The Rockefeller Institute of Government Announces the 2021 Richard P. Nathan Public Policy Fellows

Fellows bring a wide range of expertise with distinguished careers in public policy research and practice

Albany, NY — The Rockefeller Institute of Government is proud to announce four dynamic researchers and practitioners as 2021 Richard P. Nathan Public Policy Fellows. Over the next year, these experts will partner with Rockefeller Institute researchers to examine timely public policy issues in public health, higher education, local government, and environmental health.

The prestigious fellowship program is named after longtime Rockefeller Institute Director Richard P. Nathan. The fellowship seeks to connect cutting-edge policy expertise to public problems and the policy community that tries to address these problems. Candidates with expertise in healthcare, local government, fiscal policy, education, law, and social policy were encouraged to apply.

“The Nathan fellowship program continues to yield high-quality research that informs and drives public policy conversations,” said Rockefeller Institute Executive Director of Research Laura Schultz. “We are excited for this diverse and talented group of scholars to continue the success of this program and expand the Institute’s capacity to find lasting solutions to the challenges facing New York State and the nation.”

The fellows are:

Auyon J. Ghosh
Auyon J. Ghosh is an assistant professor of medicine in the Division of Pulmonary, Critical Care, and Sleep Medicine at SUNY Upstate Medical University in Syracuse, New York. After graduating from medical school at SUNY Upstate, Ghosh completed internal medicine residency training at Boston University Medical Center and pulmonary and critical care medicine fellowship at Harvard’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital. He subsequently completed post-doctoral research training with Craig Hersh and Ed Silverman at the Channing Division of Network Medicine and completed a master’s in public health at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Ghosh is an active clinician, taking care of patients in the intensive care unit (ICU) and patients living with lung disease. He is also an active researcher, having co-authored several papers in the last year. His research interests include understanding subtypes of lung disease using large genetic and genomic datasets as well as the heterogeneous impact of the environment and climate change on lung health. As part of his fellowship, Ghosh will examine the lung health-related effects of highway placements within and between demographic groups.

Darris R. Means
Darris R. Means is an associate professor of higher education and dean’s faculty scholar in equity, justice, and rural education in the School of Education at the University of Pittsburgh. Means researches how economic, educational, and social conditions shape pathways to and through postsecondary education for rural students, Black students, and students from low-income backgrounds. Means’ research and scholarship have been supported with funding from the National Science Foundation, National Academy of Education, Spencer Foundation, and American College Personnel Association (ACPA): College Student Educators International. He currently serves as the American Educational Research Association’s chair of the Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Committee for the Rural Education Special Interest Group. Means earned his PhD in educational research and policy analysis with a concentration in higher education from North Carolina State University, an MEd in counseling education with a concentration in student affairs from Clemson University, and a BA in sociology and political science from Elon University. As part of his fellowship, Means will collaborate with rural college students to investigate how state policy related to postsecondary education retention, graduation, and attainment are inclusive (or not) of rural college students and how these policies promote and/or hinder educational equity for rural college students.

Jack Cunningham
Jack Cunningham enjoyed an extensive career in the banking and financial industry before entering the public sector in 2004 as an Albany County legislator representing the 34th legislative district. He left the private sector in 2007 to serve as supervisor for the Town of Bethlehem, focusing much of his effort on enhancing government access to the public through automation as well as developing capital planning to address aging infrastructure. Cunningham is currently employed by the Town of Colonie, the 15th largest town in New York by population, where he serves as the commissioner of public works. In addition to playing an instrumental role in developing and implementing policy initiatives for the town, Cunningham led the project to create a public-private partnership to improve landfill operation. This plan is estimated to provide net revenue for the the town in excess of $100 million during the life of the agreement. He earned his bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Massachusetts and recently earned his MA in political science at the Rockefeller College of Public Affairs and Policy at the University at Albany, aiming much of his research on local government finance and policy. As part of his fellowship, Cunningham will focus on policy and politics in town government and explore representational disparity in town government structure.

Kaitlin Stack Whitney
Kaitlin Stack Whitney is an assistant professor in the Science, Technology & Society Department at the Rochester Institute of Technology in Rochester, NY. She holds a PhD in zoology with a minor in science and technology studies from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She previously worked for the US Environmental Protection Agency and a USAID Farmer-to-Farmer contractor. Her research uses insects as a lens to explore environmental decision-making and regulations in human-managed and novel ecosystems, such as roadsides. She is currently PI on a federal contract examining how mowing and traffic levels impact insects along highways. As part of her fellowship, Stack Whitney will examine highway roadside design policies across the US, including an assessment of potential emerging uses (e.g. solar development, pollinator habitat, etc.) and possible conflicts.