Dr. Valerie Reyna is a professor and department extension leader for the Human Development department of the Cornell University College of Human Ecology. She directs the Human Neuroscience Institute and co-directs the Center for Behavioral Economics and Decision Research.
What is your role with Extension?
I’ve been director of Extension since 2005, and one of the jobs that I have is to get the word out about what people are doing in the Human Development Department. Our Department is filled with people that go into the community and do a variety of things, a lot of which takes place in New York State. We integrate fundamental, basic science with societal problems. It’s a lot of work to do both, but we think that’s where a place like Cornell–and the College of Human Ecology–fill a huge need.
How has working with CCE has informed your research?
Working with young people, adults in the community, and Extension staff have taught us a great deal about how to promote healthy choices. For example, the content of the curriculum for reducing the risk of sexually transmitted disease and premature pregnancy has benefited from meeting with people on the front lines. We took their input and updated that curriculum. We took a curriculum, a multi-component curriculum that had some effect according to the CDC, and then we added our theoretical component to update it, magnify that effect, and make it last. We also developed an implementation manual. And all of this work benefitted enormously from having a lot of discussions with staff in CCE as well as the people from the community. I always tell my students to do a lot of listening because people will have crucial information about the nature of their life experience.