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Conference takes multigenerational approach to youth development


Jutta Dotterweich, Stephanie Graf, and Tom Hirschl talking and laughing

Jutta Dotterweich, Stephanie Graf, Tom Hirschl, and Kimberly Fleming in discussion at the YDRU

By Sheri Hall for the Cornell Chronicle

What can youth learn through interviews with older adults? How does immigration status affect the lives of youth and their parents? Can we better design towns and cities to meet the needs of children and senior citizens? How is the opioid epidemic affecting the well-being of children and teens?

These were among the questions discussed by Cornell faculty experts, Cornell Cooperative Extension county leaders, 4-H educators and community partners at the eighth annual Youth Development Research Update, May 30-31 in Ithaca. The event is sponsored by the Program for Research on Youth Development and Engagement (PRYDE) in the Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research (BCTR), College of Human Ecology.

This year’s conference, “Multi-Generational Approaches to Youth Development,” focused on research and programs that reach across generations.

“The idea is to connect people who are leading and running programs in the communities with faculty so they can apply cutting-edge research to their programs,” said Jen Agans, conference organizer and assistant director of PRYDE, which sponsored the conference. “We also plan time in the conference for practitioners, who know so much about their communities, to share their knowledge with researchers.”

A prime example of this collaboration is the program Building a Community Legacy Together (BCLT). The idea began when Karl Pillemer, a gerontologist and BCTR director, began working on a book to capture the wisdom of senior citizens. Pillemer and his research assistants were incredibly moved by their interviews and wondered if they could provide the same experience to youth participating in 4-H.

Researchers for the book worked with 4-H leaders to develop a program that trains youth to conduct interviews with senior citizens from their community. After youth interview the elders, they organize the lessons they learned and create a presentation to share with their community.

Early results found the program promotes respect toward elders and combats the problem of ageism. Youth also learn valuable skills, such as interviewing and research techniques, and make meaningful connections with older member of their communities.

To date, 150 youths in New York state have participated in the program, and 4-H leaders are in the process of adding it to the national 4-H curriculum.

“Partnering with CCE educators to implement this program is exactly what translational research is all about,” said Leslie Shultz, a BCTR researcher who helped launch BCLT. “The program’s success was, in part, based on our ability to work together and adapt the program to the individual needs of each implementation team. While the core curriculum was maintained, we were able to stretch and mold the program in consideration of each community’s specific population, interests and structural resources.”

Other researchers presented on a wide variety of topics. Matthew Hall, associate professor of policy analysis and management, discussed his research showing that undocumented students are less likely to graduate from high school and enroll in college due to their immigration status.

Mildred Warner, professor of city and regional planning, talked about how city planners can make decisions about parks and recreation, neighborhood design and transportation that benefit children and older adults, and ultimately result in social and economic benefits for the community.

And Laura Tach, associate professor of policy analysis and management, discussed a new program called Cornell Project 2Gen that supports research, policy development and practice that address the needs of vulnerable children and their parents.

Stephanie Graf, CCE youth and family community program leader in Jefferson County, presented about her role in implementing BCLT – the program that teaches youth to interview elders – in her community.

“The connections between researchers and the Cooperative Extension practitioners in the field are stronger than they’ve ever been,” she said.

The conference helped practitioners to understand the data behind the work they do, she said. “We all know that children growing up in low-income families don’t have the same capacity to do well in school compared to children with higher socio-economic status,” she said. “But we learned about the data behind that.”

Conference takes multigenerational approach to youth development - Cornell Chronicle

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PRYDE Scholars garner multiple awards


From left, Town of Dryden Supervisor Jason Leifer, Greta Sloan '18, Cornell Vice President for University Relations Joel Malina and Town of Dryden Deputy Supervisor Dan Lamb.

The first cohort of PRYDE Scholars graduate this year. Two seniors who served as PRYDE Scholars for the past two years have received prestigious awards for their leadership, innovation, and commitment to improving the world.

Julia Lesnick HD ’18 was awarded the 2018 Human Ecology Alumni Association’s Outstanding Senior Award, which recognizes a graduating senior who consistently exemplified the mission of the College of Human Ecology during their years at Cornell. And Greta Sloan HD ’18 has been named the 2018 winner of the Cornell University Relations’ Campus-Community Leadership Award, which honors a graduating senior who has shown exceptional town-gown leadership and innovation.

