Academic journal article Human Ecology

What I Did Last Summer: Research and Outreach

Academic journal article Human Ecology

What I Did Last Summer: Research and Outreach

Article excerpt

Arid Hart '13, a Biology and Society major, spent her summer visiting central New York homes to observe infants at play, trying to decode how children's home environments connect to their long-term emotional and cognitive development. She explored the roots of the well-documented "income achievement gap"--why children who grow up in poverty tend to fall behind in school achievement, health, and other key areas.

An aspiring doctor who wants to specialize in family medicine, Hart believes the experience will help her to "maintain this holistic view in the treatment I give to my patients and the greater community I serve."

Last summer, Hart and 14 other students aided faculty research on topics as varied as childhood obesity, nutritional biochemistry, and nonsuicidal self-injury through the College of Human Ecology's Undergraduate Summer Research Awards program. Ten others interned with Cornell Cooperative Extension, supporting community projects in more than 15 New York counties. Meanwhile, dozens more Human Ecology students worked at internships around the globe to strengthen their professional skills.

"A core mission of our college is to provide undergraduates with opportunities to integrate their curriculum with research and outreach in real-world settings," said Alan Mathios, the Rebecca Q. and James C. Morgan Dean. "As students prepare to graduate, our goal is to help them not only be critical thinkers and consumers of knowledge, but producers of knowledge with the focus on connecting findings to individuals and communities in ways that have a meaningful positive impact."

In faculty labs, in communities across the state, and at jobs and internships, Human Ecology students made a powerful impact this summer. Read on for firsthand accounts of their experiences.

Julie Avrutine '13

Major: Human Development

Project: Interventions for Risk Reduction and Avoidance in Adolescents, directed by Valerie Reyna, professor of human development


As an undergraduate research assistant, I work on a project that teaches adolescents about healthy eating and fitness and sexual health. I work on this study in the Ithaca area during the academic year, but this past summer I worked in New York City through the Cornell Cooperative Extension internship program. (See related sidebar on page 13.)

The study environment for the summer was vastly different from Ithaca. My first duties were to contact sites where we could administer our curricula and recruit students to participate in the intervention. I spent many hours researching Beacon Programs, Summer Youth Employment Programs, and summer camps for adolescents ages 13-18. After a few weeks of coordinating with sites, we began teaching in two different neighborhoods: one in Brooklyn, and one on the Upper East Side.

Though I have taught several times in Ithaca and served various populations, I had a unique and inspiring experience teaching in New York City. I was forced out of my comfort zone--a daunting task at first--but then quickly realized how much I truly benefited from exposing myself to new people and places. Even more, I was lucky enough to see firsthand how my teaching and our curricula impacted the adolescents we worked with.

The professionals with whom I worked also greatly contributed to my experience by guiding me with their expertise, which was invaluable to me throughout the summer. In the future, I aspire to have the same level of understanding that they do about public health, working with teens and carrying out successful interventions.

My experience this summer certainly reaffirmed my passion for promoting and actively participating in public health initiatives after my graduation in May. Not everything was easy or simple, but any adversity or stress just further prepared me for real-world experiences. Overall, I could not be more thankful for this internship. …

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