Heather Randell, assistant professor of rural sociology and demography in Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences, has been named the recipient of the 2019 Roy C. Buck Faculty Award.
The award, which recognizes exceptional articles accepted or published by refereed scholarly journals in the social and human sciences within the past two years, comes with a $2,500 stipend and plaque. She will receive the award during a fall seminar that will feature her work and will be hosted by the Department of Agricultural Economics, Sociology, and Education.
In the paper, “Climate Change and Educational Attainment in the Global Tropics,” published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in April 2019, Randell and co-author Clark Gray of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill examined the link between extreme weather in early life and educational attainment in 29 countries in the global tropics.
They concluded that exposure to extreme heat and precipitation in prenatal and early childhood years in these countries could make it harder for children to attain secondary school education, even for better-off households. Reasons for this include poor nutrition, developmental delays and the need for children to be pulled from school to help on the farm.
The scientists hope the research will serve as a platform for decision makers to develop solutions to keep children in school in a world of increasing climate variability.
The study builds on previous research in rural Ethiopia, in which Randell and Gray found that more rainfall during the main agricultural season, as well as cooler springs and summers in early childhood, were positively associated with children having completed at least one year of school.
Randell, who is also a SSRI cofunded faculty member, joined the Penn State faculty in 2019, having earned a doctorate in sociology from Brown University in 2016. She also holds a master's degree in environmental management with a certificate in global health from the Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University and a bachelor's degree in biology from Cornell University.
Her research focuses on the relationships between environmental change, rural livelihoods, and human health and well-being. She has investigated the links between climate change, health and education; the socioeconomic impacts of dam-building on displaced communities; and the social and environmental drivers of migration.
Roy C. Buck, a professor of rural sociology, retired from Penn State in 1981. In 1999, he established the Roy C. Buck Faculty Award to recognize nontenured faculty members for their excellent work.