Faculty build network of community-engaged teachers, scholars
By Ashlee McGandy

From teaching food science at the Ithaca Farmers Market to researching how youth feel about their race and ethnicity, this year’s Engaged Faculty Fellows are demonstrating the range of work that’s possible through community-engaged learning and research.

Though the 15 faculty from eight Cornell schools and colleges have diverse backgrounds, disciplines and goals, they gather monthly to discuss common questions: How do we best prepare students to ethically engage with communities? How can courses balance student learning and community partner benefits? What does it mean to be a community-engaged teacher or scholar?

Offered through the David M. Einhorn Center for Community Engagement, the yearlong Engaged Faculty Fellowship Program supports individual faculty members’ growth and development while also weaving networks of engaged faculty, creating a sense of shared purpose.

“Teaching courses and conducting research in partnership with communities can be immensely rewarding, but it brings unique challenges, too,” says Anna Sims Bartel, the Einhorn Center’s associate director of community-engaged curricula and practice. “Through the Engaged Faculty Fellows program, faculty learn about practices and resources to help them design, teach and run their courses and programs, and they also learn they aren’t alone in this work.”

Since the program launched in 2013, there have been more than 130 faculty fellows from every school and college on Cornell’s Ithaca campus. Three years ago, the program branched into two cohorts; Faculty Fellows in Engaged Learning develop or revise a community-engaged learning course or project, and Faculty Fellows in Engaged Scholarship develop peer-reviewed journal articles, presentations, how-to guides or other professional pieces out of their engaged scholarship.

In addition to learning from each other, Fellows also draw on the expertise of the program facilitators: Bartel, Amanda Wittman, the Einhorn Center’s associate director for community-engaged curricula and strategy, and faculty co-leads — Christina McDowell, senior lecturer in the SC Johnson College of Business, and Jennifer Minner, associate professor of city and regional planning, in 2021-22.

The connections that Engaged Faculty Fellows make extend beyond their time in the yearlong cohort, Bartel says, and faculty continue to support one another and connect long after their cohort experience.

“In one case, anthropologist Kath March was in Nepal during rebuilding after an earthquake and became concerned about the new construction having the same weaknesses as the old — so she reached out to Engaged Faculty Fellow Jack Elliott, who specialized in site-specific sustainable building design, and asked him to go to Nepal with her to dream up creative solutions with colleagues there.”

Because they had shared a community of practice, they trusted not only one another’s disciplinary expertise but also their skills and approaches to working with communities, says Bartel.

The 2021-22 Faculty Fellows in Engaged Learning are:

  • Sarah K. Chalmers, visiting lecturer, Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management, SC Johnson College of Business
  • Jorge Colón, associate professor of practice, Department of Clinical Services, College of Veterinary Medicine (CVM)
  • Cathy Creighton, director, ILR Buffalo Co-Lab, School of Industrial and Labor Relations (ILR)
  • Maia Dedrick, Hirsch Postdoctoral Associate, Department of Anthropology, College of Arts and Sciences
  • Julie Ficarra, associate professor of the practice, Department of Global Development, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS)
  • Karla Hanson, professor of practice, Department of Public and Ecosystem Health, CVM
  • Kathleen Hefferon, lecturer, Department of Microbiology, CALS
  • Janet Loebach, assistant professor, Department of Human Centered Design, College of Human Ecology (CHE)
  • Dillon Pranger, visiting critic, Department of Architecture, College of Architecture, Art and Planning
  • Matthew Saleh, research associate, K. Lisa Yang and Hock E. Tan Institute on Employment and Disability, ILR
  • Francis Vanek, senior lecturer, School of Civil and Environmental Engineering, College of Engineering

This year’s Faculty Fellows in Engaged Scholarship are:

  • Elizabeth Berliner, associate clinical professor and Janet L. Swanson Director of Shelter Medicine, Maddie’s® Shelter Medicine Program, CVM
  • Keshia Harris, postdoctoral associate, Department of Psychology, CHE
  • Anthony Ong, professor, Department of Psychology, CHE
  • Deeksha Sharma, postdoctoral associate, Department of Psychology, CHE

This article was published in the Cornell Chronicle.