After a two-year search, Provost Michael Kotlikoff announced on Wednesday that Prof. Rachel Dunifon, policy and analysis management, will be the new dean of the College of Human Ecology.
Gaining approval from the Cornell Board of Trustees and the State University Board of Trustees, Dunifon will serve a four-year term as dean of the human ecology school.
Dunifon served as the interim dean of the College of Human Ecology for nearly two years, taking over after Prof. Alan Mathios, policy and analysis management, stepped down in 2018. Before becoming interim dean, Dunifon was the senior associate dean for research and outreach. Dunifon first joined the College of Human Ecology in 2001 and specializes in child family policy.
“I am honored to serve as dean of the College of Human Ecology,” Dunifon said in a University press release. “This is an incredibly exciting time in our college history.”
The University’s announcement comes after the College of Human Ecology was embroiled in a months-long conflict among students and faculty and the administration over whether to rebrand the school into the College of Public Policy.
While the Social Sciences Implementation Committee was in favor of a College of Public Policy, the University ultimately voted against the motion — opting for an interdisciplinary School of Public Policy that combines faculty from the College of Arts and Sciences and Human Ecology.
Additionally, the University supported a measure to adopt “superdepartments” in economics, psychology and sociology. These “superdepartments” would include faculty from the human ecology college, the arts college and the School of Industrial and Labor Relations.
In the press release, Kotlikoff said Dunifon’s service as interim dean was instrumental during Cornell’s review of its social sciences, calling her leadership “outstanding, forward-thinking.”
“My goal is to build on that energy, to enhance and articulate our identity and contributions and to work across campus with the other colleges and deans to collaborate in areas such as human health and well-being, sustainability, policy and design,” Dunifon said in the press release.
Dunifon graduated in 1994 from Davidson College with a bachelor’s degree in psychology, and earned a Ph.D. in human development and social policy from Northwestern University in 1999. Before coming to Cornell, Dunifon also completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Michigan School of Public Policy.