Among the new members joining the Futures Initiative Faculty Advisory Board in 2023 is Chris Palmedo, a clinical professor at the CUNY Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy (CUNY SPH). Dr. Palmedo is co-founder of the CUNY SPH master’s of science (MS) degree program in Health Communication f2or Social Change. He is affiliated with the CUNY Center for Systems and Community Design, the Healthy CUNY Initiative, and the CUNY Urban Food Policy Institute. Dr. Palmedo, whose research and teaching focus on health communication and social marketing, joined CUNY after a 20+ year career holding public affairs positions in health organizations. He is the co-author of a textbook for college students on personal health with a focus on upstream determinants of health. In 2022, Dr. Palmedo was the recipient of the CUNY SPH Dean’s Award for Excellence in Teaching.
We are honored that Dr. Palmedo is serving on the board and invite you to read on below to find out more about his scholarship and connection to FI. In his responses to questions posed by Graduate Fellow Rod Hurley, Dr. Palmedo also talks about his passion for artistic expression through music and discusses his work with the CUNY Campaign for Healthy Food (CHeF) in its mission toward a “sustainable, healthy, and just food environment across the CUNY system.”
1. How did you first learn about the Futures Initiative?
It was 2014. I had just joined CUNY, and FI Founder, Distinguished Professor Cathy Davidson was delivering the CUNY IT Conference keynote presentation at John Jay College. She had us write things down on an index card and I still have that card on my office bulletin board! [see image below] I believe she had us write April 22, 1993 as the day the Mosaic browser enabled virtually anyone to browse the internet relatively easily. The big takeaway then was how slowly higher education adapted to opportunities that had been made possible decades earlier.
That presentation is still relevant today. Higher Ed still resists pedagogical innovation, and that resistance stifles educational progress. And we wonder why colleges and universities are struggling to stay afloat financially. There are still many practices that are done because it’s the way it was done last semester, which is the way it was done last year. There’s a lot that hasn’t changed since the mid-20th century (think desks in rows, in-person “lectures,” etc.). Prof. Davidson offered concepts I could take back to my classroom, like think-pair-share, and I’ve been following her work and her advice ever since.
2. Why/how did you become an FI advisory board member?
I was lucky to work with FI Executive Director Adashima Oyo on a health care policy summit in 2018. The summit explored single payer options and pathways for New York State. We didn’t achieve our goals (LOL), but it was a worthwhile event. I think of Dr. Oyo as a friend of the CUNY School of Public Health and I’m glad she brought my name forward as a potential advisory board member. I’ve also gained insights from speaking with Dr. Christina Katopodis about innovation in learning. My hope is to learn wonderful things through my association with FI and then become a resource for my colleagues at CUNY SPH.
3. What perspective do you bring to this role?
I like to think I can bring a few perspectives! One might be the public health perspective. It’s well-known that education is beneficial for health, both at an individual level and a population level. We certainly don’t want to see students dropping out of college for health-related reasons (hunger, uninsurance, domestic partner abuse, mental health, homelessness, medical emergencies, etc.). Likewise, we don’t want to lose anyone because instructors aren’t able to keep students engaged in learning. As a fellow in the Healthy CUNY Initiative and the CUNY Urban Food Policy Institute, I’m interested in finding ways to make our campuses as health-promoting as possible. If anyone reading this wants to learn more, let’s talk!
4. What projects are you currently working on or planning?
I’m currently working on an effort to improve the food and beverage environments for CUNY students. (more info at https://www.healthycuny.org/chef).
Nutrition is such an important pathway to health and CUNY students deserve the best food and beverage environment possible. Right now, though, you wouldn’t describe the food and beverage options as highly “student-centered.” Hopefully it will be someday. Many people at CUNY looking for ways to improve access to water and healthy food for all students, and so a part of that effort is engaging with folks from all over the university.
5. Other than your academic work, what else are you passionate about? What motivates you outside the classroom?
I’m passionate about artistic expression. For me this mostly happens through music, but I’m fascinated by how art can create and enhance any number of experiences. Art and creativity can enhance an evening out on the town, the home we live in, a public space, and of course it can enhance the teaching and learning experience.
As a musician, I’m interested in the role of music in social expression and progress, both for the musicians themselves and for social change. I understand there’s someone at FI, someone whom I have yet to meet, who has a similar interest in this topic 🙂
6. Is there anything else you would like to share?
One of the ways I teach is through the “case method,” where students explore a scenario – a story, usually led by a protagonist – related to leadership decisions in health communications. Along with the story, cases include tables, charts, figures, data, etc. This method is used extensively at Harvard University, in its graduate programs (business, law, medicine, education, etc.). In my course, we explore established cases and then students write one of their own. I now have a nice collection which I can share with other educators. As anyone involved in education knows, a great class discussion is an extraordinary experience; it can include profound insights, interesting twists and turns, and the realization by everyone that something magical has just occurred, and we were all part of it.