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How to Build Research Relationships with Non-Academic Partners, Monday, November 20, 2017

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How to Build Research Relationships with Non-Academic Partners
Karl Pillemer, director, BCTR

Monday, November 20, 2017
9:00 - 10:00 AM
102 Mann Library



Researchers are increasingly conducting studies in community settings and applying for grants that require documentation of real-world impact. Indeed, some funders now require components such as dissemination plans, stakeholder engagement, or community participation. To meet these new demands, researchers may wish to collaborate with non-academic groups and craft research questions and results that inform practice or policy. This year the BCTR continues our series of interactive workshops sharing the center’s extensive experience conducting research in real-world settings and translating empirical findings into practice. Each workshop addresses a key challenge that researchers face in doing translational research and provides practical tools for overcoming obstacles to conducting effective translational research. The workshops are open to all Cornell faculty, staff, and graduate students.

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Joining forces to ease chronic pain

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triplllogo-smallerBy Sheri Hall for the BCTR

Pain relievers are some of the most commonly-used medicines among older adults. But a Cornell-based organization called the Translational Research Institute on Pain in Later Life, or TRIPLL, is exploring alternative ways to alleviate pain in older adults.

TRIPLL is one of the most active and long-standing collaborations among the Cornell campuses — comprising researchers and graduate students at the Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Researcher (BCTR), Weill Cornell Medicine, and Cornell Tech, plus dozens of community organizations serving seniors in New York City.

“It’s a very broad and deep collaboration,” said Karl Pillemer, TRIPLL co-director and director of the BCTR. “Because of our use of video conferencing, Skype and frequent meetings, it’s honestly not much different than if we were all in the same building. A number of us work with our TRIPLL colleagues even more than with people on our own campuses.”

TRIPLL was founded in 2009 with a grant from the National Institute on Aging. It is one of 12 federally-funded Edward R. Roybal Centers for Translational Research on Aging across the nation; each one focuses on a different aspect related to the health and well-being of older Americans.

TRIPLL brings together faculty from a variety of disciplines, including clinical medicine, epidemiology, gerontology, the social and behavioral sciences, computer science to focus non-pharmacologic methods of pain relief.

“Pain is a huge problem — it’s one of the things that keeps people homebound,” says Riverdale Senior Services director Julia Schwartz-Leeper, who regularly uses the institute’s webinars to train her staff. “The work that TRIPLL does is critically important.”

Karl Pillemer and Elaine Wethington

Karl Pillemer and Elaine Wethington

As the American population ages, the issue of treating pain in older adults is only getting more pressing. TRIPLL co-director Dr. Elaine Wethington, a medical sociologist and an associate director at the BCTR, notes that one-third of older adults has chronic pain — “and the majority of those find inadequate relief.”

Effective, evidence-based alternatives to pharmaceuticals are needed because many older adults have pre-existing conditions, such as heart failure or kidney problems, that pain medicines can exacerbate. The epidemic of opioid abuse also complicates matters. Fear of addiction may discourage older people from taking pain drugs. And reducing the number of opioid prescriptions keeps the drugs out of a medicine cabinet where they could be misused by family members or others, Pillemer said.

“Our inability to deal with chronic pain through non-drug methods is a huge problem,” he said. “In terms of an issue that makes the largest number of people miserable, chronic pain is at the top. But it’s not a high-profile problem that has an easy cure, so it doesn’t attract as much research funding.”

In an effort to combat the problem, TRIPLL’s researchers award grants for pilot studies; hold monthly seminars linking researchers on the various campuses; mentor graduate students, post-docs, fellows and junior faculty; and serve as a resource to New York City community service agencies, whose tens of thousands of clients provide a deep bench of volunteers for research studies.

“For years there’s been a consensus among researchers that pain is not just a biological phenomenon, it’s also a social and a psychological one, but there are few centers in the United States that look at pain from this biopsychosocial perspective,” Wethington said. “Our commitment is to understand these aspects as completely as we can — to get really smart people working on them, to publish papers in places where they’ll have an effect on practice.”

This story is adapted from an article that was first published in Weill Cornell Medicine, Vol. 16, No. 1.

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Connecting retirees to conservation

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retirees and solar panels

Retirees learn about sustainable energy during recent field trip to a solar-powered residence.