PRYDE, or the Program for Research on Youth Development and Engagement, aims to develop social and behavioral interventions that will benefit youth in 4-H and, ultimately, their communities. The PRYDE Scholars program chooses rising juniors who spend two years learning how to apply findings from basic research to 4-H programming in New York.

As a PRYDE Scholar, Julia works under the guidance of associate professor Jane Mendle in the Adolescent Transitions Laboratory. Her research has focused on rejection sensitivity and relationship outcomes in adolescent girls. Her poster for this work was accepted for presentation at the Society for Research on Adolescence conference for this year in April.

Julia Lesnick presenting her research poster

Julia Lesnick presenting her research

“I'm so honored and excited to receive this reward and represent the College,” Lesnick said. “The learning, research, and service opportunities I have been able to pursue through Human Ecology are incredible, and I'm so grateful to be a part of this community. I hope that I can continue to contribute to CHE [College of Human Ecology] and represent its mission and values in my future endeavors.”

Lesnick also won the Biddy Martin Undergraduate Prize for Writing in LGBTQ Studies and the Florence Halpern Award for Leadership in Community Service.

Sloan focused her research on cumulative risk in childhood ecological systems and severity of hyperactivity and impulsivity.

“I found that the accumulation of stress on a caregiver, family conflict and factors associated with poverty were linked to hyperactivity and impulsivity in a sample of youth at an East Coast behavioral health agency I interned at last summer,” Sloan said. “I was grateful for this opportunity, and care about these families.”

In addition to her work as a PRYDE scholar, she volunteered for four years and this year served as co-president of Cornell’s Youth Outreach Undergraduates Reshaping Success program, which mentors youth in mobile home parks in the town of Dryden, New York. This fall, she will serve as a Teach for America corps member, teaching in an elementary school.


Youth advocate Greta Sloan ’18 wins campus-community leadership award – Cornell Chronicle

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Using comics to convey research


By Lori Sonken for the Cornell Chronicle

A 3-panel comic showing - panel one: text, "join the NFLC - Spring 2079!" above a group image of student; panel 2: header text "what the hell is the NFLC?" above image of a student with a speech bubble saying, "It's the Nilgiris Field Learning Center in Kotagiri, India!"; panel 3: two students are talking one says, "We study sustainable development and do research in communities with our partners." the other says, "Yep, there are equal numbers of Cornell students and young people from tribal communities in the Nilgiris, like me!"

The first page of a comic Neema Kudva, associate professor in city and regional planning, is using in recruitment efforts for the Nilgiris Field Learning Center in India.

Cornell faculty members and academic staff participating in the Knowledge Matters Fellowship presented their projects, including comics, videos and websites, at a showcase wrapping up the yearlong transmedia training program May 10 at A.D. White House.

“My students said they better understood the papers they read” after creating a comic strip illustrating research and findings from a peer-reviewed journal article, said Jennifer Agans, assistant director of the Program for Research on Youth Development and Engagement at the Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research.

Agans asked undergraduates enrolled in Human Development 4850 to make a 12-frame, persuasive comic making the research relevant for nonacademic audiences. Before tackling the assignment, students received instruction in developing comics from Jon McKenzie, the Arts and Sciences Dean’s Fellow for Media and Design and visiting professor of English, who runs the Knowledge Matters Fellowship.

Another Knowledge Matters fellow, C.-Y. Cynthia Lin Lawell, associate professor and the Robert Dyson Sesquicentennial Chair of Resource Economics in the Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management, produced a four-minute video that highlights research in a paper she wrote with a former Ph.D. student in the Journal of Environmental Economics and Management about the effects of driving restrictions on air quality.

Making the video “made me think about how to make the research my students and I are doing interesting and accessible to a general audience,” she said.

To solicit support for a clemency case, Sandra Babcock, faculty director of the Cornell Center on the Death Penalty Worldwide, is developing a PechaKucha – a presentation format that uses narration and 20 slides displaying for 20 seconds each to convey information concisely.

Maureen Hanson, the Liberty Hyde Bailey Professor in the Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics, worked with a volunteer WordPress expert to build a website for the Center for Enervating Neuroimmune Disease, which conducts research on myalgic encephalomyelitis and chronic fatigue syndrome, supported by a grant from the National Institutes of Health.

