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AAAS Leshner Leadership Institute Names New Public Engagement Fellows

2018 - 2019 Leshner Leadership Institute fellows | AAAS

The American Association for the Advancement of Science is plesaed to announce the selection of 15 food and water security researchers as the 2018-19 AAAS Alan I. Leshner Leadership Institute Public Engagement Fellows. The scientists were chosen for having demonstrated leadership and excellence in their research careers and an interest in promoting meaningful dialogue between science and society.

The water security work of the incoming AAAS Leshner Fellows draws from varied disciplines, including anthropology, civil engineering, biological and environmental sciences, geography, hydrology, political science and economics, plant genetics and horticulture.

“I’m thrilled to join a community of like-minded scientists committed not only to water security as a research focus, but to the creation of new and better ways to engage in dialogue with the public on one of the grand challenges of the 21st Century,” said Wendy Jepson, professor of geography at Texas A&M University.

The 15 AAAS Leshner Fellows appointed, and the many others who applied, demonstrate clear commitment from scientists and researchers within the food and water security research community to engage the public on many critical issues. The AAAS Leshner Fellows program, now in its third year, builds on the long-standing commitment of AAAS to science communication and public engagement.

The AAAS Leshner Fellows will meet in June 2018 at AAAS headquarters in Washington, D.C. for a week of intensive public engagement and science communication training, networking and public engagement plan development.

“The skills and experience offered by the Leshner Fellowship will enable the sustained, strategic and scalable engagement needed to understand and address resource competition in an urbanizing world,” said Dustin Garrick, research fellow and co-director of the water program at the Smith School Enterprise and the Environment at the University of Oxford.

Throughout the year following the training, AAAS Leshner Fellows will develop and implement public engagement activities, train other scientists in their communities and work to increase capacity for public engagement at their institutions. AAAS staff will provide ongoing support and continuing professional development throughout their fellowship year.

“As part of this fellowship, I want my project to serve as a model for use-inspired, community-engaged research at Northern Kentucky University, by re-positioning community members from participants to collaborators. This shift can not only shape what research happens, but how research happens, making our science more relevant to policy outcomes and more meaningful to communities… Community engagement is not only outreach – it has the power to transform and improve our science,” said Kirsten Schwarz, associate professor of biological sciences and director of the Ecological Stewardship Institute at Northern Kentucky University.

The Leshner Leadership Institute was established in 2015 through philanthropic support. The Institute is managed by the AAAS Center for Public Engagement with Science and Technology, established in 2004 by Alan I. Leshner, now chief executive officer emeritus of AAAS.

The 2018-2019 AAAS Leshner Fellows are as follows (full bios are available on our website):

  • Kate Brauman, PhD
    Lead Scientist, Global Water Initiative, Institute on the Environment, University of Minnesota
  • Sarah Feakins, PhD
    Associate Professor of Earth Sciences, University of Southern California
  • Dustin Garrick, PhD
    Departmental Lecturer and Co-Director, Smith School Water Programme, Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment, University of Oxford
  • Kristine Hopfensperger, PhD
    Associate Professor of Biological Sciences; Director of the Environmental Science Program, Northern Kentucky University
  • Wendy Jepson, PhD
    Professor of Geography, Texas A&M University
  • Craig Just, PhD
    Assistant Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of Iowa
  • Michael Kantar, PhD
    Assistant Professor of Tropical Plant and Soil Sciences, University of Hawaii
  • Roger Kjelgren, PhD
    Director, Mid-Florida Research and Education Center at the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences
  • Julie Lesnik, PhD
    Assistant Professor of Anthropology, Wayne State University
  • Alex Racelis, PhD
    Assistant Professor of Earth, Environmental, and Marine Sciences; Associate Dean for Community Engagement and Outreach, College of Sciences, University of Texas Rio Grande Valley
  • Laura Schmitt Olabisi, PhD
    Associate Professor of Community Sustainability, Michigan State University
  • Kirsten Schwarz, PhD
    Associate Professor of Biological Sciences; Director, Ecological Stewardship Institute, Northern Kentucky University
  • Christopher Scott, PhD
    Director, Udall Center for Studies in Public Policy; Professor of Geography and Development, University of Arizona
  • Merritt Turetsky, PhD
    Associate Professor and Canada Research Chair, Integrative Biology, University of Guelph
  • Pei Xu, PhD
    Associate Professor of Civil Engineering, New Mexico State University


Elana Kimbrell

Project Director