A new partnership between the Cornell Institute for Translational Research on Aging and The Nature Conservancy is responding to two critical trends in society todaymounting concern about environmental sustainability and an aging population.

The Conservation Retirees in Service to the Environment program, an environmental education and leadership training program for adults over 60, is a new collaboration between the two organizations that builds on the original Retirees in Service to the Environment program (RISE), seeking to create environmental leaders who will play an active role as conservancy volunteers and environmental stewards in their communities.

“This program addresses the critical intersection of two important issues – environmental sustainability and an aging population,” said Karl Pillemer, the Hazel E. Reed Professor of Human Development, professor of gerontology in medicine at Weill Cornell Medicine and director of the Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research.

“Retirees are an underutilized resource who have the time, talent and skills to help address issues like climate change, air and water pollution, waste management and the protection of natural areas.”

Bill Toomey, director of The Nature Conservancy’s Forest Health program, said, “The Nature Conservancy is excited to be partnering with Cornell to creatively engage older adults in the conservation actions that they can take individually or as part of a community in the care and stewardship of trees and natural habitats in their own backyards, neighborhoods and community.”

Program organizers conducted an extensive review of the research literature, focus group studies with older adult retirees and a pilot evaluation study. Based on the best available research evidence and practices in the field, including research conducted on aging and environmental issues at Cornell, the project provides 30 hours of training over a six-week period, culminating in a capstone volunteer project.

The training consists of a full-day introductory workshop, four weekly environmental workshops and a capstone stewardship project in the community and provides knowledge from expert speakers on climate change, water quality, soil contaminants, waste management and energy use.

“Through training in leadership and communication skill development, our objective is to improve participants’ effectiveness as environmental volunteers,” Pillemer said. “The educational component of the program also includes hands-on learning experience, such as field trips.”

The conservancy is interested in engaging community members of all ages in the care and stewardship of trees through the Healthy Trees, Healthy Cities program. “We are also looking to support individual and community action through our Habitat Network program to create and maintain local habitats including pollinator, rain and food gardens that can help support wildlife populations and connect people to nature,” Toomey said.

According to Pillemer, the program provides more than environmental improvements to local communities, it also benefits the volunteers themselves.

“It provides potential physical and mental health benefits to participating older adults, including physical activity, exposure to nature and social opportunities, as well as a greater sense of purpose through the chance to improve the world for future generations.”

The Cornell Institute for Translational Research on Aging promotes translational research on aging, including the development, implementation and dissemination of innovative, evidence-based intervention programs. A focus of the institute, housed in the Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research, is to promote the social integration of older people in the form of meaningful roles and relationships.

New partnership connects retirees to conservation - Cornell Chronicle

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Doing Translational Research podcast: Marianella Casasola

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casasolaIn this episode of the Doing Tranlsational Research podcast Karl Pillemer talks with Marianella Casasola about her work examining infant cognitive development, early word learning, and early spatial cognition. Dr. Casasola talks about her experiences partnering with Head Start to do research, details of her more recent findings, and she gives some advice that any new parent can easily employ to boost infant learning.

Marianella Casasola is an associate professor of human development and a faculty fellow of the Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research (BCTR) at Cornell University. She studies infant cognitive development and early word learning with a particular interest in the interaction between thought and language during the first few years of development. She is especially interested in the emergence of spatial concepts, the early acquisition of spatial language, and the interplay between spatial cognition and spatial language in infants and young children.

Doing Translational Research episode 7: Talk to Your Child with Marianella Casasola

Also available on iTunes and Stitcher.

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Experts address elder financial abuse as global problem

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From the Weill Cornell Newsroom:

Clockwise from left: Karl Pillemer, Bridget Penhale, Nelida Redondo, Kendon Conrad, Mark Lachs and Peter Lloyd-Sherlock. Photo: Ira Fox

Clockwise from left: Karl Pillemer, Bridget Penhale, Nelida Redondo, Kendon Conrad, Mark Lachs and Peter Lloyd-Sherlock.
Photo: Ira Fox

Financial exploitation of older people by those who should be protecting them results in devastating health, emotional and psychological consequences. A group of international elder abuse experts met in June at Weill Cornell Medicine to map out a strategy for conducting research on this problem in low and middle income countries.

