Public Engagement Project Selects 9 Faculty Fellows

2015 Public Engagement Fellows

Nine faculty members from eight departments and three colleges and schools have been named Public Engagement Faculty Fellows by the Public Engagement Project, a new initiative aimed at involving and teaching faculty to use their research to contribute to social change, inform public policy and enrich public debate.

The inaugural class of fellows will draw on its substantial research record to impact policy, the work of practitioners and public debates. Faculty fellows receive a stipend and technical training in communicating with non-academic audiences.

“We are excited and honored to work with such an accomplished group of scholars,” said Amy Schalet, director of the Public Engagement Project. “We were happily overwhelmed by the number and high quality of applicants. There is clearly demand for this new fellowship opportunity.” The Public Engagement Project is a faculty-driven initiative building on a collaboration of the Center for Research on Families, Center for Public Policy and Administration, Institute for Social Science Research, and psychology of peace and violence program. 

The Public Engagement Faculty Fellowship is made possible by funding from the College of Natural Sciences, College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, Provost’s Office and University Relations, as well as the collaborating centers and institutes.

On Tuesday, Jan. 27, the Public Engagement Project will kick off the new year with a panel entitled “Public Engagement: How to Get Your Research Out There,” with speakers Provost Katherine Newman, Vice Chancellor for University Relations John Kennedy, Schalet and Linda Tropp, director of the psychology of peace and violence program. The event is open to all and will take place from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. in 804-808 Campus Center.  Light refreshments will be served.

The 2015 Public Engagement Faculty Fellows are:

Sylvia Brandt, associate professor in the department of resource economics and the Center for Public Policy and Administration. Brandt is an expert in the economics of health and chronic illness. As a faculty fellow, Brandt intends to develop a network of economists, epidemiologists, and public health researchers to better inform public debate on the costs associated with childhood asthma that are attributable to air pollution.

Lisa Chasan-Taber, professor in the epidemiology program. Chasan-Taber investigates interventions to promote healthier lifestyles and reduce harmful pre-natal exposure among high-risk, ethnically diverse pregnant women. During her fellowship, Chasan-Taber will develop communication tools and strategies to help translate her research for use by culturally diverse populations.

Paul M. Collins, Jr., associate professor and director of legal studies in the department of political science. Collins investigates the factors that shape the selection and decision-making process of U.S. Supreme Court justices. During his fellowship, Collins will develop a media relationship strategy, using the success of his recent book, “Supreme Court Confirmation Hearings and Constitutional Change,” to contribute to public discussions of the Supreme Court.

Nilanjana (Buju) Dasgupta, professor in the department of psychological and brain sciences and director of faculty equity and inclusion for the College of Natural Sciences. Dasgupta’s research identifies solutions to the problem of the gender gap in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education and career opportunities from pre-adolescence through adulthood. As a faculty fellow, Dasgupta will develop a comprehensive disseminating strategy to place her research and solutions before K-12 educators, higher education administrators, policymakers and STEM businesses.

Aline C. Gubrium, associate professor of health education, and Elizabeth Krause, professor in the department of anthropology. Gubrium’s research uses participatory digital and visual storytelling methods to research and implement culturally centered interventions to address health inequities among marginalized women, youth and families. Krause’s fine-grained field studies illuminate important family processes, such as the shift to lowest-low fertility among Italians, the formation of global households among Chinese migrants, and the experiences of young parenting Latinas in Massachusetts. During the fellowship, Gubrium and Krause will use a three-pronged strategy (media, face-to-face, and direct polity efforts) to promote dignity and systemic support for young parents.

Michael A. Rawlins, extension assistant professor in the department of geosciences and manager of the Climate System Research Center. Rawlins’ research advances understanding of Earth’s climate, with a focus on water and carbon cycles. As a fellow, Rawlins will implement tools to help lay audiences understand climate changes and build confidence in the research and predictions of geoscientists.

Rebecca Spencer, associate professor in the department of psychological and brain sciences. Spencer’s groundbreaking research explores the importance of sleep from childhood through old age. As a fellow, Spencer intends to inform the general public about her findings and work with education policymakers to protect healthy sleep habits for students at all levels. 

Julian Tyson, professor in the department of chemistry. Tyson’s research focuses on developing reliable methods for individuals to measure arsenic content of food at home. As a fellow, Tyson will engage consumer advocacy groups, policymakers, and journalists to dispel myths and promote understanding of the risks related to arsenic consumption.

For more information about the Public Engagement Project, contact Amy Schalet at schalet@soc.umass.edu.

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