Christopher Wildeman, professor in the Department of Policy Analysis and Management, will become director of the Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research (BCTR) on July 1.
Wildeman follows gerontologist Karl Pillemer, the Hazel E. Reed Professor in the Department of Human Development, who is taking on a new role as the College of Human Ecology’s senior associate dean for research and outreach.
The BCTR brings together social science researchers with health and human service organizations to expand and strengthen the connections between research, policy and practice. The goal is linking research with real-world concerns to improve the health and well-being of families and communities. The center was named for the late Urie Bronfenbrenner, whose research helped to inspire the federal Head Start program. Today, more than 40 Cornell faculty affiliates work with practitioners to design, implement and evaluate projects and programs focused on nutrition, youth development, parenting, health care, aging and related issues.
“For well over 50 years, Cornell University—and especially the College of Human Ecology—have been a hub for translational social science in the United States,” Wildeman said. “I am extremely excited to follow in the footsteps of founding director John Eckenrode and outgoing director Karl Pillemer, both of whom have been excellent leaders of both the center and the translational social science research community.”
Wildeman’s research focuses on the prevalence, causes and consequences of imprisonment with an emphasis on how prison terms affect families, children and health. He also studies child maltreatment and the foster care system and is co-director with founding director John Eckenrode of the National Data Archive on Child Abuse and Neglect (NDACAN), a data archive that collects and distributes child abuse data sets and promotes collaboration among child maltreatment researchers. Wildeman has served as associate director of the BCTR since 2016.
“As a leading scholar on mass incarceration and child maltreatment, Chris understands the importance of integrating research, policy and practice when addressing the needs of vulnerable families”,” said Rachel Dunifon, who will become interim dean of the College of Human Ecology on July 1. “I am proud of all that the BCTR has accomplished and know that it will be in excellent hands under Chris’ leadership.”
Under Pillemer’s direction, the BCTR expanded its programs in a number of areas, including social media outreach, training for investigators in translational research methods, and the development of new program areas. During Pillemer’s tenure, the BCTR received several major gifts, including $1.2 million donation Rebecca Q. Morgan ’60 to provide 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 a $1.6 million gift from Evalyn Edwards Milman ’60 and Stephen Milman ’58, MBA ’59 to fund a BCTR faculty fellowship, part of a new program to embed professors in the BCTR and link their research directly to community needs.
“Serving as director of the BCTR has been among the most rewarding experiences of my career,” Pillemer said. “Cornell University and the College of Human Ecology provide an ideal environment for a center that aspires to create a better marriage between science and service. I have had the chance to meet with many alumni who have been highly enthusiastic about the BCTR’s mission, some of whom have made generous gifts to support programs like PRYDE and the BCTR Fellows program. Chris Wildeman’s energy, ideas, and focus on data-driven policy will ensure that the center grows and remains at the cutting edge of translational research.”
Wildeman intends to build on the BCTR’s success by making the center more integral to training and teaching both graduate and undergraduate students. He plans to expand the already-impressive grant portfolio currently under the BCTR umbrella, strengthen connections between the BCTR—and Cornell more broadly—and policymakers in Albany, and make the BCTR even more central to the social sciences by investigating avenues through which Cornell might develop a flagship social science dataset.