The College of Human Ecology welcomes eight new faculty members this year whose work addresses race, ethnicity, and the nature, persistence and consequences of inequality – under a college-wide faculty cohort hiring initiative called Pathways to Social Justice.
“The mission of the College of Human Ecology is to improve lives by understanding and impacting the multilayered forces that influence human health and well-being. These new scholars bring critical expertise to our work, linking their scholarship on social justice to real-world impact,” said Rachel Dunifon, the Rebecca Q. and James C. Morgan Dean of the College.
“It is an incredibly exciting time in the College with the launch of our Engaged College initiative, the rollout of our strategic plan, and the impending celebration of our 100th year as a college. The cohort will play a profound and important role in the College’s work going forward as we enhance our ability to address the most pressing social issues we face today.”
Leading the cohort initiative is Professor Eve De Rosa, Dean’s Fellow for Racial and Social Justice in the College and the new Dean of Faculty at Cornell – the first woman, person of color, and Human Ecology professor to be elected to the position. Last October, De Rosa took the Dean’s Fellow role with the aim to take immediate action.
“There was an acknowledgement at the College level that we need to improve when it comes to addressing social justice issues,” De Rosa said. “Pathways to Social Justice is an immediate and intentional solution to affect meaningful and purposeful change within the University to increase the diversity of scholarship and impactful, community engagement.”
The new faculty members share a common goal of addressing aspects of social justice in their respective disciplines and engaging with communities at various levels to make a difference in the world.
Tony Burrow, the Director of the Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research (BCTR), said, “This change broadens who we are as a College and what we can accomplish through outreach with various communities.” This year, the BCTR will host a social justice themed talk series featuring the cohort and will facilitate and support their efforts of moving their scholarship into practice in a sustained way.
“The College is an interdisciplinary body,” De Rosa said. “We cover bench science, design, engineering and social sciences. The thing we all have in common – and something we can celebrate as a college – is that we apply all of this work to outreach and public engagement. Bringing in scholars working on solutions for social justice allows us to allocate resources to build an exciting college-wide intellectual community, to provide opportunities for cross-fertilization, and to facilitate moving scholarship into practice in an innovative, sustainable way.”
The following is a list of new hires to date:
- Laura Bellows joins the Division of Nutritional Sciences as an associate professor. Her research focuses on how children develop eating patterns in early childhood and how parents and the home environment influence those patterns – especially among families with limited resources and those living in rural communities.
- Jamein Cunningham joins the School of Public Policy and Economics Department as an assistant professor. His research focuses on urban economics and the economics of racism, specifically racial wage gaps and racial differences in use of police force.
- Adam Hoffman joins the College as an assistant professor of psychology. Hoffman focuses on how ethnic, racial and gender identities develop during adolescence and how these identity shifts affect academic motivation and achievement, psychosocial well-being and mental health.
- Misha Inniss-Thompson joins the new Department of Psychology as a Provost’s New Faculty Fellow for two years before beginning a term as an assistant professor. Her research focuses on using positive youth development models to better understand the impact of ethnic-racial socialization in shaping Black girls’ socioemotional wellbeing and academic outcomes.
- Renata Marques Leitão joins the Department of Design + Environmental Analysis as an assistant professor. Her research focuses on design as a tool to foster local and indigenous communities’ capacity to envision their future and build a good life as defined by their own cultures.
- Sadé Lindsay joins the School of Public Policy and Sociology Department as a Provost’s New Faculty Fellow for two years before beginning a term as an assistant professor. Her research examines how gender and race affect experiences of incarceration, interactions with police and societal responses to deviance.
- Angela Odoms-Young joins the Division of Nutritional Sciences as an associate professor and Director of the New York State Expanded Food and Nutrition Program. Her research focuses on understanding social, cultural, and environmental determinants of dietary behaviors and diet-related diseases in low-income and minority populations.
- Jaleesa Reed joins the Department of Fiber Science & Apparel Design as a Provost’s New Faculty Fellow for two years before beginning a term as an assistant research professor. Her interdisciplinary research focuses on connecting human geography, feminist studies, and merchandising in the fashion, apparel, and textile industries.
A key goal of the initiative is to include more diverse perspectives in Human Ecology classes and research so that social justice issues become part of the essence of the College, De Rosa explained, adding that scholars and students will see Cornell as the place to go to do this work.
“Every department is taking their look at what social justice means to them,” she said. “All of these diverse perspectives will be represented in the classroom, and the students will also have the chance to engage in community outreach. That starts to build a conversation and a mission in the College to address social justice.
“The incorporation of these different perspectives, methodologies and world views is important,” she said. “This ecological approach allows us to scale to address real-world problems. These are complex issues, so you really do need a diversity of perspectives.”