The Knowledge Matters Fellowship, sponsored by the Office of Faculty Development and Diversity (OFDD), Cornell University Library, Office of Engagement Initiatives and the Center for Teaching Innovation,will be offered in 2018-19, said Yael Levitte, associate vice provost for faculty development and diversity. Email OFDD more information.

Faculty uses new formats – including comics – to convey research - Cornell Chronicle

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Grant unites Project 2Gen, partners in fight against opioids


By Stephen D'Angelo for the Cornell Chronicle

Portraits of Rachel Dunifon, Laura Tach, and Anna Steinkraus.

Project leaders Rachel Dunifon, Laura Tach, and Anna Steinkraus. Dunifon and Tach are also co-directors of Cornell Project 2Gen in the BCTR.

The College of Human Ecology, in partnership with Cornell Cooperative Extension-Tompkins County (CCE-Tompkins), has been awarded the William T. Grant Foundation’s first Institutional Challenge Grant to respond to increasing rates of opioid abuse and child maltreatment in low income, rural communities in upstate New York.

The foundation supports research to improve the lives of young people. The award seeks to shift how research institutions value research and to encourage them to build sustained research-practice partnerships with public agencies or nonprofit organizations to reduce inequality in youth outcomes.

“Typically, universities reward faculty members for publishing articles in academic journals,” said Adam Gamoran, foundation president. “This grant challenges universities to reward faculty members whose research is directed to public service. The winning application will support research on one of our most vexing social problems, the opioid crisis, in a partnership that is poised to take action on the basis of the findings.”

The winning team, led by College of Human Ecology researchers Rachel Dunifon and Laura Tach and CCE-Tompkins program coordinator Anna Steinkraus, will attempt to understand the association between opioid use and child maltreatment rates; examine the role of family drug treatment courts in mitigating child maltreatment; and evaluate evidence-based interventions that may reduce the risk of opioid abuse for low-income youth and families. Findings from each study will be used to improve local practices and programs.

“We are honored to have been chosen, as the vision of the grant reflects the mission of our college and the land-grant mission of Cornell University,” Dunifon said. “The College of Human Ecology’s public engagement mission from the start has been about breaking down boundaries between academic research and its application to policy and practice.”

She continued, “This grant supports a true collaborative research-practice partnership that brings together faculty and community educators to address a pressing local issue: the opioid epidemic. We will not only generate cutting-edge research on this important topic, we will also provide faculty and our community partners with the time, funds and skills necessary to engage in this type of research collaboration. By doing this, we will pave the way for future research-practice partnerships to succeed.”

A committee of faculty and CCE-Tompkins staff will select faculty members to serve as fellows and receive mentoring from the partnership leads. Tach, an associate professor of policy analysis and management, is the first faculty fellow selected under the grant, and will bring her expertise in poverty and social policy to the project.

To support this work, housed in the Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research, Cornell has committed a postdoctoral fellow for the first half of the award, a faculty fellowship, and an undergraduate internship at CCE-Tompkins. The College of Human Ecology will also review current support for research-practice partnerships, initiate conversations about how such work is measured and valued, and build capacity at CCE-Tompkins to facilitate high-quality evaluation work.

“We are excited to partner with the College of Human Ecology on this project, focusing on the opioid epidemic that has affected communities all across New York state and the country,” said Steinkraus, a principal investigator on the grant.

The College of Human Ecology will receive $650,000 over three years, with the opportunity to apply for a two-year continuation grant.

Grant to unite Cornell, partners in fight against opioids - Cornell Chronicle

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High schoolers spawn fish, grow lettuce on NYC school rooftop

Tags: CCE,   CUCE-NYC,   education,   media mention,   school,  

By Jon Craig for the Cornell Chronicle

Philson Warner works with Teishawn W. Florostal Kevelier, a 2012 graduate of Food and Finance High School. Kevelier is now a 4H youth development associate and 4H research assistant. Jason Koski/University Photograpahy

Philson Warner works with Teishawn W. Florostal Kevelier, a 2012 graduate of Food and Finance High School. Kevelier is now a 4H youth development associate and 4H research assistant.
Jason Koski/University Photograpahy

Atop a roof overlooking Manhattan’s skyline at sundown Oct. 25, more than 300 public officials and proud parents of Food and Finance High School students toured a first-of-its-kind aquaponics greenhouse.