The meeting, organized by Dr. Mark Lachs, co-chief of the Division of Geriatrics and Palliative Medicine and the Irene F. and I. Roy Psaty Distinguished Professor of Clinical Medicine at Weill Cornell Medicine, and Dr. Karl Pillemer, director of the Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research and the Hazel E. Reed Professor in the Department of Human Development at Cornell University, brought together experts from the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, South Africa, and Argentina.

"Over the last few years, studies have found financial abuse and exploitation of older people to be extremely prevalent and extremely harmful for older people," said Dr. Pillemer, who is also a professor of gerontology in medicine at Weill Cornell Medicine. "These studies have mostly been done in the United States, England, and other high income countries, but very little is known about how this problem plays out in low-income countries. Our goal was to bring together research internationally and comparatively to try to understand this problem."

"This issue is an interesting integration of sociology, medicine, economics and geopolitics," said Dr. Lachs, who is director of Weill Cornell Medicine's Center for Aging Research and Clinical Care and director of geriatrics for the New York-Presbyterian Health System. "There has been growing interest here in the United States on financial vulnerability of older people, but I'm unaware of an international group that is focused on this."

One consequence of older people who are being financially exploited is that they cannot meet their own health needs. There are also psychological and emotional consequences because some older people live in fear of relatives who may be exploiting them and may give away much needed pensions to spouses, adult children, and other extended family members.

According to Dr. Pillemer, based on available evidence, 5 to 10 percent of older people globally may experience some kind of financial exploitation. Exploitation can take different forms. In high-income countries, like the United States, the abuse may encompass theft, misuse of power of attorney or denying access to funds. In low-income regions, financial exploitation results from abuse of local laws and cultural norms. For example, in some South American countries, the law requires that children receive the parents’ dwelling, resulting in children moving parents into nursing homes in order to obtain the house. In parts of sub-Saharan Africa, women may be accused of witchcraft in order to seize their property or gain access to their funds.

Government pensions in low-income countries have become a source of income for older people, which puts them at risk for financial exploitation. However, researchers need to be sensitive to local cultural norms in their conduct of research and analysis of data so governments are not hesitant to provide much needed income to older people, according to Dr. Lachs.

"In some of the countries there's a cultural expectation that if the older person has a pension it will be shared with other family members," Dr. Lachs said. "Whereas in my practice, if a patient tells me that a child is asking for some of their pension, it raises the specter of the potential for financial exploitation."

The group, Dr. Pillemer said, concluded that there's a desperate need for new scientific knowledge about the extent, causes and consequences of this problem, as well as a need to understand how the problem of financial exploitation is the same across countries, and how it differs. The group is now working on a white paper to make the case for comparative research on financial exploitation of older people.

"That's important for a very critical reason: By looking at the dynamics of financial abuse in different countries, we can understand how policies affect both how much abuse occurs and how to deal with it," Dr. Pillemer said.

Top (from left): Chelsie Burchett, Bridget Penhale, Karl Pillemer, Janey Peterson, Kendon Conrad, Mark Lachs, Natal Ayiga, Steve Gresham. Bottom (from left): Peter Lloyd-Sherlock, David Burnes, Nelida Redondo. Photo: Ira Fox

Top (from left): Chelsie Burchett, Bridget Penhale, Karl Pillemer, Janey Peterson, Kendon Conrad, Mark Lachs, Natal Ayiga, Steve Gresham. Bottom (from left): Peter Lloyd-Sherlock, David Burnes, Nelida Redondo.
Photo: Ira Fox

In addition to Dr. Pillemer and Dr. Lachs, attendees of the meeting were:

  • Bridget Penhale, Reader in Mental Health, University of East Anglia, UK;
  • Peter Lloyd-Sherlock, Professor of Social Policy and International Development, University of East Anglia, UK;
  • Steve Gresham, Executive Vice President, Private Client Group, Fidelity Investments, and Adjunct Lecturer in
  • International and Public Affairs, Watson Institute, Brown University;
  • David Burnes, Assistant Professor, Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work, University of Toronto;
  • Nelida Redondo, Senior Researcher, Universidad Isalud, Argentina;
  • Natal Ayiga, North-West University, South Africa;
  • Janey Peterson, Associate Professor of Clinical Epidemiology in Medicine, Integrative Medicine and Cardiothoracic Surgery, Weill Cornell Medicine; and
  • Ken Conrad, Professor Emeritus, University of Illinois at Chicago.

