Portrait of Tashara Leak in a grey dress stand on a staircase with a red wall behind her
Natalia Rommen
In College of Human Ecology, Division of Nutritional Sciences, Human Centered Design, Psychology

Tashara M. Leak, associate professor in the Division of Nutritional Sciences, has been named the inaugural associate dean of Cornell Human Ecology in New York City (CHE in NYC). The new position coordinates human ecology research, education, and public engagement in the city as part of the college’s strategic commitment to foster a vibrant, unified network.

Leak has lived and worked in New York City for several years, conducting research in collaboration with Weill Cornell Medicine, where she has an appointment in the Division of General Internal Medicine, and numerous community agencies and organizations in the city.

“Tashara Leak’s appointment as associate dean for CHE in NYC is a critical step in allowing us to achieve the vision laid out in our strategic plan. Through her leadership, Tashara will increase opportunities for faculty and students to collaborate and engage in New York City, with its rich diversity and complexity, extending our mission of improving human lives,” said Rachel Dunifon, the Rebecca Q. and James C. Morgan Dean of CHE. 

Leak’s research interests lie at the intersection of adolescent nutrition, health equity, food access, and food policy. She designs and implements culturally relevant interventions through research projects such as a 4-H afterschool club called the Advanced Cooking Education (ACE) Program and another project called Black Girls for Wellness that supports Black girls and women at risk for type 2 diabetes. 

In 2022, Leak co-founded the Cornell Action Research Collaborative (ARC), a cross-campus institutional hub for implementing research in partnership with communities and policymakers. In this role, Leak supports new faculty who conduct action research, provides professional development to students, and co-leads a USDA-funded project to increase produce purchased among low-income families across New York state.

“I am honored to lead CHE’s expansion efforts in New York City and leverage our expertise in human development, design and nutrition to fulfill the College’s mission of helping people thrive,” said Leak. “As the most populous city in the U.S. and one of the most diverse in the world, New York faces unique challenges that our faculty, staff, and students are well-positioned to address.” 

CHE in NYC will focus on expanding research and learning opportunities for faculty and students. Leak’s track record of having long-standing partnerships with Weill Cornell Medicine and community organizations will provide the foundation for this expansion. 

In her new role, Leak will also develop a summer internship program in NYC for CHE undergraduate students, offering tracks in nutrition, youth development, human centered design, pre-med, and more. This summer, CHE in NYC will pilot the youth development track in partnership with the Boys & Girls Club of Harlem.

Leak was appointed associate dean of CHE in NYC in fall 2023 and will serve a five-year term.