As Alice Hausman closes one chapter of her Temple story, the anthropologist turned administrator, advocate, and mentor to many reflects on meaningful community engagement and her most important legacy: her students. Plus, friends and colleagues pay tribute.
“Populations have characteristics. They have essences that stay regardless of the actual individuals,” says Alice Hausman, pressing pause on a typically busy morning as the spring semester races to its end. Since her arrival on the faculty in 1992 she’s become well accustomed to the pace – head-spinning – and the workload – varied to include research, administration, writing, teaching, and more. Now she’s reflecting on how it feels to know that will shift when she retires in a few weeks.
In a 37-year (and counting) career that began in anthropology and flourished in the field of population science, Alice Hausman came to Temple from Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, where she had been conducting research in adolescent health for the Boston Department of Public Health. After receiving tenure in 1995 she became director of the MPH program and was promoted to professor in 2002. She helmed what was then the Department of Public Health twice, from 2003 to 2009 and from 2013 to 2015. Since 2015 she’s led community partnership efforts as the founding Senior Director of the Office of Practice and Engagement. It’s there that she’s moved from strength to strength, combining her interests in curriculum development and hands-on population science.
“I do more anthropology – real sociocultural anthropology – now doing community-based work than I did when I was actually in an anthropology department, doing forensics and working with skeletons,” says Alice. “Here I could translate what I did, and I quickly got involved with the curriculum side of the MPH program,” she says.
Engaged in Community
Alice’s community orientation has thrived among the CPH faculty, who share her commitment.
“It's not like people weren't already pointed in this direction,” she says, mentioning Associate Professor of Occupational Therapy Roger Ideishi and numerous others who have developed ongoing relationships with community groups.
“I am really sensitive to the quality of the relationship we have with community organizations. You can't just send thousands of students [from throughout the university] out into the community. It has to be organized, and there has to be reciprocity,” she says. “If you can help identify what would be of value to the relationship for both parties and try to deliver on that, then you're likely to build a trusting and sustainable relationship.”
"If your goal for community engagement is the relationship, sometimes you have to set aside your agenda."
How that is achieved depends very much on the unique community or neighborhood, and the road to building mutually beneficial relationships is almost never smooth. “A colleague of mine was in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, doing health needs assessments, but in every conversation, everybody mentioned the city’s potholes. It became instantly clear that nothing was going to happen [around health concerns] until the potholes got fixed,” Hausman says. “The lesson is that if your goal is the relationship, sometimes you have to be prepared to address something that may not be on your agenda. You always have to listen. I always listen for the potholes."
The Next Chapter
Lately Alice has been reminding those saddened by her departure that she has no intention of retiring from public health. “I’m just retiring from this job,” she says. She plans to use the mantle of her emeritus position in part as a place from which to pursue her latest research interest in philanthropy – specifically, how collective giving models might assist community organizations in capacity development.
She’ll also continue her affiliation with the North Philadelphia Health Improvement Collaborative, a health improvement collaborative she launched five years in North Philadelphia. She’ll transfer the leadership responsibilities to Heather Traino, an associate professor in the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences, while Alice works in the background, collecting data and writing research papers. “The collaborative is at a good place. Some new organizations have joined, and we have a whole list of papers to work on. So I'm thrilled about that,” she says.
And she will stay on the Research Committee at Maternity Care Coalition and the soup kitchen committee of Church of the Advocate, another CPH partner. (Here Alice is shown with COA's Rev. Rene McKenzie.) And of course, she says, relaxing back in her chair, “I'm looking forward to enjoying my life outside of work. I’m lucky to say that I have always loved my job, and now I’ll be able do it a little differently.” With some extra time she looks forward to some horseback riding and spending more time with her family. “It's a whole different way of living that I've never had, so it's a little scary, but I'm intensely excited about it.”
"We're all chipping away at the same big rock, but from different perspectives." --Alice Hausman
The Hausman Effect
Alice’s proudest accomplishments? Successful reaccreditations and growing the public health program from 12 to 27 faculty.
“The professions we teach in this college are the ones that are going to pave the way to a healthcare model that focuses on [both] prevention and treatment,” says Alice, noting a shift in the discourse about public health to be more inclusive of the allied health professions. “We're all talking public health in some form, and that is fantastic.”
But her greatest accomplishment, she says, is her students. “There’s my legacy. My research has been OK, and I've managed to contribute over the years, but when I think about what my main contribution has been, it's them,” she says. “And they're so cool. Of course, I can't take full credit for what they’ve accomplished, but I take a little bit of credit.”
Below, students and colleagues share their own thoughts about Alice's impact on their lives and careers:
"Alice served as my adviser and mentor when I was in the MSW/MPH program. I always appreciated her pragmatic approach to addressing public health issues as well as her deep commitment to working with community stakeholders in a meaningful way."
--Jessica M. Boyer (MPH, MSW 2006), CPH Assistant Director for Assessment and Accreditation
"I got to know Alice when I was a full-time student and teaching assistant in the MPH program at Temple. I would go to her often for career advice, course advice, and overall life advice. I valued her insight and have always respected her wisdom and knowledge."
--Ayana Bradshaw, MPH, Administrative Director, The Center for Injury Research and Prevention
"When I arrived at the College of Public Health in 2006 as chair of Physical Therapy, Alice and I bonded immediately. I shared with her that I had no idea how to dress as a department chair -- since I had spent most of my career working in the laboratory. She offered to take me for some “shopping mentoring” -- and has been a cherished career mentor and friend ever since."
--Emily A. Keshner, PT EdD, Professor and Chair, Department of Physical Therapy; Director, VEPO Laboratory
"Alice is incredibly knowledgeable and has a warmth that makes her easy to talk to."
--Andrea Crivelli-Kovach, PhD (1995), Professor & Chair of the Department of Public Health, Arcadia University
"Alice has been a constant champion in my life since I was a new MPH student. Her support has been steadfast; I really can't imagine being where I am now without her guidance." --Sarah Bauerle Bass, CPH Associate Professor of Public Health; Director, Risk Communication Laboratory
"Working with Alice taught me a lot about being an independent, hard worker. She gave support when needed, but I always knew she trusted me to get my work done -- and I did. That level of mutual respect left a major impression on me."
--Moriah R. Hall (MPH 2008), Associate Director, MPH Program, University of Pennsylvania
"I have been so impressed with Alice's administrative abilities and her willingness to share her knowledge with new chairs, including me. Alice has been committed to the field of public health and has devoted her career to community-based participatory research."
--Carol Scheffner Hammer, PhD, Professor of Communication Sciences and Disorders, Teachers College, Columbia University
“Alice has left an indelible mark on my professional development. As a fellow anthropologist, she understood my skill set immediately and enabled my entry into a fascinating career path I might not otherwise have had."
--Sarah J. Powell, Temple University Director of Emergency Management
“I always know I can count on Alice for honest feedback, guidance, and good conversation. For all the many ways Alice has enriched my life, I am grateful beyond words.” --Tinesha Banks (MPH 2001), President & CEO, Tabor Services, Inc.
"Alice is an inspiring leader and researcher whose work in community-based programs and research have paved the way for a greater appreciation for the work we all do." --Linda Fleisher, PhD, MPH; Center for Injury Research and Prevention, Children's Hospital of Philadelphia
"Alice introduced me to the wonderful worlds of research and community engagement. I owe my graduate level success to Alice and her belief in me and my ability to succeed." --Jenne Johns (MPH 2002), Director of Health Disparities, AmeriHealth Carita