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

Summer Methodology Workshop: De-Mystifying Public Engagement
June 10-11, 9:00am to 3:30pm
June 12, 9:00am to 12:00pm (Optional)
Machmer Hall, Room E20, University of Massachusetts Amherst

As scholars, we often find ourselves wishing that our research could help people and organizations improve their work and lives, yet oftentimes we lack the skills and networks necessary to accomplish this worthy goal. In response, this workshop aims to promote participants' efficacy as public communicators and engaged scholars. Through a series of hands-on exercises and activities, participants will improve their ability to communicate effectively with non-academic audiences, learn how to engage diverse audiences, and develop personalized public engagement plans to promote follow-through and long-term success as engaged scholars. Participants do not need previous experience with public engagement and/or communication to attend but should come prepared to work on one or more concrete engagement products (e.g., op-ed, policy brief, media interview preparation). Go here for more info.

2015 PEP Fellow Rebecca Spencer publishes new research covered in Scientific Reports finding that naps and overnight sleep may work together to benefit memory in early childhood.

In a new study led by 2015 PEP Fellow, Rebecca Spencer, and covered by Scientific Reports, UMass sleep researchers find evidence that naps and overnight sleep may work together to benefit memory in early childhood. Spencer, along with several students, report that for children in this study, "Individually, the nap and overnight sleep bouts were not sufficient to induce changes in memory. A significant benefit of napping was observed only when changes across the entire 24-hour period were considered. This supports an interplay between the nap and subsequent overnight sleep in the consolidation of memories in young children." The researchers say another highlight of their work is finding that naps do contribute to emotion processing in preschool children, which is consistent with parents' and early childhood teachers' observations, though this benefit in emotional memory is delayed, say Spencer and colleagues. The research was also featured in the Globe, Laboratory EquipmentMedicine News Line, Science Daily, WBZ RadioHealth Medicine Network, the Recorder, and Science & Technology Research News.

2016 PEP Fellow Miliann Kang comments in Refinery29 on longstanding conflicts between African-Americans and Asians in U.S. society

Miliann Kang, 2016 PEP Fellow, comments in Refinery29 about longstanding conflicts between African-Americans and Asians in U.S. society. She says although incidents highlighting these conflicts are not in the headlines all of the time, "the reality of racially-distinct immigrant small business entrepreneurs operating in poor, underserved minority neighborhood persists as a formula for potential conflict." Kang, who has focused her research on Asian-owned nail salons and their racially diverse customers, says tension can run high when salon workers are paid low wages in often poor conditions serving mostly working-class clientele who cannot afford to waste money on subpar services.  

PEP Steering Committee Member M.V. Lee Badgett is interviewed in the Washington Post on the economic costs of LGBTQ discrimination in India

M.V. Lee Badgett, PEP Steering Committee Member, says discrimination against LGBTQ in India costs between 0.1 and 1.4 percent of gross domestic product, based on a review of health care and workplace data in an interview with the Washington Post. She says, “When a country loses that much GDP, normally we say that it’s had a recession.” Her comments are in a news story about how students and alumni from some of the top universities in India are seeking to overturn colonial era laws that are used as pretexts for mistreatment and exclusion of LGBTQ people. India’s Supreme Court is expected to issue rulings in coming weeks on the laws. This research was also featured in the Georgia Voice.

2016 PEP Fellow Miliann Kang writes two columns for the Korea Times on limits on the workweek and efforts to end Korea's legal ban on abortion

Miliann Kang, 2016 PEP Fellow, writes two columns for the Korea Times. One looks at a new law that limits the workweek to 52 hours, down from the previous 68 hours. She says this is an incremental improvement that provides some benefits, especially to working women. A second column looks at efforts in Korea to end its legal ban on abortion. She says abortion is common, even though it is illegal, and that the government often enforces the ban selectively depending on population trends in the country. Read more here and here

PEP Steering Committee Member M.V. Lee Badgett discusses Center for Employment Equity report findings on expanding protections for LGBT people with MassLive

New research from the UMass Amherst Center for Employment Equity (CEE) finds that a 2013 extension of anti-discrimination coverage for sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) by the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has greatly expanded protections for LGBT people, especially for residents of the 28 U.S. states that do not have SOGI anti-discrimination laws. In the report, “Evidence From the Frontlines on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Discrimination,” co-authored by PEP Steering Committee member M.V. Lee Badgett, Amanda Baumle, and Steven Boutcher, researchers examined data from more than 9,100 SOGI discrimination charges filed with the EEOC or a state agency between 2013-16. Badgett said the research is important to show that the expanded protections are helping. "We have some patchy laws and policy and some states don't have (protection)." She said the ability to file with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission "is really access to justice" and the report shows that even people in states without laws are afforded federal protection. "We hope it's useful (to show) the need to have a policy that does cover everybody in the country." Read more here.

2015 PEP Fellow Paul Collins comments on President Trump's US Supreme Court nomination in the Gloucester Daily Times, the Herald and the Washington Post

Paul M. Collins, 2015 PEP Fellow, is interviewed by Gloucester Daily Times, discussing that President Donald J. Trump may not heed the advice of the state’s two U.S. senators in choosing to fill two vacancies on the U.S. District Court bench in Massachusetts. “While tradition dictates that home-state senators have a great deal of influence over district court nominations in their states, the Constitution does not require the president to nominate individuals put forward by home-state senators,” Collins says.  He also comments in the Herald and the Washington Post on the selection of Judge Brett Kavanaugh as President Donald J. Trump’s choice to fill the vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court. Collins is co-author of an op-ed in The Washington Post where he argues that candidates for the top court should answer questions about their views on key issues and shouldn’t refuse to comment on areas of controversy. Collins also says, “Assuming nothing comes out about him that will be so controversial that it would put off the American public, this nominee has a very good chance of getting confirmed” by the Senate.

PEP Co-Director Linda Tropp comments in Nautilus on how intergroup contact aids in overcoming social and cultural differences

A feature story in Nautilus magazine about how cooking and eating together can help overcome social and cultural differences includes comments from PEP Co-Director, Linda R. Tropp. She conducted a study in 2011 that found intergroup contact mitigates people’s preconceived prejudices by reducing people’s anxieties of threat and increasing their capacity for empathy for other groups.

2018 PEP Fellow Elizabeth Evans is awarded Greenwall Foundation grant for research on ethical responses to the opioid epidemic

The Greenwall Foundation, which promotes bioethics research, has awarded Elizabeth Evans, 2018 PEP Fellow, a two-year, $128,164 grant to support her research, “Exploring shared decision-making as an ethical response to the opioid epidemic.” The shared decision-making approach is informed by ideas from public health ethics specifying that public health, when identifying public health threats and understanding the risks and benefits of ways to address them, has an obligation to communicate with and involve not only experts but the people affected by practice and policy. “Findings will inform the creation of policies and protocols that are respectful of patients’ healthcare needs, preferences and values, while also empowering patients to work in partnership with others in determining how the opioid crisis should be addressed,” Evans notes. Read more here.