The meeting was supported by the Elbrun & Peter Kimmelman Family Foundation, Inc.

Experts Address Elder Financial Abuse as Global Problem - Weill Cornell Newsroom

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Nursing home residents commonly abused by neighbors

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By Heather Lindsey for the Cornell Chronicle:

pillemer lachs

Pillemer and Lachs

Twenty percent of people living in nursing homes are abused by other residents, according to a study by researchers in the College of Human Ecology and Weill Cornell Medicine.

“We were very surprised by the prevalence of aggression,” said senior author Karl Pillemer, the Hazel E. Reed Professor in the College of Human Ecology’s Department of Human Development and professor of gerontology in medicine at Weill Cornell Medicine, who published the findings June 13 in the Annals of Internal Medicine. “We thought it would be common, but we did not anticipate that 1 in 5 people would be involved in a resident-to-resident incident.”

In addition to the physical injuries that can result from these abusive incidents, “the emotional toll that can result from being victimized incessantly can be overwhelming,” said lead author Dr. Mark Lachs, co-chief of the Division of Geriatrics and Palliative Medicine and the Irene F. and I. Roy Psaty Distinguished Professor of Clinical Medicine at Weill Cornell Medicine.

The Cornell researchers and colleagues at the Research Division of Hebrew Home at Riverdale evaluated 2,011 residents in 10 nursing home facilities during a one-month period. Of those individuals, 407, or 20.2 percent, had experienced a least one resident-to-resident incident of mistreatment.

Nine percent of victims experienced verbal abuse. Five percent encountered physical abuse, and less than 1 percent sexual abuse. Another 5 percent suffered “other” types of abuse, such as invasion of privacy and menacing gestures.

The most common types of verbal aggression were screaming at another resident and using foul language. Physical aggression most often included hitting and pushing. Going into another resident’s room without permission and taking or touching another person’s property were common examples of invasion of privacy.

A major risk factor for aggression was cognitive impairment, said Pillemer, who is also director of the Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research at Cornell. “You have people who would otherwise not be violent but who have serious aggressive episodes,” he said.

People who were younger and more physically active, meaning they were able to wander into other residents’ rooms, were more likely to be involved in an abusive incident, he said.

Crowding in common spaces such as hallways and lounges also increased risk. Conflict occurred more frequently in the winter months, presumably when patients had limited space to interact indoors, and in nursing homes with lower staffing levels, said Lachs, who is also professor of medicine at Weill Cornell Medicine.

The first steps toward addressing the problem are improving staff awareness and developing clear protocols for dealing with aggression among residents, Pillemer said. Individualized care is also important. Some people who are at greater risk of becoming aggressors may need more supervision than others.

One obstacle to addressing this form of aggression is that regulatory agencies and media have traditionally focused on physical abuse of residents by staff.

“This certainly occurs, and we should have zero tolerance for it,” Lachs said. “But this study suggests that one is much more likely to experience physical or verbal harm from another resident than from a staff member.”

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Alumni gifts to the center support the greater good

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Growing up on a dairy farm in rural Vermont, Rebecca Q. Morgan '60 was drawn to 4-H. At cattle shows and fashion displays and as president of her local club, Morgan says eight years in 4-H taught her everything from public speaking and accounting to leadership and dressmaking.

preschoolers examine butterflies at Madison County Head Start

Preschoolers examine butterflies at the Madison County Head Start, a new partner for Casasola's research thanks to her work as a BCTR Faculty Fellow. Photo: Madison County Head Start/provided.

"It was a wonderful outlet for me to develop a great deal of practical skills and gain confidence in my abilities," says Morgan, who went on to become a California state senator, where she stood out as an advocate for child development and education.

With a $1.2 million gift to Cornell's Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research (BCTR), Morgan is giving back to improve 4-H and community-based youth education programs from the ground up. Her gift, made in late 2015, provides three years of startup funding for the Program for Research on Youth Development and Engagement (PRYDE), an initiative launched this spring by Cornell social scientists to foster groundbreaking research in partnership with New York State 4-H and its 200,000 children and teen participants in four areas: life purpose, healthy transitions into adolescence, intergenerational connections and productive social media use. In close collaboration with 4-H staff and youth, PRYDE seeks to integrate evidence into new and existing programs while also sparking young people's interest in social science.

