Leadership Spotlight: Elise Cappella
Elise Capella is Vice Provost for University-wide Initiatives and Graduate Education.
In this role she builds the interdisciplinary, multi-school, and multi-location research and educational programs that NYU faculty and students have called for and that will enable the University to take full advantage of its unique scale, breadth, and global network.
Q: Can you describe your role as Vice Provost for University-wide Initiatives and Graduate Education at NYU? What are the key responsibilities and initiatives you're working on?ff
A: My role is about building connections across traditional boundaries – within NYU and beyond it. We know that for research and educational programs to have a meaningful impact, we have to transcend our disciplinary silos and work across communities. My position involves reimagining and launching interdisciplinary initiatives, such as the Cross-Cutting Initiative on Inequality and other efforts to create vibrant networks of scholars and students who work to solve challenging social problems. I am enhancing NYU x NYU, which bridges undergraduate and graduate education for students across our schools, as a means toward engaging students and expanding career trajectories. The idea of my position is to harness NYU’s collective strengths toward innovative research, education pathways, community engagement, and social impact.
Q: As the Director of the Institute of Human Development and Social Change, you worked on addressing inequality in local and global contexts. Could you provide insights into your achievements and findings during your tenure at the Institute? And In your role as Vice Dean for Research at NYU Steinhardt, can you share some examples of interdisciplinary research collaborations you facilitated and how they have impacted the University?
A: In these roles, I focused on interdisciplinary connections, research funding, and social impact. As director of the Institute, I supported our faculty to build their funded research portfolios, with expenditures growing by 20 percent during my tenure. Each year, I led a seed grant program to cultivate new research on “Reducing Inequality, Expanding Opportunity,” prioritizing interdisciplinary teams and research-practice partnerships. In my final year, the Institute managed over 72 extramurally sponsored projects from 40 unique funding sources. As vice dean for research, I co-led our first schoolwide mentoring program and launched a summer grant development program to enhance the networks and success of early career faculty. My team at the Office of Research created models of shared resources and recovery funds, which led to increased cross-center partnership on grant proposals and awards. I continue to serve as co-director of NYU’s IES-funded Predoctoral Interdisciplinary Research Training (PIRT) program, with an interdisciplinary training model focused on rigor, relevance, and reach. Our 60+ graduates have become leaders in education research, practice, and policy; they make us proud!
Q:You co-founded the Q.U.E.S.T. program, which expands graduate school opportunities for underrepresented students. Can you describe some of the outcomes you have observed from this program?
A: Credit for Q.U.E.S.T. goes to the talented Applied Psychology team: LaRue Allen, Jordan Morris, Norissa Williams, and Frandelia Moore. At the end of the eight-week program, which involves a research seminar, research mentorship, diversity dialogues, and graduate program preparation, the Q.U.E.S.T. students present at a conference and publish their research in an online journal. Many go on to graduate programs and jobs in psychology, and return the following summer to attend the conference and reconnect with faculty and doctoral student mentors. It has been an honor to be a faculty mentor and seminar instructor since the program’s start, and to stay in touch with my mentees, who are on their way to leading the field!
Q: As a professor of Applied Psychology, your research focuses on school contexts of learning and mental health for students facing inequitable education opportunities. Can you share any of your research findings or initiatives aimed at addressing these challenges?
A: My team and I are partnering with the NYC Public Schools (NYCPS) to enhance equitable, inclusive education for students with or at risk for “emotional disabilities” (ED), an education classification that disproportionately affects Black boys and often is associated with poor school outcomes. In our research-practice partnership, we launched the Path Program, a NYCPS specialized program that provides opportunities for students with and without ED to learn together in integrated, collaborative classrooms in community schools with trained staff providing academic, social, and emotional support. A related project in Philadelphia involves partnership to scale a teacher consultation and coaching model to all k-8 public schools to help teachers increase effective classroom interactions and improve engagement of students with behavioral health challenges. Through this work and my other projects, the idea is to “democratize” high-quality social, emotional, and academic learning so all children across cultures and contexts have the opportunity to acquire, through organic social processes with adults and their peers, the competencies to succeed in school and beyond.