As a sociologist of inequality studies, Tess researches unequal health and environmental burdens, predominantly in the United States. Her research has connected her to people around the world who are fighting for healthier, safer environmental futures, and these individuals continue to teach her and shape her work. She is committed to public sociology and civic engagement and making her research efforts helpful for the community-based organizations with which she collaborates.
Tess is also an educator whose interest in teaching was sparked by formative years in the Southeastern US. These early experiences showed her that education could either reproduce inequalities or help undo them. She has been fortunate to be connected to and trained by teachers who use educational endeavors to promote improved democracy and civil rights.
At Cornell, Tess has been involved with the Knight Center as an instructor of first-year writing seminars and has helped students find engaged, service-learning experiences through her work with the Community Food Systems academic minor. Aside from her role in Global Development, Tess also teaches with the Cornell Prison Education program. She holds both an MS and PhD in Development Sociology from Cornell University and completed her BA at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Research & Outreach Focus
Tess is primarily interested in ways that environmentalhealth issues compound persistent poverty and worsen inequality. Over the last decade, Tess’ research has had two main themes: 1. water politics and water rights and 2. the race and class dimensions of environmental crises. Tess is currently wrapping up a multi-year review of a federal effort to reduce water pollution problems for low-income communities. She also works with US-based environmental justice organizations as part of her commitment to applied research and policy-related action.
Tess is a teacher who believes that at best, education can help grow more engaged citizens who are better equipped to make positive impacts for themselves and others. Her teaching seeks out ways for students to examine difficult global questions with more critical, nuanced analysis, inside and outside of the formal classroom. Tess works to make students more successful in their research endeavors, in particular those related to evidence-based writing.
Her experiences in many different types of classrooms around the world have reminded her of the importance of meeting students where they are while expanding their analytic skills. Tess has been able to apply this philosophy to more ‘traditional’ classrooms in higher education, as well as nontraditional ones and in the service-learning programs in which she has been involved. She works to make courses incorporate engaged components, active learning, and “learn-by-doing” aspects whenever possible.
Tess strives to demonstrate the thoughtfulness that she wants students to take up by maintaining the spirit of an enthusiastic learner herself. She finds that the art of teaching requires ongoing input from others and an openness to revisiting and refining one’s practices, which is one of the reasons she is fortunate to be connected to educators she admires.
DSOC 4400: Community Food System Capstone
DSOC 2030: Global Garbage
EDUC/COMM/HD 3110: Educational Psychology
Sociology of public health and environmental justice
Get to know Tess Academic focus: I am a sociologist who studies social inequality. Specifically, I research the disproportionate environmental and health-related burdens low-income and nonwhite groups in the United States face. I’ve also been...