The BCTR, based in the College of Human Ecology, received another boost during the Cornell Now campaign thanks to a $1.6 million gift from Evalyn Edwards Milman '60 and Stephen Milman '58, MBA '59. The couple endowed the Evalyn Edwards Milman '60 BCTR Faculty Fellowship, part of a new program to embed professors in the BCTR and link their research directly to community needs.

Totaling nearly $3 million, the gifts represent an unprecedented level of alumni support for the center, which formed in 2011 to bridge the gap between social science research and practice.

"One of our major goals as a center is to encourage more faculty members to conduct translational research, inspiring them to consider how their work applies to real-world problems and can serve people throughout the life span," says BCTR Director Karl Pillemer, the Hazel E. Reed Professor in the Department of Human Development. "Both of these gifts provide new avenues for faculty to take cutting-edge scientific research and move it into real-world settings."

4-H teens collaborate on a STEM project

At Camp Bristol Hills in Canandaigua, N.Y., 4-H teens collaborate on a STEM project. PRYDE enables Cornell researchers to partner with community educators to work on improving 4-H and other out-of-school education programs. Photo: 4-H/provided.

In New York, Cornell oversees 4-H through the BCTR and Cornell Cooperative Extension, offering the ideal environment for PRYDE to test interventions through a community-based participatory research model developed and refined by BCTR researchers. Campus-county teams will identify research needs, design studies and interpret and disseminate data through a statewide "research ready" network.

"I am most excited that PRYDE is taking science and putting it into service to help young people," says Morgan, president of the Morgan Family Foundation, a philanthropic organization dedicated to youth, education and the environment. "4-H offers a ready-made network for translating Cornell research into effective youth programs. The program is positioned to become a national leader on this topic."

PRYDE will also host campus visits and provide opportunities for 4-H members to observe social science research firsthand. Furthermore, it is forming a group of undergraduate PRYDE Scholars, launching this summer, to enable Cornell students to work with faculty mentors and train in translational research methods.

As the first Milman BCTR Faculty Fellow, Marianella Casasola, associate professor of human development, is also extending her child-development research into community-based settings. Her Cornell Infant Study Laboratory works closely with Madison County, New York, Head Start, testing Casasola's previous research on how preschool children acquire spatial skills and language in a new school environment.

"I am excited that Professor Casasola has chosen to work with Head Start, for this was a vision of Professor Urie Bronfenbrenner," says Evalyn Milman, who studied under Bronfenbrenner, a child psychologist and BCTR namesake. "His purpose was to establish a comprehensive program in early childhood education -- working with children from low-income families -- designed to establish an environment for the development of cognitive skills. This research into constructive play by young children, and exploration of how spatial and language skills develop, will bring results that will have lasting impact in the field of education."

Joined by Rebecca Seguin, assistant professor of nutritional sciences, and Christopher Wildeman, associate professor of policy analysis and management, in the inaugural group of BCTR Faculty Fellows, the scholars receive funding for a graduate research assistant, pilot studies and translational research pursuits.

"With our focus on public engagement, not only do gifts to the BCTR support Cornell, but they serve the greater good due to our work helping a wide range of populations, such as struggling adolescents, children in foster care, families in the military or older adults," Pillemer says. "It will help to generate new knowledge for the benefit of communities and to allow faculty and students to marry science and service, which was a hallmark of Urie Bronfenbrenner's work."

 

Bronfenbrenner Center gifts support the greater good - Ezra Update

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The Future of Youth Development Research: Perspectives from Research and Practice, Thursday, May 5, 2016

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The Future of Youth Development Research: Perspectives from Research and Practice
Distinguished panel

Thursday, May 5, 2016
3:30-5:30pm
Live stream



This live-streamed event celebrates the inauguration of the BCTR's Program for Research on Youth Development and Engagement. Please join to view a panel discussion with prominent youth development researchers and practitioners, each speaking on their vision for the future of translational youth development research.

