Rachel Dunifon, professor in the Department of Policy Analysis and Management and senior associate dean for research and outreach in the College of Human Ecology, will become interim dean of the college July 1, Provost Michael Kotlikoff announced Jan. 23. Her appointment was approved by the State University of New York Board of Trustees.
Dunifon will succeed Alan D. Mathios, who is stepping down after leading the college as the Rebecca Q. and James C. Morgan dean for two five-year terms, preceded by one year as interim dean and three years as associate dean. Dunifon will serve until June 30, 2020, at which time a permanent dean will be named.
“With her experience guiding the college’s research and outreach efforts, Rachel brings a wealth of leadership experience to the College of Human Ecology,” Kotlikoff said. “Furthermore, Rachel has demonstrated scholarly excellence as a researcher focused on child and family policy, including many projects conducted with community partners outside Cornell. She is widely respected across the college’s faculty, staff and students, and offers a steady administrative hand for the continued growth of the college.”
Kotlikoff added: “I’d also like to thank Alan for his years of dedicated service as dean. Under his tenure, the college has attracted world-class faculty members, greatly expanded its research footprint, provided a top-rated student experience, and served as a model for public engagement, as well as a driving force for cross-collaboration across the university.”
Mathios said: “I am delighted that Rachel has been selected as the interim dean. As senior associate dean she has proven her outstanding leadership skills, her deep understanding of the breadth of the college mission, and developed superb collaboration with the leadership teams in the college and in the provost’s office. The college will be in great hands.”
Dunifon, who joined the Cornell faculty in 2001, is a leading scholar in child and family policy whose research explores the development of vulnerable children. Her forthcoming book, “You’ve Always Been There for Me,” explores the lives of children being raised by their grandparents. She is also co-director of Cornell Project 2Gen, a new project housed in the Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research that addresses the needs of at-risk children and their parents. Her work has been supported by a William T. Grant Foundation Scholars Award and by the National Institutes of Health, and she has published widely in top academic journals.
As senior associate dean Dunifon oversees faculty recruitment and development, provides leadership for the college’s outreach and extension programs, and coordinates graduate education in the college. In this role, Dunifon has launched several initiatives to facilitate research in the college and also plays a key role in several universitywide initiatives related to public engagement and Cornell’s land-grant mission.
Dunifon said she appreciates the opportunity to lead the College of Human Ecology. “Having started as a junior faculty member in the college, I have built my career here and have benefited from the College of Human Ecology’s strong intellectual community,” she said, adding, “The college and its success are very important to me, and I am honored to lead the college over the coming years.”
Dunifon’s vision for the college centers on continuing and enhancing its excellence in research, education and outreach. “This is an incredibly exciting time of growth for the college,” Dunifon said. “We are soon to begin the renovation of our historic building and are hiring an unprecedented number of faculty. I am excited to lead the college as we bring these new spaces and faces to our mission. The college plays a leading role on campus in bringing multiple disciplines together to address society’s most pressing issues and ensuring that students have extraordinary opportunities to apply knowledge outside the classroom.”
Dunifon received a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Davidson College in 1994. She earned a Ph.D. in human development and social policy from Northwestern University in 1999, followed by a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Michigan School of Public Policy.
Amy Meckeler is assistant dean for communications at the College of Human Ecology.