Why Public Engagement?

As citizens and as scholars, we have an interest in today’s debates about public policy, conversations about the state of the world, and imagining a different future. Read more about the Public Engagement Projects' Mission and Vision

Upcoming Events

Celebrating 10 Years of Public Engagement: Commemorating the Past and Envisioning the Future
September 11th, 4-6 pm, Amherst Room, Campus Center
 
Please join us as we celebrate PEP's 10th anniversary, including reflections on its past and visions for its future. The event will culminate with an invited lecture by Theda Skocpol, Victor S. Thomas Professor of Government and Sociology at Harvard University, who will speak about the importance and value of public engagement. For more information and to RSVP, click here.
 

2016 PEP Fellow, R Thomas Zoeller, writes piece in Environmental Health News on the long-term health implications of our current chemical policy

R Thomas Zoeller, 2016 PEP Fellow, writes in Environmental Health News about the long-term health implications of our current chemical policy. He argues that most consumers are not aware of the chemicals to which they are exposed, many of which have not been tested for human safety. He goes further to explain that the prolonged exposure to chemicals has serious implications for human health, and that these practices persist largely due to their profitability. He concludes by suggesting a reevaluation and revamping of our presently unsustainable and harmful chemical policy.

Michael Rawlins, 2015 PEP Fellow, discusses one of the wettest fall seasons on record for New England

As meteorological winter begins this week, climate scientists at UMass Amherst observe that the fall season just ended – September through November – was the wettest fall ever recorded at the Blue Hill Observatory in Milton, the second wettest in Worcester and Providence, Rhode Island and the fourth wettest in Boston, according to National Weather Service observations. Michael Rawlins, 2015 PEP Fellow, and a colleague add that observations show total precipitation at Amherst from January through November was the second highest recorded there since observations began in 1836. The record highest amount fell in 1888. For the current January through November period, 59.02 inches of precipitation was recorded in Amherst, just 1.1 inches shy of that. Coverage can be found on WAMC, WBUR, and in the Republican.

Elsbeth L. Walker, 2018 PEP Fellow, is featured in a MassLive story about the response to a Chinese scientist's genetically modified babies.

Elsbeth L. Walker, 2018 PEP Fellow, is featured in a MassLive news story about how she discussed with her students the news that a scientist in China had genetically modified babies. Walker, who uses the same type of gene-editing equipment on plants that the Chinese scientist used to alter the human genes, says she is worried. "We cannot do experiments on human beings. I feel this was an experiment. Other scientists could go ahead with other genetic modifications and create changes that could have unintended consequences," Walker says. Madelaine Bartlett, biology, shares those concerns. She says the science has potential, but, "We don't launch into things thoughtlessly and carelessly."

PEP Steering Committee Member, Amy Schalet, quoted in Cosmopolitan article on government funding of abstinence-only education and its impact

PEP Steering Committee Member, Amy Schalet, was quoted in Cosmopolitan article on government funding of abstinence-only education and its impact. The article outlines how state and federally funded abstinence-only sex education provides young men and women with not only incomplete information about sexual health, but also creates anxiety and fear about bodies and sexuality. Schalet comments that teaching girls to be passive about their sexual desires and needs "makes them vulnerable to a whole bunch of things that are not good for their sexual health." She concludes by adding these same teachings also normalize aggression in boys, and reinforces idea that boys are not responsible for their sexual behaviors. 

Paul M. Collins, Jr., 2015 PEP Fellow, comments in the Gazette about referendum questions on the state ballot.

Paul M. Collins, Jr.,  2015 PEP Fellow, comments in the Gazette about referendum questions on the state ballot. He says Questions 1 and 3 are written in a confusing manner. Collins says Question 3, where a "yes" vote would uphold a 2016 law that prevents gender identity-based discrimination in public accommodations, and a "no" vote seeks to repeal that law is an example of unclear language for ballot questions. Collins says Question 3 is unusual and attributed its inclusion on the ballot to the desire of some people to discriminate against transgender people. He also says ballot questions are sometime intentionally confusing as proponents try to influence the election results. "In think in an ideal world, experts in relaying information in plain English can be utilized. This is a common problem in the political world, that things get bogged down with jargon, and ballot measures are susceptible to this," Collins says.

2017 PEP Fellow, Erica Scharrer, interviewed on CTV News about the retirement of actor who voiced Big Bird on Sesame Street

Erica Scharrerr, 2017 PEP Fellow, interviewed on CTV News on the retirement of the actor who voices beloved children's character Big Bird. Scharrer notes that Big Bird is the "heart and soul" of Sesame Street, and his brand of "gentleness and generosity" is needed in today's world. She concludes by noting the impact of Sesame Street in teaching children about "embracing all forms of diversity and human difference."

2017 PEP Fellow, Erica Scharrer, comments in Thrive Global on depictions of fatherhood in the media

Erica Scharrer, 2017 PEP Fellow, quoted in Thrive Global article about depictions of fatherhood in the media. She says fathers on television are shown as, " as bumbling, ineffectual and immature, almost like a child rather than a parental figure." The article then cites her 2010 study, “Wise to Foolish: The Portrayal of the Sitcom Father, 1950s to 1990s,” which shows how depictions of fathers went from distant but kindly authority figures to inept buffoons who were often the butt of family jokes; a shift she argues is concurrent with changes in women's economic position in and outside the home.

The Public Engagement Project invites applications from UMass faculty for the Spring 2019 Public Engagement Faculty Fellowship

Do you want to share your research with audiences beyond the academy, write an effective op-ed or policy brief, testify before Congress, or work with community and professional groups?

The Public Engagement Project invites applications from UMass faculty for the Spring 2019 Public Engagement Faculty Fellowship. As a Public Engagement Faculty Fellow, you’ll develop a fellowship plan tailored to your expertise and aspirations for reaching broader publics. You will receive technical training in communicating with non-academic audiences, cultivating networks to reach those publics, and workshopping your policy brief, blog, op-ed piece, or other public engagement products. 

For more information, click here. 

Paul M. Collins, 2015 PEP Fellow, comments in Baltimore Jewish Times and Slate about the recent controversy generated by the elevation of Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Paul M. Collins, 2015 PEP Fellow, comments in Baltimore Jewish Times and Slate about the recent controversy generated by the elevation of Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court. In a commentary authored by Democratic U.S. Sens. Richard Blumenthal, Mazie Hirono and Sheldon Whitehouse, Collins' research is cited on the number of amicus briefs filed supporting liberal and conservative positions and what impact they have on the outcome of 5-4 cases. In another commentary, the author points to Collins' view that the nomination process was possibly the most controversial in history, not only because of the allegations of sexual abuse, but also what he calls "fairly substantial evidence that at a minimum he [Kavanaugh] misled the judiciary committee.

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