Philson A.A. Warner, founding director of the Cornell Cooperative Extension – New York City (CUCE-NYC) Hydroponics, Aquaculture, Aquaponics Learning Lab, offered lively, personal tours of the newly opened greenhouse. The structure is used to grow lettuce and fish through a natural process that conserves energy and the environment.

“The youngsters learn to do more with the sciences,” Warner said of his teenage students, whom he called “Cornell colleagues.”

Eight computers monitor “the weather situation above us,” to help control indoor temperatures, moisture and ideal humidity for growing vegetables, Warner said.

“This is what we call a green, green, green greenhouse,” he said, noting it produces “clean, safe, fresh foods. ... Nothing goes to waste.”

Even its solar panels are producing surplus energy that is fed into the grid.

Heads of lettuce that can take up to 10 weeks to grow outdoors are cultivated in just three weeks at the school on West 50th Street. About 8,000 pounds of tasty fish spawned monthly are another benefit of the scientific project.

As part of the greenhouse’s grand opening ceremony, dozens of high school students greeted guests and served crab cakes, vegan meatballs, fancy desserts and other hors d’oeuvres that they cooked in the school’s kitchens.

Jennifer Tiffany, Ph.D. ’04, executive director of CUCE-NYC, heaped praise on everyone who helped produce the hands-on learning environment and thanked the “brilliant students” who served as caterers and provided warm hospitality for the event.

“What an amazing, amazing community of young people,” Tiffany said during the ceremony.

Warner designed the 1,664-square-foot greenhouse, which is now part of the New York City Department of Education’s Park West Educational Campus. The project was financed through private donations, the New York City Council and the Manhattan Borough President’s Office.

Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer said she was very proud to have been instrumental in approving and helping secure public and private funding for the project. “You are training people for the future,” she said.

“You could be in the Bronx and they are talking about the fish” produced at the Manhattan high school, Brewer gushed. “Without Cornell, this would not have been possible. This is a very exciting project.”

The Food Education Fund, a nonprofit foundation, also has been a key partner in developing and sustaining the learning labs. Nan Shipley, chair of the board of the Food Education Fund, proudly pointed out that the Food and Finance High School has a 91 percent graduation rate, with most of its students advancing to college or full employment in related fields.

About 400 students are enrolled at Food and Finance High School. The school’s curriculum includes paid internships at restaurants and other food service businesses. The opening of the greenhouse marked the latest expansion of ongoing learning lab programs in a long-standing partnership with Cornell University.

High schoolers spawn fish, grow lettuce on NYC school rooftop - Cornell Chronicle

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Celebrating the launch of Cornell Project 2Gen


By Stephen D'Angelo for the Cornell Chronicle

Lori Severens, Lindsay Chase-Landsdale, and Lisa Gennetian in panel discussion

Lori Severens, Lindsay Chase-Landsdale, and Lisa Gennetian in panel discussion

At an Oct. 23 symposium, Cornell researchers launched a new Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research initiative: Cornell Project 2Gen, a project that leverages cutting-edge approaches to support vulnerable families and disrupt the intergenerational cycle of poverty.

Project 2Gen, led by co-directors Laura Tach and Rachel Dunifon of the College of Human Ecology’s Department of Policy Analysis and Management, focuses on addressing the needs of at-risk children and their parents to capitalize on the strong connection between parents’ well-being and children’s healthy development.

“Project 2Gen takes a two-generational approach to addressing the needs of vulnerable families by supporting research and programs that consider both parents and children,” Dunifon said. “And so the two-gen approach acknowledges that parents’ well-being and children’s well-being are intertwined, and that we really can’t address one without the other.”

According to Dunifon, the project reflects the mission of the College of Human Ecology, which combines that of a land-grant institution and an Ivy League university. Through this focus, the project aims to build a vibrant research community and outreach network.

“Project 2Gen is going to be a hub of innovative work that brings together research, practitioners and policymakers, developing and carrying out work in this area, testing new approaches, evaluating their effectiveness, and implementing them locally and throughout the state,” Dunifon said.

The approach is gaining momentum because research documents a strong connection between parents’ economic, psychological and social well-being and children’s healthy development.

