Wildeman takes helm at Bronfenbrenner Center

Christopher Wildeman

Christopher Wildeman, professor of policy analysis and management, will become director of the Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research (BCTR) July 1. Wildeman has served as associate director of BCTR since 2016.

He succeeds gerontologist Karl Pillemer, the Hazel E. Reed Professor in the Department of Human Development, who is taking on a new role as the College of Human Ecology’s senior associate dean for research and outreach.

BCTR brings together social science researchers and health and human service organizations to expand and strengthen the connections between research, policy and practice. The goal is linking research with real-world concerns to improve the health and well-being of families and communities. More than 40 Cornell faculty affiliates work with practitioners to design, implement and evaluate projects and programs focused on nutrition, youth development, parenting, health care, aging and related issues.

“For well over 50 years, Cornell University – and especially the College of Human Ecology – have been a hub for translational social science in the United States,” Wildeman said. “I am extremely excited to follow in the footsteps of founding director John Eckenrode and outgoing director Karl Pillemer, both of whom have been excellent leaders of both the center and the translational social science research community.”

Wildeman’s research focuses on the prevalence, causes and consequences of imprisonment with an emphasis on how prison terms affect families, children and health. He also studies child maltreatment and the foster care system and is co-director with Eckenrode of the National Data Archive on Child Abuse and Neglect, a data archive that collects and distributes child abuse data sets and promotes collaboration among child maltreatment researchers.

“As a leading scholar on mass incarceration and child maltreatment, Chris understands the importance of integrating research, policy and practice when addressing the needs of vulnerable families,” said Rachel Dunifon, who will become interim dean of the College of Human Ecology July 1. “I am proud of all that BCTR has accomplished and know that it will be in excellent hands under Chris’ leadership.”

Under Pillemer’s direction, BCTR expanded its programs in a number of areas, including social media outreach, training for investigators in translational research methods and the development of new program areas. During Pillemer’s tenure, BCTR received several major gifts, including a $1.2 million donation from Rebecca Q. Morgan ’60 to provide three years of startup funding for the Program for Research on Youth Development and Engagement (PRYDE), an initiative launched this spring by Cornell social scientists to foster groundbreaking research in partnership with the New York State 4-H program; and a $1.6 million gift from Evalyn Edwards Milman ’60 and Stephen Milman ’58, MBA ’59, to fund a BCTR faculty fellowship, part of a new program to embed professors in BCTR and link their research directly to community needs.

“Serving as director of BCTR has been among the most rewarding experiences of my career,” Pillemer said. “Cornell University and the College of Human Ecology provide an ideal environment for a center that aspires to create a better marriage between science and service. … Chris Wildeman’s energy, ideas and focus on data-driven policy will ensure that the center grows and remains at the cutting edge of translational research.”

Wildeman intends to build on BCTR’s success by making the center more integral to the training and teaching of both graduate and undergraduate students. He plans to expand the grant portfolio currently under the BCTR umbrella, strengthen connections between the center and policymakers in Albany, and make BCTR even more central to the social sciences by investigating avenues through which Cornell might develop a flagship social science dataset.

Sheri Hall is a freelance writer in Ithaca, New York.

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