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The Legacy of Urie Bronfenbrenner

October 28, 2014


Evans, Sternberg, Wethington, Ceci, Hamilton, and Eckenrode

The BCTR is named in honor of Urie Bronfenbrenner, the renowned developmental psychologist who taught at Cornell for over fifty years. This September 18th a panel of Cornell faculty reflected on Urie's enduring legacy in the field. In his introduction, BCTR director John Eckenrode expressed the hope that the panel discussion would rectify a knowledge gap among newer members of the College of Human Ecology (CHE) and the university about Urie and his importance to human development and the college as a whole.  The panel was moderated by BCTR associate director Stephen Hamilton.

The panelists were all professors of human development who were influenced by Urie's work. All but Sternberg were also colleagues of Urie's in the CHE department of human development. Elaine Wethington, center associate director, was co-author with Bronfenbrenner, Stephen Ceci, and others on The State of Americans: This Generation and The Next. Stephen Ceci worked on Urie's research projects in the 1980s. Gary Evans  took a class with Urie as a faculty member and went on to  co-teach with Urie. Robert Sternberg was acquainted with Urie and feels the impact of Urie's research in his own work.

Gary Evans

Gary Evans

Gary Evans noted that, while the impact of Urie's research is profound, he was also an engaged and influential teacher. Evans quotes Urie himself on teaching:

As a teacher, I have seen as my main goal enabling students to experience the adventure, and hard-won harvest, of disciplined, creative thought that goes beyond any one discipline. To be sure transmitting knowledge is also important, but today’s knowledge is sure to be surpassed by tomorrow’s. Thus, the greatest gift one can give to the young is to enable them to deal critically and creatively with new answers, and the new questions, that the future brings.

In the event video, Evans refers to this quote and to figures in a handout, which can be seen here.

Stephen Hamilton relayed a story of Urie testifying before a senate committee and being asked what it takes to produce a well-functioning human being. Urie replied, simply, "Somebody's gotta be crazy about the kid."

For an anecdote about the strange, interesting story about Urie and the naming of the College of Human Ecology, see minute 15:40 of the event video.


Panelists recall legacy of Urie Bronfenbrenner - Cornell Chronicle

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