The project, which will leverage collaboration between the work of students and faculty members across Cornell, is developing partnerships with community, state and national organizations and government agencies to support parents and children simultaneously.

Within this approach, there are several methods researchers and practitioners can use. Some two-generational programs begin by focusing on children and then add a component to support parents, such as parent education or skills classes. Others may focus on parents, then add a component for children, such as child care or nutrition support. Still other approaches target systems that influence families, such as schools or workplaces.

Ithaca mayor Svante Myrick

Ithaca mayor Svante Myrick

The Oct. 23 symposium included a panel of experts focused on the topic Disrupting the Cycle of Poverty: Two-Generation Approaches from Research, Practice and Policy. Panelists were Lindsay Chase-Lansdale, the Frances Willard Professor of Human Development and Social Policy at Northwestern University; Lisa Gennetian, research professor at the Institute for Human Development and Social Change, New York University; Svante Myrick ’09, mayor of Ithaca; and Lori Severens, assistant director at Ascend at the Aspen Institute.

“I want to say thank you for the work you do,” said Myrick, who as a youth took part in the Head Start program, which promotes the school readiness of young children from low-income families through agencies in their local community. “My siblings and I all had an opportunity to start working at age 16, and we were all able to be successful because of the work that you’ve done, the research that you’ve done, to prove that this isn’t only the big-hearted thing to do, but the hard-headed thing to do.”

New initiative launched to support vulnerable families - Cornell Chronicle

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Iscol lecturer takes on Trump immigration policies


Rebecca Heller speaking

Rebecca Heller speaking

By Stephen D'Angelo for the Cornell Chronicle

Rebecca Heller, co-founder and director of the International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP), urges advocating for the rights of refugees against the waves of right-wing populist xenophobia sweeping through the U.S. and Europe. She was on campus Oct. 18 to deliver the College of Human Ecology’s Iscol Family Program for Leadership Development in Public Service Lecture.

Heller said her interest in the legal challenges facing refugees began on a trip to Jordan the summer after her first year in law school when met with six refugee families from Iraq. Each of the families independently identified their primary problem as a legal one, due to both the United Nation’s and U.S.’s complex bureaucratic asylum process.

In 2008, while still in law school, she founded IRAP with several peers with a mission to organize law students and lawyers to develop and enforce a set of legal and human rights for refugees and displaced persons.

“When [President] Trump was elected, we realized that the fundamental nature of our work was about to really significantly shift, where we were going to go from arguing that the refugee process should be improved and working with the government to find technical ways to make things more efficient, to defending the very existence of a refugee system or admissions at all,” Heller said.

After launching IRAP chapters at the University of California, Berkeley, and at Columbia, Stanford and New York University law schools, Heller began to think how best to mobilize and deploy her “army of a couple thousand lawyers” who wanted to fight for the rights of refugees.

The Monday after the president’s inauguration, a version of the travel ban was leaked to Heller. She fired off messages to her vast network of law students and pro bono lawyers, urging them to call their clients who had travel documents and say, “Get on a plane, right now. The doors to the U.S. are closing.”

Shortly after, Heller had the realization that whenever the travel ban order was signed, there would be thousands of people in the sky who had legal permission to enter the U.S. when they took off but would land as undocumented aliens – and no one knew what would happen to them.

“The travel ban was signed at 4:30 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 7. We had clients coming in that day, and we had lawyers waiting for them,” she said. After a client was detained upon landing, Heller worked with other organizations to file a civil action against the state agent who holds the defendant in custody.

“We stayed up all night and we drafted a nationwide class-action habeas petition … and we filed it at 5:30 in the morning because wanted to make sure it was on file with the court before any international flights could depart so that no one could be deported. We got a hearing for that night in Brooklyn at 7:30 p.m. … at 8:30 p.m. we won, and they released 2,100 people from airports all over the country.”

Rebecca Heller speaking with lecture attendees

Rebecca Heller speaking with lecture attendees

Heller and IRAP have taken legal action against all three travel bans. Their most recent filing, “International Refugee Assistance Project v. Trump,” was won by IRAP. The 91-page decision was issued in the early hours of Oct. 18.

Heller, who lost family in the Holocaust, thinks often about the ship The St. Louis, which carried Jewish refugees from Europe to the United States. The ship traveled from U.S. port to U.S. port but was not allowed to dock. It eventually had to return to Europe.

