2015 Kaplan Family Distinguished Faculty Fellows

James P. Lassoie, International Professor of Conservation, Department of Natural Resources College of Agriculture and Life Sciences  

Over the past two years we have developed a successful service-learning twocourse sequence entitled IARD/LATA 2011/6011: Building Student-Community Partnerships in Intag, Ecuador. Student teams begin working with community partner organizations on specific projects during fall semester while they also prepare for a three-week field service trip over winter intersession. Spring semester is dedicated to reflection and completion of final project deliverables. To date about 30 students have worked directly with our Ecuadorean partners, which currently include community-based cooperatives focused on promoting women artisans, organic coffee cultivation, ecotourism, and watershed conservation, as sustainable alternatives to major infrastructure development. Despite the interactive nature of IARD/LATA 4011/6011, which enables continued project refinement over successive years, there is currently no opportunity for a student to develop a community-based research project leading to a senior honors thesis. As a Kaplan faculty fellow I would develop and test an option for integrating an undergraduate research program into IARD/LATA 4011/6011. In the short term, this project would enhance student service-learning while also building sustainable development capacity for Intag communities. From a longer term perspective, it would begin a process whereby Cornell Faculty and students work with communitypartners to frame the needs and goals of their organizations into distinct research questions. Perhaps over time we would build the capacity of our partner organizations to do this out to framing and to reach the wider research community independent of our direct involvement.


Rebecca A. Seguin, Assistant Professor, Division of Nutritional Sciences 

Community engagement initiatives to identify local challenges and solutions to support healthier food and physical activity environments hold promise in addressing many rural health disparities. A resident-led community assessment project we recently completed provided the impetus for a group of residents in Herkimer County, New York to seek a vehicle for positive change in their physical environment. We are now partnering with those residents to conduct a community-based research project, called the HEART (Healthy Eating and Activity for Rural Towns) Club of Herkimer County. The Kaplan Family Faculty Fellowships will help create opportunities for student involvement in Herkimer HEART Club as well as provide public engagement learning opportunities for students enrolled in NS1600, including the addition of a new course learning objective. We will involve graduate and undergraduate students in one or more of the following:

1.) Participate with community health educators and residents at site visits in the Herkimer HEART Club during community events 

2.) Observe (undergraduates) and facilitate (graduate students) a HEART Club focus group and key informant interviews

3.) Help develop program evaluation tools

4.) Analyze and evaluate the adoption, implementation, and maintenance of the Herkimer HEART Club

5.) Develop an innovative, resident-informed civic engagement project plan relevant to a broad range of public health topics, informed by the Herkimer HEART Club example (NS1600 only).