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RTI International Names 2020-21 Class of RTI University Scholars

The University Collaboration Office welcomes RTI University Scholars, Shauna M. Cooper, PhD, Emily W. Gower, PhD, and Kathleen M. Harris, PhD from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

The RTI University Scholars Program supports highly talented academics who take scholarly leave from their home institutions to collaborate with RTI researchers.

The 2020-21 scholars will spend up to one academic year at RTI working on strategic research projects.

This cohort encompasses vast expertise in race and culture, global health innovation, and social equity.

  • Cooper, an associate professor in the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience, and affiliated faculty in the Center for Developmental Science and the Institute of African American Research at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, will collaborate with RTI’s Phillip Graham, DrPH. The collaborative project will focus on improving the context of fathering, health, and wellbeing by focusing on fathering engagement and child/adolescent risk prevention and health promotion, and fathering as a factor for men’s health with a particular focus on fathers residing in marginalized and underserved communities. Additionally, Cooper and Graham will seek to understand families’ responses to stress and uncertainty resulting from the COVID-19 public health crisis.
  • Gower, an associate professor in the Department of Epidemiology, Gillings School of Global Public Health, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and adjunct associate professor in Ophthalmology, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and the Department of Epidemiology and Prevention, Wake Forest Public Health Sciences will collaborate with Scott McPherson, MPH, and Rebecca Flueckiger, PhD, to gather meaningful and actionable insight on the opioid crisis using social media. The collaborative project will focus on determining whether a smartphone-based, image-recognition driven app can improve community-wide Trachomatous Trichiasis (TT) detection. Gower will be embedded in the International Development Group’s Global Health Division and, more specifically, compliment the Act to End Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) | East Program.
  • Harris is the James E. Haar Distinguished Professor of Sociology, Principal Investigator and Director of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health, Carolina Population Center, and adjunct professor of Public Policy, respectively at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Craig Hill, PhD, Senior Vice President, Social, Statistical, and Environmental Sciences shares, “Dr. Harris and I have — both personally and organizationally — a long-standing and solid relationship dating back to the late 1990s, when RTI began the data collection for the ground-breaking National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health (Add Health), for which Dr. Harris was the Principal Investigator. Over those many years, I — and RTI — have gained an appreciation for Dr. Harris’ creative and careful scholarship. Now, we’re able to match Dr. Harris with a team of RTI scientists, who, as a transdisciplinary team, will apply a multi-omics lens to that rich and robust longitudinal data. Because we collected biological samples from the AddHealth cohort (in addition to questionnaire data), this new work can examine health outcomes disparities among the cohort by studying the biomarkers of environmental exposures. We look forward to novel approaches — and findings — from this new collaboration.” Harris studies social inequality and health by seeking to understand how disadvantaged environments and social experiences influence physical well-being across the life course.

Since 2014-15, RTI has hosted University Scholars each academic year. Two scholars participated in the program’s inaugural year, seven in 2015-16, six in 2016-17, five in 2017-18, four in 2018 -19, and four in 2019-20.