Faculty selected as Chancellor’s Public Voices Fellows for fall 2019

Vanderbilt University
(Vanderbilt University)

Hiba Baroud, Jeffrey Bennett and Suzana Herculano-Houzel have been named to the first cohort of the Chancellor’s Public Voices Fellowship, a semester-long program designed to expand Vanderbilt’s global reach by amplifying the impact of faculty academic research.

Starting July 1, these three fellows will work with the Division of Communications to develop a highly tailored communications and promotion plan that builds recognition for their scholarship and public profile, and connects their work to new audiences.

“Vanderbilt’s faculty are leading discovery and insight in areas of critical public interest, and our university is committed to extending the reach of their groundbreaking research,” said Chancellor Nicholas S. Zeppos. “The Public Voices Fellowship supports our commitment to faculty development by providing a new approach advancing Vanderbilt’s thought leaders and content experts in the public sphere.”

The program is the key recommendation of the 2018 report of the Committee for Enhancing Voices in the Public Sphere.

“The Public Voices Fellowship provides a platform from which the university can strategically promote and more widely disseminate the discoveries of our faculty for the benefit of society,” Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Susan R. Wente said. “These three faculty were chosen from a highly competitive pool of candidates given the exciting potential their work has for resonating publicly. This fellowship will help extend the impact of their work, enhance their own profiles and elevate the university’s while possibly leading to new collaborations and opportunities.”

Baroud, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering and the Littlejohn Dean’s Faculty Fellow, will focus on “Measuring Impact and Building Resilience in Infrastructures and Communities.” Her areas of study include critical infrastructure systems modeling, risk analysis, statistical modeling, risk-informed decision analysis and resilience monitoring. She joined the School of Engineering faculty in 2015.

Bennett, associate professor of communication studies, will work to increase public attention for “Managing Diabetes: The Cultural Politics of Disease.” He specializes in critical studies of health and medicine, citizenship, LGBT/queer studies, cultural studies, and rhetorical theory and criticism. Bennett, who began teaching in the College of Arts and Science in 2016, has been honored for his outstanding contributions to LGBT scholarship in communication studies.

Herculano-Houzel, associate professor of psychology and biological sciences, will explore best promotional practices for “The Secret to a Long Life Is in the Brain: A New Framework for Understanding How Long We Take to Develop and Age.” She pioneered the method for rapidly and accurately measuring the number of neurons in brains and was a 2018 TEDxNashville speaker.

“It is more important than ever to bring the academic sphere and public sphere into greater alignment, and amplify the impact of Vanderbilt’s research by deepening engagement in public discourse,” said Steve Ertel, vice chancellor for communications, who served on the committee and has been a key partner in the development of the program. “The Chancellor’s Public Voices fellowship is an important part of that overall effort and provides our world-class scholars with the time and resources needed to advance their work in this way. We will offer personalized guidance and advanced communication strategy and support to shine an even brighter light on the incredible work of our faculty and its positive impact on society.”

Programming for the fellows will include creating a strategic promotion plan; training in particular skills such as media interviews; guidance with developing companion products such as newspaper opinion pieces and TED talks; and assistance with using distribution channels that include web and social media.

The Office of the Provost will announce a call for spring 2020 fellows later this semester, with nominations due on May 20.