Cornell University: Warner wins Levy Engaged Teaching and Research Award

Mildred Warner, professor of city and regional planning in the College of Architecture, Art and Planning and global development in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, has won the 2022 George D. Levy Engaged Teaching and Research Award for her work to promote age-friendly communities and public health in Tompkins County, New York.

Given by Cornell’s David M. Einhorn Center for Community Engagement, the Levy award recognizes a faculty member whose collaborative efforts within the community have resulted in exemplary and sustained community-engaged projects. Warner was honored for her three-year partnership with the Tompkins County Age Friendly Center for Excellence (AFCE).

The AFCE project was conducted virtually with undergraduate and graduate students remotely participating in meetings of the AFCE task force and other local human services organizations and municipalities.

“By working with our multi-agency, multigenerational team, Dr. Warner was able to give the students a chance to develop skills in integrative learning and cultural competency as they worked with our various community partners across all municipalities, rural and urban,” said Lisa Monroe, director of the Tompkins County Office for the Aging. “Their work was instrumental in our update of the Tompkins County Age Friendly Action plan – helping to identify unmet needs, action priorities and steps for moving forward.”

Students conducted a case study of the multi-agency response to food insecurity during the early months of the pandemic, interviewed community members and leaders, assessed access to pharmacies and grocery stores for residents of senior housing, and designed an outreach initiative to build emergency support for childcare centers at risk of closure due to COVID.

“This collaborative partnership was a strength of the project,” Warner said. “Students learned how to work with community stakeholders, provide useful information in a timely manner, and respect the limits and priorities of the community.”

For the last 30 years, Warner’s research has focused on local government service delivery and policy in the areas of social policy, public health, economic development and fiscal stress.

In a letter of support for Warner’s award nomination, students Grace McCartney ’22, Jeremey Xu ’21 and Lin Khant Oo ’21 said the experience introduced them to working with community groups and gave them meaningful ways to support short-staffed agency representatives who were eager to respond to community needs.

“While COVID-19 limited our opportunities for face-to-face involvement, this project opened a window onto community practice that really helped us see the value of collaborative work, how to engage across cultural difference – as several of us are international students – and build skills in integrative learning. The opportunity really enhanced our undergraduate experience, at a very difficult time,” the students wrote.

Working closely with Warner and research associate Xue Zhang, M.S. ‘17, Ph.D ’19, students designed community workshops on age-friendly practices, advocated an all-ages (from children to seniors) approach to AFCE planning, presented to various community groups and, along with community partners, presented to the Upstate New York conference of the American Planning Association and the New York State City/County Management Association.

The George D. Levy Engaged Teaching and Research Award, which was established by the family of George D. Levy, MBA ’54, in his memory, comes with a $5,000 prize.

Warner will use the prize to support additional student interns to work with the Child Development Council on its efforts to expand childcare supply and with the Office for the Aging to support implementation of some of the action steps in the new Age Friendly Action plan, with special emphasis on access to services in outlying rural communities.