Certificate program bolsters NYS public health workforce

Gen Meredith, center, associate director of the Cornell Public Health Program, works with colleagues Zoe Wakoff, right, and Katie Lesser, left, in Schurman Hall.
Gen Meredith, center, associate director of the Cornell Public Health Program, works with colleagues Zoe Wakoff, right, and Katie Lesser, left, in Schurman Hall.

As a registered nurse and director of patient services for the Chautauqua County Health Department in western New York, Wendy Douglas conducted case investigations and monitoring during the COVID-19 pandemic. The experience laid bare the disparities public health departments are designed to address but not all workers are equipped to encounter.

“Very few of our health department’s employees have any public health background when they start working here, and it sometimes shows,” Douglas said. “For example, there can be a lack of understanding of health equity.”

The issue is nationwide in scale. On-the-job experience is the only source of public health training for most professionals in governmental agencies. Only 14% of those workers have received formal higher education in the field. To close the skills gap that is, in part, responsible for the profession’s decadeslong workforce decline, a team of Cornell faculty members and researchers – led by Gen Meredith, an associate professor in the College of Veterinary Medicine’s Department of Public and Ecosystem Health – partnered with eCornell to launch the university’s Public Health Essentials online certificate program.

Read more on the Chronicle.

Pre-college big data certificate offered free to Cornell community

Close-up of hands typing on a laptop

A new pre-college certificate program designed to help high school students develop data analysis skills complementary to a wide range of academic and professional fields will be offered at no cost to the children of Cornell faculty and staff and underserved students nominated by local high schools and other partners.

“Big Data for Big Policy Problems,” offered by eCornell in collaboration with Cornell’s Jeb E. Brooks School of Public Policy and the School of Continuing Education, is a rigorous, non-credit version of the course offered to Cornell students.

Read the full story on the Cornell Chronicle.

Nolan School graduate champions global social change

Brian Kaufman, ’08, leads asset management for the U.S. hospitality portfolio of Blackstone Real Estate – the world’s largest owner of commercial real estate. A graduate of the Cornell Nolan School of Hotel Administration, his time in the program prepared him not only to manage this enormous portfolio, but to strengthen the underlying assets through strong operational interventions. A recent example: last December, Kaufman received the Peter G. Peterson Award ‒named for one of the firm’s co-founders and given to just one of the company’s more than 4,000 employees each year ‒ in recognition of his efforts to drive progress on Blackstone’s goal of 2,000 refugee hires across its global portfolio companies and real estate properties.

“At Blackstone, we build diverse teams because we believe they make stronger companies,” said Kaufman. “We want to use our resources and scale to provide new opportunities to thousands of courageous refugees around the world. I’m honored to be on the team leading this initiative.”

At the time Blackstone announced its refugee hiring commitment, Kathleen McCarthy, Global Co-Head of Blackstone Real Estate, said, “Blackstone’s advantage lies in our deeply integrated approach to building resilient companies and properties, and doing so at scale. Today’s commitment to 2,000 refugee hires across our portfolio reflects tremendous focus on this effort from our team and allows our portfolio companies and real estate properties to welcome a powerful spectrum of backgrounds, identities and experiences.”

Blackstone is no stranger to setting and hitting ambitious targets. Their refugee hiring target builds on the success of both their Veterans Hiring Initiative ‒ which hired more than 100,000 US veteran, veteran spouses and caregivers across Blackstone’s portfolio ‒ and their signature Career Pathways program, which aims to recruit, retain and advance diverse and historically underrepresented talent at Blackstone portfolio companies.

Cornell has also benefited from Kaufman’s commitment to social change. In addition to serving on the Dean’s Advisory Board at the Nolan School and the Advisory Board of the Nolan Center for Real Estate and Finance (CREF), he helped establish eCornell’s social impact program for students attending Historically Black Colleges and Universities. Supported by Blackstone and CREF, directed by Nolan School Professor Steve Carvell and authored by Nolan School faculty, the program has awarded more than 100 students from eight institutions eCornell’s Commercial Real Estate certificate. It gives students the guidance and tools to manage project planning, investment and financing decisions, real estate assets and more.

Spelman College alumna Amanda Kelley, now an analyst for JPMorgan Chase & Co., says the program helped launch her career and empowered her to negotiate a higher salary.

“I am grateful to have learned so much at such an early stage of my career,” Kelley said. “The program not only educated me on commercial real estate topics but allowed me to secure a salary commensurate with my worth.”

Laterrance Jackson, a Morehouse College senior and U.S. Navy veteran, earned the certificate in 2022. “The program gave me invaluable insight and real-world exposure to the field,” he said.

Significant as his impact at Cornell has been, Kaufman continually seeks out opportunities to make a difference beyond his alma mater and his workplace. He is a Board and Executive Committee member of the Altneu Synagogue on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, which helped relocate Ukrainian refugees and recently donated an ambulance to United Hatzalah, a volunteer Emergency Medical Service organization that provides free emergency medical first response throughout Israel.

Kaufman says he is humbled by the progress and impact of the programs at Cornell – and the support he has received along the way.

“The hotel business is a people business; it’s people serving people. There are no barriers to entry in pursuing acts of kindness or service to others,” he said. “As our school’s founding benefactors said, ‘Life is Service’. It is through service that our industry can be a leader of global social change.”


Joanne Troutman is director for social impact programs at eCornell.