Live stream link (not active until May 5th, shortly before the event begins): https://vod.video.cornell.edu/media/PRYDE+Inaugural+Event/1_ba6al5x6

Program

3:30pm    Introduction and Remarks
Karl Pillemer, Director
Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research
Rachel Dunifon, Associate Dean for Research and Outreach
College of Human Ecology
Anthony Burrow, Director
Program for Research on Youth Development and Engagement

 3:50pm    Panel Discussion
Lawrence Aber
Lisa A. Lauxman
Robert M. Sellers
Anthony Burrow, moderator

5:30pm    Closing Remarks
Anthony Burrow

 

Panelist bios

aberLAWRENCE ABER, Ph.D.
Dr. Lawrence Aber is the Willner Family Professor of Psychology and Public Policy at the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development, and University Professor at New York University, where he also serves as board chair of its Institute of Human Development and Social Change and co-director of the international research center “Global TIES for Children.” He received his Ph.D. in Clinical-Community and Developmental Psychology from Yale University. His basic research examines the influence of poverty and violence, at the family and community levels, on the social, emotional, behavioral, cognitive and academic development of children and youth. Currently, he conducts research on the impact of poverty and HIV/AIDS on children’s development in South Africa (in collaboration with the Human Sciences Research Council), the impact of preschool teacher training quality and children’s learning and development in Ghana (in collaboration with Innovations for Poverty Action) and on school- and community-based interventions in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Niger, Sierra Leone and Lebanon (in collaboration with the International Rescue Committee).

lauxmanLISA A. LAUXMAN, Ph.D., M.B.A.
Dr. Lisa Lauxman is Director, 4-H National Headquarters, Division Youth & 4-H, Institute of Youth, Family and Community, National Institute of Food and Agriculture, U.S. Department of Agriculture. Dr. Lauxman provides national programmatic oversight and leadership for 4-H positive youth development working with the land-grant universities’ Cooperative Extension to reach 6 million youth and over 500,000 adult volunteers. Her areas of expertise and research are positive youth development, non-formal learning, youth voice, civic engagement, and youth and adult leadership. She earned her Doctorate in Educational Psychology with a minor in Psychology in Program Evaluation Research Methodology and an M.A. in Educational Psychology from the University of Arizona, an M.B.A from Emporia State University, and a B.S. in Home Economics Extension from Kansas State University.

sellersROBERT M. SELLERS, Ph.D.
Dr. Robert Sellers is Vice Provost for Equity, Inclusion, and Academic Affairs, the Charles D. Moody Collegiate Professor of Psychology and Education, and Faculty Associate, Research Center for Group Dynamics, University of Michigan. Dr. Sellers graduated cum laude with a B.S. in psychology from Howard University, and received his Ph.D. in personality psychology from the University of Michigan. Dr. Sellers’ primary research activities focus on the role of race in the psychological lives of African Americans, including an examination of student athletes’ life experiences. He is a co-founder of the Center for the Study of Black Youth in Context, a past President of the Society for the Psychological Study of Ethnic Minority Issues, a fellow of two divisions of the American Psychological Association, and a fellow of the Association for Psychological Science. Among his awards is the Theodore Millon Mid-Career Award in Personality Psychology from the American Psychological Foundation, and the APAGS Kenneth & Mamie Clark Award for Outstanding Contribution to the Professional Development of Ethnic Minority Graduate Students.

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“Doing Translational Research,” the new BCTR podcast

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doing translational researchBCTR projects actively do translational research (TR) in their work to address the most pressing human problems, but the center, and projects, also study and advance the processes which make for effective translation of research into practice. Our new podcast, Doing Translational Research, features conversations from researchers, practitioners, and others involved in the process of doing TR, exploring what they study and how they connect and work with others to strengthen research and practice.

Our first episodes are now available on Soundcloud, Stitcher, and iTunes (search on "Doing Translational Research"). In our first episode, BCTR director Karl Pillemer interviews Cornell professor of nutritional science Carol Devine. Professor Devine studies how food choices over the life course are shaped by life transitions, social roles, and the lived environment. In episode two, Karl talks with Charles Izzo, a research associate in the BCTR whose work focuses on factors that influence the quality of interactions between those in the helping professions (youth workers, home visitors) and the clients they serve.

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$1.2M gift funds new BCTR youth development project

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From the Cornell Chronicle:
By Sarah Thompson

With the newly-formed Program for Research on Youth Development and Engagement (PRYDE), Cornell researchers are joining with the New York State 4-H program and the 200,000 children and teens who participate annually to foster groundbreaking research on youth development.

girl doing experiment

"Smart Clothing, Smart Girls" middle school participants work on design projects.
Photo credit: Dani Corona/College of Human Ecology

PRYDE will lead projects in real-world settings and seek to improve community-based youth education programs from the ground up.

