Emil L. Cunningham is a Senior Research Associate with Rankin and Associates. He has worked with R&A since the fall of 2011 and has been in the field of higher education since 2004 serving students and institutions in various capacities. Most recently while working in the office of the Vice President for Student Affairs at The Pennsylvania State University he oversaw a number of research initiatives and projects. He conducted research on Fraternity and Sorority life, Recreational Sports, and institutional service honor societies. He has helped facilitate the orchestration of fireside chats with the President of the University as well as served as the primary adviser and facilitator of a scholarship initiative focused exclusively on studying college student poverty and helping students in need. He has also served on several institutional wide committees, including a recent taskforce that has helped position Penn State as a leader in seeking out and working with local Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Business Enterprises. Prior to his time in the Vice President’s office, he worked in Residence Life helping to develop and prepare college students for their life after graduation. Of the many successes and initiatives he led, he a spearheaded an initiative to create paraprofessional development seminars, which relied upon the unique skills and expertise of fellow Residence Life colleagues, to provide Resident Assistants the space to engage in critical and casual dialogues around topics relevant to their personal experience. Some of the sample topics included: Social Justice, Power of Language, Resume building skills, Moral and Ethical decision making, and Shopping and Cooking after graduation.
Emil received his Ph.D. in Higher Education, with a minor in Educational Psychology from The Pennsylvania State University, his M.Ed. in College Student Affairs from The Pennsylvania State University, and his Artium Baccalaureus in Psychology from Vassar College. His research agenda focuses on sense of belonging, institutionally designated safe space, and the lived experiences of students of color. In all, Emil professes to engage in his work with students by abiding by a quote by Johann Wolfgang vonGoethe who said “If we take people as we find them, we may make them worse. But, if we treat them as though they are what they should be, we help them to become what they are capable of becoming.”