Exterior of Nancy Nicholas Hall in the evening, with lamps and windows glowing.
News & Events

Human Ecology welcomes new faculty members

The School of Human Ecology is thrilled to welcome five outstanding scholars joining our faculty this fall. They are strengthening our teaching and research in the areas of consumer science, civil society & community studies, and design studies.

Belkis J. Cerrato CaceresBelkis in front of greenery, smiling at the camera.

Assistant Teaching Professor, Consumer Science

I am an economist. My research interest is centered around food access and is impact on individuals and their communities. I also love teaching. I enjoy using in-class experiments and activities that increase classroom interaction and promote active learning. I believe student academic success is a two-way street, where both faculty and students need to work towards the common goal of learning. It is a collaborative process that can be challenging, but definitely rewarding!

Ben FisherA white man smiling, with short brown hair, wearing a blue shirt.

Associate Professor, Civil Society & Community Studies

My work focuses on school criminalization, which refers to the ways that the strategies, technologies, and logics of the criminal legal system appear in schools. I focus on issues including police in schools, school discipline, and schools’ use of a variety of security measures. Much of my research in these areas addresses issues of racial equity with an eye toward making schools more just and equitable places for students. I use a variety of research methods to study school criminalization, including quantitative, qualitative, and mixed methods.

Learn more about Ben Fisher in his New Faculty Focus Q&A.

Katie FitzpatrickA white woman with glasses smiling, with short, brown, wavy hair, wearing a black suit over a green top.

Associate Professor, Consumer Science

My research is at the intersection of consumer policy, food policy, and health policy. It motivated by an interest in understanding and improving policies that can improve economic well-being and advance opportunity. I study mainstream and alternative financial services (AFS, i.e., payday lenders, pawn lenders, check cashers, and more), the determinants of food insecurity and use of food assistance, and the benefits of health insurance coverage.

Erin HamiltonErin stands outside in a park with trees in the background, smiling at the camera.

Assistant Professor, Design Studies

The overarching goal of my research and teaching is the creation of environments to support effective human functioning and well-being. In this pursuit, I recognize the relationship between humans and the environments they inhabit is not unidirectional, but a true symbiosis in which environments and people are mutually sustained. Positive sustainable environments that support human functioning and well-being, are ones that foster reasonable decision-making and patterns of behavior, with important implications for transforming communities to be more sustainable and just.

My scholarship lies at the intersection of sustainable design and environmental psychology, exploring how conservation behavior may be shaped through environmental and social cues in green buildings. In this work, I challenge designers to consider the enhanced possibilities for sustainable environments that promote environmentally responsible behavior with the potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and spill over to other contexts.

Learn more about Erin Hamilton in her New Faculty Focus Q&A.

Zoua M. VangAsian woman with shoulder-length brown hair, blue neck scarf and jacket, smiling.

Meta Schroeder Beckner Outreach Professor, Ecology of Healthy Communities, Civil Society & Community Studies

My interdisciplinary scholarship lies at the intersection of sociology, epidemiology, and medicine. My research portfolio includes maternal and child health, international migration (including the healthy immigrant effect), Indigenous health, racism & discrimination as social determinants of wellness, and community-based approaches to health equity and cultural safety. I examine these issues in collaboration with underserved and marginalized populations such as immigrants/refugees, Indigenous communities, and racial/ethnic minorities in Canada and the United States. Trained as a mixed-method researcher, I employ both qualitative and quantitative methodologies, and community-based participatory research frameworks in my projects.

My research and teaching are guided by social determinants of health, participatory research, racial equity, and social justice perspectives.