The University of Massachusetts Amherst

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

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PEP Holds OpEd Writing Workshop with Scholars Strategy Network

On March 9th, PEP, in collaboration with The Scholars Strategy Network, held a free, hands-on OpEd Writing Workshop for scholars interested in learning how to write and pitch compelling, research-based op-eds. During the workshop, participants worked in groups to learn how to craft a good lede, identify and incorporate timely news hooks, signal the author’s unique and relevant expertise, increase the likelihood of publication, and structure an op-ed for maximum impact.

Paul M. Collins, Jr., 2015 PEP Fellow, writes Washington Post column on President Donald Trump’s recent criticism of the U.S. Supreme Court

Paul M. Collins, Jr., political science, and colleague write Washington Post column on how President Donald Trump’s recent criticism of the U.S. Supreme Court differs from attacks on the court made by previous presidents. Collins and colleague from the University of North Texas are co-authors of the book, “The President and the Supreme Court: Going Public on Judicial Decisions from Washington to Trump.

Rebecca Spencer, 2015 PEP Fellow, is interviewed on WGBH News about her research on sleep and appearance in “Mysteries of Sleep.”

Rebecca Spencer,2015 PEP Fellow, is interviewed on WGBH News about her research on sleep and her appearance in public television’s NOVA program “Mysteries of Sleep.” Spencer says sleep plays a key role in memory and that it may hold the key to understanding some diseases such as dementia.

2015 PEP Fellow, Paul Collins Jr, appears on “Connecting Point” to discuss the first report released by the Massachusetts Citizens Commission

Appearing on the television program “Connecting Point”, Paul Collins Jr., 2015 PEP Fellow, discusses the first report released by the Massachusetts Citizens Commission, tasked with drafting a plan to overturn the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United ruling. The ruling prohibits the government from restricting spending for political communication by corporations, non-profit organizations, labor unions and other associations. Collins says the report shows that one of the major fears about the aftermath of Citizens United has come to fruition with a large increase in the amount spent on political campaigns.

In Memoriam, Louis Graham (1982-2019)

We are sharing the very sad news that Dr. Louis Graham, an alum of the 2016 Public Engagement Project Faculty Fellowship Program, and a former PEP steering committee member, passed away suddenly on December 29, 2019. At the Public Engagement Project, our hearts ache. We remember Louis for his incisive intellect, passion, and commitment to using research to make the world a better place, but most of all, his vibrant, creative, warm spirit, and sense of humor.

Julie Brigham-Grette, 2017 PEP Fellow, featured in the NOVA program “Polar Extremes” discussing climate change

Julie Brigham-Grette, 2017 PEP Fellow, is featured in the NOVA program “Polar Extremes.” She explains how ice cores from a frozen lake in northern Russia show how the climate has changed over time and how even what is now part of the frozen arctic at one time was much more moderate in temperature and had different plant and animal life. The ice cores were taken from a lake that was created by a meteor strike 3.5 million years ago. The segment begins at 1:04:00.  

Rebecca Spencer, 2015 PEP Fellow, will have research featured in an upcoming Netflix documentary series and PBS Special

The sleep research of Rebecca Spencer, 2015 PEP Fellow, will be featured in a upcoming documentary series “Babies” that is set to air on Netflix beginning on Feb. 21, and in  in a PBS NOVA episode, “Mysteries of Sleep,” on Feb. 26. A film crew was on campus in March 2019 to film Spencer in her SomneuroLab at the Institute for Applied Life Sciences.​ Reported in E! NewsMassLiveNursery World and Parentology.

Linda R. Tropp, PEP Co-Director, and colleague's research on intergroup contact and prejudice featured in Phys.org

For more than 50 years, social scientists and practitioners have suggested that having members of different groups interact with each other can be an effective tool for reducing prejudice. Emerging research points to a more complex and nuanced understanding of the effects of contact between groups, say Linda R. Tropp, PEP Co-Director, and colleague. Tropp says in Phys.org that studies from the last 10 to 15 years suggest that the positive effects of intergroup contact tend to be weaker among members of historically advantaged groups, such as white people and heterosexuals, compared to the effects typically observed among members of historically disadvantaged groups such as people of color and sexual minorities. There has also been growing concern that contact may effectively reduce prejudice between groups but do little to change existing social inequalities, she adds. Research published in Nature Human Behaviour, and also featured in EurekAlert and News Medical Life Sciences. Tropp was also interviewed on Pell Center public television program, "Story in the Public Square", about this work.

2016 PEP Fellow, Thomas Zoeller's work with the paint company Valspar on safe substitute to BPA featured in Science

2016 PEP fellow, Thomas Zoeller's work with the paint company Valspar in the company’s search to find a safe substitute to BPA as a lining in food containers featured in Science. BPA, or bisphenol A, has been linked to cancers, diabetes and other disorders in humans. Zoeller, an expert on how BPA effects the thyroid says test data on Valspar’s latest chemical alternative to BPA suggests it does not seem to affect the thyroid system.

Elizabeth M. Schmidt, 2019 PEP Fellow, writes essay in The Conversation about whether socially responsible companies can function in a capitalist economy

Elizabeth M. Schmidt, 2019 PEP Fellow, writes an essay in The Conversation about whether socially responsible companies can function in a capitalist economy and actually make a difference for social justice rather than only generating profits. She says many companies have told the public they can do both and there are some signs of progress. Schmidt says continued pressure by shareholders, consumers and employees is needed to bring about real change.  

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