“They’ve actually traced the fate of a lot of people from The St. Louis, and most of them ended up dying in concentration camps. … and I think – what if every single port The St. Louis docked at, there were 5,000 Americans standing there chanting, ‘Let them in.’ Maybe history would have been a little bit different.”

Quoting Dr. Seuss, Heller told the audience in conclusion: “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better, it’s not.”

Iscol lecturer takes on Trump immigration policies - Cornell Chronicle

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Creativity at 4-H National Science Day event

Tags: 4-H,   children,   media mention,   NYC,   STEM,   youth development,  

Preparing an arm band monitor

Preparing an arm band monitor

By Jon Craig for the Cornell Chronicle

A Brooklyn elementary school was transformed into a high-tech laboratory during a Cornell-led science discovery day Oct. 4.

About 300 schoolchildren jammed all corners of Public School 21 as part of the 10th annual 4-H National Youth Science Day that reached an estimated 100,000 schoolchildren in 50 states. Last fall, Cornell led the national “drone discovery” theme.

This year’s interactive learning challenge, “Incredible Wearables,” was developed by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Youths engineered and built electronic armbands that measured their fitness while exercising. The PS 21 gymnasium was filled with “wired-up” students jumping rope, spinning hula hoops or running in place. Fellow youth scientists then monitored and measured heartbeats and number of steps or jumps taken.

In another room sponsored by faculty, staff and volunteers from Cornell University Cooperative Extension-New York City (CUCE-NYC) and National 4-H Council, the schoolchildren:

  • explored New York state’s parks using a giant geological map, led by Susan Hoskins, senior extension associate at Cornell’s Institute for Resource Information Sciences;
  • learned about hydroponics, or growing plants without soil, which wowed most youngsters, led by Philson A.A. Warner, extension associate and founding director of the CUCE-NYC Hydroponics, Aquaculture, Aquaponics Learning Lab;
  • learned about energy by pedaling a bicycle that produced electricity to power light bulbs and a fan;
  • created bird feeders from pine cones and planted fall bulbs to help pollinators; and
  • learned about sugar levels in juices, beverages and fatty foods.

The goal was to inspire youths to gain interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) and pursue college and careers in those fields.

Trying out the Google virtual reality viewers

Trying out the Google virtual reality viewers

Another interactive exhibit, sponsored by Google, allowed students to wear virtual reality goggles that exposed them to moving undersea images, a dairy farm in Minnesota and other science-based scenes.

Lucinda Randolph-Benjamin, CUCE-NYC extension associate for family and 4-H youth development, said this year’s combination of high-tech fitness tests in one part of PS 21 as well as interactive exhibits in another part transformed the flagship Brooklyn school into a “crazy but incredible learning environment.”

“There’s a lot more to keep track of this year,” Randolph-Benjamin exclaimed as she herded gaggles of elementary pupils.

Last fall, “drone discovery” and the accompanying engineering design challenges were developed by staff and faculty members in Cornell Cooperative Extension and the College of Human Ecology. In addition to solving real-world problems, students were taught about safety and regulations, remote sensing and flight control – a project that continues to gain national traction.

Organized chaos spells creativity at Brooklyn school science event - Cornell Chronicle

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NY Times’ Nicholas Kristof talks inequality, empathy, children


Nicholas Kristof speaking

Nicholas Kristof speaking

By Stephen D'Angelo for the Cornell Chronicle

To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the birth of Cornell developmental psychologist Urie Bronfenbrenner and his contributions to child well-being, the Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research welcomed Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Nicholas Kristof of The New York Times to deliver the Urie Bronfenbrenner Centennial Lecture Oct. 2.

“Nicolas Kristof’s work links so well with Urie’s in his passion for uncovering the truth, and for creating a better world for children and for all human beings. He’s a powerful public advocate for the poor and vulnerable and oppressed,” said Karl Pillemer, director of the Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research and the College of Human Ecology’s Hazel E. Reed Professor in the Department of Human Development, in his introductory remarks.

Kristof’s talk, to an almost 600-person crowd in Call Auditorium, drew on his work promoting gender equality around the world and on public health and poverty with a focus on children.