Funded by a three-year, $1.2 million startup gift from Rebecca Q. Morgan ’60, PRYDE staff and faculty affiliates plan to create a hub for serving young people’s developmental needs in four theme areas: life purpose, healthy transitions into adolescence, intergenerational connections and productive social media use. PRYDE experts will conduct translational research in close collaboration with 4-H staff and youth across New York, accelerating the speed at which evidence can be applied to new and existing programs while also sparking young people’s interest in social science.

Based in the Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research (BCTR) in the College of Human Ecology, PRYDE is believed to be the first university program in the nation to apply innovative social science methods to strengthen 4-H programs.

“Rigorous research is needed to help identify and recognize the specific ingredients of youth programs that have the best impacts on youth,” said Anthony Burrow, PRYDE director and assistant professor of human development. “Essentially, ensuring that research and evidence-based programming are part of these programs enables others to know that the good work they are doing is producing the outcomes they are striving for.”

PRYDE will rely on a community-based participatory research model developed and used by BCTR researchers for more than two decades. Tapping a Community Engagement Work Group comprising 4-H educators and field staff, campus-county teams will identify research needs, design studies and interpret and disseminate data through a statewide “research ready” network. They hope to fill knowledge gaps on how to best nurture healthy youth development through 4-H and other out-of-school programs. Training to build research literacy, as well as an annual Youth Development Conference for off-campus 4-H staff to hear the latest evidence from Cornell researchers, will deepen campus and county connections.

kids shooting rocket

4-H members participate in the "Have a Blast with Rocketry" program during 4-H Career Explorations at Cornell.

“The opportunity to apply practices with a strong evidence base, and work with faculty who can evaluate current efforts and identify what’s working and why, has potential to make a huge difference. This work team will create a space for real engagement and shared program development,” said Andrew Turner, PRYDE advisory committee member and state leader of the New York State 4-H Youth Development Program, part of the BCTR and Cornell Cooperative Extension.

PRYDE leaders selected the program’s research priorities based on input from 4-H educators, as well as the potential to address urgent needs of young people. Burrow, who studies human purpose and identity, will examine how these developmental assets can be woven into youth learning and engagement programs. Jane Mendle, assistant professor of human development who has previously used the 4-H network to test expressive writing interventions for teen girls, will lead research on how to support the well-being of children as they enter puberty.

Social media, often seen as a danger to youth, will be studied for its potential to connect them to each other and their communities in a project led by Elaine Wethington, professor of human development and of sociology. Karl Pillemer, BCTR director and Hazel E. Reed Professor of Human Development, will test new models to bring together people of all ages in meaningful activities.

In its work, PRYDE seeks to expose adolescents to cutting-edge human development research and train future generations of youth development specialists. Cornell undergraduates are being recruited for the first group of PRYDE Scholars, who will be mentored by faculty in youth development research. PRYDE plans to hire graduate research assistants and will also host campus visits and create other outlets for 4-H members to observe social science research firsthand.

For these reasons, the program “greatly piqued my interest,” said Morgan, a donor with a longstanding interest in youth development. A former California state senator, Morgan participated in 4-H while growing up on a Vermont dairy farm and briefly served as a 4-H agent in Tompkins County after her Cornell graduation. At cattle shows and fashion displays and as president of her local club, Morgan credits 4-H with teaching her everything from accounting to leadership to dressmaking.

“I am most excited that PRYDE is taking science and putting it into service to help young people,” Morgan said. “4-H is the largest youth organization in the U.S. and it offers a readymade network for translating Cornell research into effective youth programs. The program is positioned to become a national leader on this topic.”

PRYDE will officially launch with a campus panel discussion May 5, featuring prominent researchers and practitioners discussing the future of translational youth development research. The event will be live streamed for the public.

“The generosity of Becky Morgan will allow us to speed up the process of uniting science and service in youth development, bringing world-class researchers together with expert practitioners to create a better world for young people,” Pillemer said. “It is rare when a gift can have such far-reaching consequences.”

 

$1.2M gift launches research program to better serve youth - Cornell Chronicle

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