.

Explaining how these fellowships will help sustainable endeavors, Wolford said: “The center has always included – and had active, enthusiastic participation from – scholars within the social sciences, humanities and arts. But we wanted more points of connection. This fellowship offers them the time to write or work on other activities, and the space to interact with other faculty and the public around relevant ideas.”


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Blaine Friedlander