Emil L. Cunningham

Vice President of External Relations/Executive Associate/Project Manager

Dr. Emil L. Cunningham is a Senior Research Associate with Rankin & Associates. Having worked with R&A since 2011 he has been in the field of higher education since 2004 serving students and institutions in various capacities. While completing his Doctorate, he worked in the office of the Vice President for Student Affairs at The Pennsylvania State University where he oversaw a number of data collection initiatives and special projects. Some of these include research on Fraternity and Sorority Life, Recreational Sports programs across BIG 10 and CIC schools, as well as institutional service honor societies. During his tenure he helped launch and facilitate a number of initiatives including Project Cahir: Penn State Students United Against Poverty, which serves as 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 taskforce that helped position Penn State as a leader in seeking out and working with local Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Business Enterprises.

During his higher education tenure, he has engaged in work in Residence Life, Student Conduct, Educational Equity, alcohol prevention, Town-Gown interactions, University Development, and Academic Support for Student Athletes. He has presented information at local and national conferences on various topics including the experiences of Black students in higher education, experiences of Black graduate students, college student poverty, sense of belonging, and various others.

Dr. Cunningham received his PhD in Higher Education, with a minor in Educational Psychology from The Pennsylvania State University, his MEd 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, Dr. Cunningham professes to engage in his work 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.”

Pronouns: He, Him, His


 Nichols, A. H., & Cunningham, E. L. (2017). Protecting the pride: The Penn State Jerry Sandusky child

sex  abuse scandal. In S. R. Harper & J. K. Donnor (Eds.), Scandals in college sports. New York: Routledge.

Griffin, K. A., Cunningham, E.L., & Mwangi, C. A. G (2015). Defining diversity: Ethnic differences in Black students’ perceptions of racial climate. Journal of Diversity in Higher Education.

Griffin, K. A., Eury, J. Gaffney, M. York, T., Bennett, J., Cunningham, E. L., & Griffin, A.  (2015). Digging Deeper:  Exploring the relationship between mentoring, developmental interactions, and student agency. New Directions for Higher Education.