For the first time in 149 years, Cornell’s faculty has elected a woman, a person of color, and a professor from the College of Human Ecology as dean of faculty.
Eve De Rosa, associate professor of human development, will start her three-year term on July 1. She will replace Charles Van Loan, who has served as faculty dean since 2016. Voting took place April 19-30.
“Eve’s track record in the College of Human Ecology points to just what a creative, sensitive faculty member can do when working in combination with others who want to move the institution forward,” said Van Loan, the Joseph C. Ford Professor of Engineering in the College of Engineering. “It is very exciting that she will now be operating at the university level leading our great faculty.”
The dean of faculty represents the interests of the faculty to Cornell’s trustees, administration, students, employees and alumni. The dean also ensures the faculty is fully informed about campus issues and the concerns of each university constituency.
“I see it as a collaborative position, a position for advocacy and persuasion, and as overseeing the well-being of our faculty,” said De Rosa, recruited to Cornell as a Rebecca Q. and James C. Morgan Sesquicentennial Fellow. “That’s really important to me.”
She plans to focus on building mentorship structures that will support faculty recruitment, retention, development and belonging. “We want exceptional scholars at Cornell,” she said, “but we also want them to stay and know their unique value.” She also plans to shepherd the faculty’s current focus on anti-racism scholarship and activities.
Regarding her historic position, she said, “Coming in with a distinct history or experience allows you to see things differently, and that’s the important part of having diverse representation.”
De Rosa brings to the role experience with bridging disciplines and colleges.
As Dean’s Fellow for Racial and Social Justice in the College of Human Ecology, De Rosa created an initiative, Pathways to Social Justice, to hire a cohort of scholars to advance scholarship and sustained community engagement that addresses social justice. Many of the scholars will be part of superdepartments that bridge Human Ecology, the College of Arts and Sciences and other colleges.
And as a comparative cognitive neuroscientist – a neuroscientist working in the social sciences – De Rosa has an interdisciplinary focus.
“My willingness to bridge distinct spaces is very much in my nature,” she said.
In her research, De Rosa takes two related approaches. One is cross-species, examining neurochemistry in the brains of rats and relating it to how attention and learning works, and also fails, in humans. The other approach focuses on the lifespan, examining developmental changes from young children to older age and the neurochemistry of age-related changes in cognition, and potential interventions for neurocognitive aging.
In her work, she uses blood flow mapping from fMRI to generate hypotheses of brain function that can then be more fully tested by altering brain chemistry in rats. Representing her holistic perspective, her most recent research in rats and humans hopes to generate digital biomarkers derived from the neurochemistry of the brain-heart connection that predict and track dementia.
De Rosa joined Cornell’s faculty in 2013 as associate professor. She was assistant and then associate professor of psychology at the University of Toronto from 2003-2013. At Vassar College, she acquired a liberal arts perspective and earned a bachelor of arts in biology-psychology in 1991. She then worked as a research assistant at Harvard University’s School of Medicine, where she further developed an interest in research. De Rosa trained in animal neuroscience and earned a Ph.D. in experimental psychology from Harvard in 2000. She then trained in human neuroscience as a postdoctoral fellow Stanford University’s School of Medicine, from 2000-2003.
In the public engagement arena, De Rosa’s lab has developed a pilot program to teach neuroscience to children and high school students from low-income neighborhoods in Syracuse, New York. She explores how teaching children and adolescents about their brains impacts their sense of self; the project also aims to make a more diverse and inclusive next generation of neuroscientists.