“I think one reason why we haven’t been effective at addressing inequality is that we often start too late, and the roots of inequality are often very early in life,” he said. “Inequality of opportunity is maybe the most fundamental inequality of all.”

He continued, “There actually is a certain amount of agreement in principle that we should do more to address that, in one poll, 97 percent of Americans agree that there should be greater equality for children at a starting point.”

From reporting on inequality in education for girls in China to sexual slavery in Cambodia, Kristof painted a picture of young people across the globe and in the United States who are being left behind. He said translational research will lead to better outcomes for these populations.

“There has been more and more scholarship looking at this issue, at the roots of inequality the impact of early childhood, even prenatal experiences on lifetime outcomes,” Kristof said. “I think that the traditional view is that children are endlessly resilient, and it’s clear that that is not the case.”

As one example, he said programs that coach underprivileged mothers on basic care can have long-lasting impacts on infants. Women taught the importance of avoiding alcohol and drugs, managing anger when frustrated with a child, and what to do if a husband or boyfriend is mentally or physically abusing their child have a massive impact on future graduation rates, teen pregnancy, and drug and alcohol use among their children.

Further, Kristof pointed to family planning and education programs as profoundly effective for young women and children, compared with programs focused on promoting marriage and a traditional faculty structure.

“As far as we can tell, American kids and European kids have sex at about the same rates, based on self-reporting surveys, and yet American girls get pregnant and have babies three times as often,” Kristof said. “This seems to be because American kids don’t have as good access to comprehensive sex education and access to reliable forms of birth control.”

Overall, he said, girls who have this education are not only empowered but more likely to stay in school, to go to college and to do well in their adult and family lives.

“Increasingly, we do have an evidence base and randomized control trials that give us a sense of what works and what creates opportunities,” Kristof said. “Something that always puzzles me is that we have what works at what cost, yet we don’t apply that knowledge.” He pointed to the “empathy gap” – which leads wealthier Americans to be less engaged in many social issues compared with those who are poorer – as a partial culprit.

“There is no doubt that poverty sometimes involves self-destructive behavior that compounds poverty,” he said. “But we have to talk about our collective responsibility to address these issues, and that’s where I believe we have a collective failing when we have so many impoverished kids in this country.”

Kristof concluded, “If we can bridge that empathy gap more often and bring in evidenced-based policies that create opportunity, then we can create a very different kind of America.”

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Nicholas Kristof to give Bronfenbrenner Centennial Lecture Oct. 2


Nicholas Kristof

Nicholas Kristof

By Sheri Hall for the BCTR

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Nicholas Kristof, a writer for The New York Times known for his work exposing social injustice, will speak on campus Monday, Oct. 2, at 5 p.m. in Call Auditorium. The event is free and open to the public.

Kristof will deliver the Bronfenbrenner Centennial Lecture to honor the 100th anniversary of the birth of developmental psychologist Urie Bronfenbrenner, who taught at Cornell for more than 50 years and is considered by many to be the father of translational research.

Kristof’s lecture is titled “A Path Appears: Promoting the Welfare of Children.” The talk will draw on his work in promoting gender equality around the world and on public health and poverty with a focus on children. His reporting has documented the living conditions of people across the globe and advocated for human rights.

“Nicholas Kristof is the perfect person to help us celebrate the centennial of Urie Bronfenbrenner’s birth,” said Karl Pillemer, director of the Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research and the Hazel E. Reed Professor in the Department of Human Development. “Urie and Nicholas share an interest in protecting the rights of children and in the ways citizens and policymakers can act positively to change our society for the better.”

Bronfenbrenner’s work at Cornell included developing theory and research designs at the frontiers of developmental science, finding ways to apply those theories to use in policy and practice, and communicating his findings to the public and to decision-makers.

His research was among the first to demonstrate the environmental and social influences on child development and was critical in helping the U.S. government develop the Head Start program, which provides early childhood education, nutrition and parenting support to low-income families.

The Bronfenbrenner Center in the College of Human Ecology capitalizes on translational research as a means to more closely link the twin missions of research and outreach.

Kristof holds a bachelor’s degree in government from Harvard University and a law degree from Oxford University, England, which he attended as a Rhodes scholar.

Nicholas Kristof to give Bronfenbrenner Centennial Lecture Oct. 2 - Cornell Chronicle

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