University News

Public Engagement Project Announces 2022 Faculty Fellows

The UMass Amherst Public Engagement Project (PEP) has announced the 2022 Public Engagement Faculty Fellows who will draw on their substantial research records to impact policy, the work of practitioners and public debates. The eight faculty members from across seven departments comprising the eighth cohort of Public Engagement Faculty Fellows will receive a stipend and technical training in communicating with non-academic audiences.

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The PEP Fellows Program facilitates connections between fellows and lawmakers in the U.S. Congress and Massachusetts State House, journalists, practitioners and others to share their research beyond the walls of academia.

“Demand from the public to hear from academics about their research continues to increase,” says Lisa M. Troy, director of the Public Engagement Project and associate professor in the School of Public Health and Health Sciences and the Commonwealth Honors College. “The PEP Fellowship plays a critical role in helping to meet that demand by creating an interdisciplinary network of publicly engaged UMass faculty, developing skills to effectively communicate across diverse audiences and facilitating relationships to share the high-quality research produced at UMass.”

The Public Engagement Project is a faculty-driven initiative building on a collaboration of the Institute for Social Science Research (ISSR) and the Center for Research on Families (CRF). The PEP Faculty Fellowship has been made possible by funding from the UMass College of Education, College of Engineering, College of Humanities and Fine Arts, College of Natural Sciences, College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, School of Public Health and Health Sciences, Office of the Provost, University Relations, as well as the collaborating centers and institutes.

The 2022 PEP Faculty Fellows are:

Sade Bonilla, assistant professor of educational policy, research and administration
Bonilla studies whether current K-12 educational policies and programs, such as examining culturally relevant, anti-racist and social justice curricula, improve outcomes for high school students. As a PEP Fellow she intends to write articles and present her research on ethnic studies to educators, policymakers and other public audiences to promote the use of evidence-based decision making.

Andy J. Danylchuk, professor of environmental conservation, director of the Five College Coastal & Marine Sciences Program and graduate program director of the Intercampus Marine Science Graduate Program

Throughout his life, Danylchuk has been on a personal crusade to ensure that fish are around for future generations to enjoy, whether on the end of a fishing line, on a dinner plate or simply to watch in wonder. His research spans both marine and freshwater ecosystems and addresses how fish respond to natural and human disturbances. As a PEP Fellow, he plans to write opinion pieces that amplify the need for stakeholders and policy makers to adopt a science-based approach for the sustainability of recreational fisheries.

Sangeeta Kamat, professor of educational policy, research and administration

Kamat studies the privatization and commodification of K-12 education in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Her research examines the extent to which technology corporations transform education into a for-profit sector and undermine education as a public good. As a PEP fellow, Kamat intends to write opinion pieces and articles on the ways in which tech-finance restructure education and the need for lawmakers and educators to consider the impact of tech-finance on education. 

Agnès Lacreuse, professor of psychological and brain sciences

Lacreuse studies age-related cognitive decline in nonhuman primates to improve understanding of human aging and Alzheimer’s disease. As a PEP Fellow, she plans to develop strategies to inform the public and policymakers about the critical importance of animal research for medical advances. Lacreuse also plans to advocate for more research transparency to help the public understand the facts about humane and ethical animal research.

Agustin Lao-Montes, associate professor of sociology and co-coordinator of the graduate certificate in African Diaspora Studies, W.E.B. Du Bois Department of Afro-American Studies

Lao-Montes’s research specializes on race relations, inequality, state policies and connections of Black organization across the Americas. His current work focuses on “Movements for Black Lives” in Brazil, Colombia, Cuba and the United States in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. As a PEP Fellow, Lao-Montes plans to develop a network and skills to share his work with wider audiences in the U.S. through opinion writing and interviews.

Giverson Mupambi, extension assistant professor, UMass Cranberry Station

Mupambi conducts research on integrated approaches to cranberry production and transfers evidence-based information to the Massachusetts cranberry industry. His research program applies basic principles of plant physiology to study questions related to fruit quality, heat stress and the co-location of solar panels with cranberry production (agrivoltaics). As a PEP Fellow, Mupambi plans to develop materials to increase public understanding of agrivoltaics in cranberry production and consult with state and local government on agrivoltaic policy.

Eve Vogel, associate professor of geosciences and co-head of the geography program

Vogel studies the uneven sustainability and justice implications of current efforts to advance renewable electricity. Her lens to address these issues is the intersection among electric policy and markets, hydropower, river management and communities. As a PEP Fellow, she will make visible key interconnections and tradeoffs related to renewable energy policy and development. She aims to advance more informed and inclusive public debate and decision making.

Emily West, associate professor of communication

West studies how the e-commerce company Amazon impacts our economy, culture and power as consumers. Her work shows how Amazon has used its branding and marketing strategies to become ubiquitous in our lives and to normalize its size and monopoly status. As a PEP Fellow, she will communicate her research findings to policymakers and consumers in order to encourage them to monitor Amazon's power.