Lorraine Maxwell
Lorraine Maxwell
Professor Emerita
Human Centered Design
Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research


I joined the Design and Environmental Analysis faculty in 1993 as my first full time academic appointment. My first graduate degree was a masters in city and regional planning. I worked as city planner for a large city in New Jersey and as a facility planner and programmer for an architectural firm in New York City.  My PhD is in psychology, specifically environmental psychology. My research interests have always been, and continue to be, related to the ways in which the physical environment relates to child and adolescent development, behavior, and well being. Noise and crowding are of particular interest to me, especially when children are exposed to these potential sources of stress in more than one setting. Bronfenbrenner's bio-ecological theory guides much of my research. I am also interested in the ways in which the physical environment is related to children's and adolescents' development of competency and self-efficacy and self-esteem.

More recently my research interests include the role of the physical environment of home, school, and neighborhood in the development of identity, self-esteem, and self-efficacy in children and adolescents. My initial appointment at Cornell included responsibilities in Cooperative Extension. My primary program was to work with the child care industry in New York State providing training and educational materials for child care providers and parents. As of the spring semester 2005 my appointment was changed to research and teaching. I teach the department's programming course, Problem Seeking through Programming (DEA 3590/6500) and a graduate course, DEA 6200, Studies in Human-Environment Relations.

(Note: Not accepting new students retiring December 2019)

I investigate the role of the physical environment in children's and adolescents' behavior, health, wellbeing and development. I am interested in residential settings, school and childcare settings, playgrounds and outdoor settings, museums, and public spaces. In particular, I am interested in the cumulative effects of noise and crowding and other environmental sources of stress when young people are exposed in more than one setting and in the role of the physical environment in children's and adolescents' development of competency, self-efficacy, and self-esteem. Bronfenbrenner's bio-ecological model guides much of my work.  I am currently investigating how young adolescents view and use their daily environments of home, school, and neighborhood.

 My teaching goals are to 1) provide students with the tools to do problem solving on their own, 2) meet the needs of various learning styles, 3) encourage further exploration in a field of study, and 4) view the world a bit differently once having taken the course. In my undergraduate classes students have the opportunity to work individually and in teams.  It is important to learn how to work with others who have a range and variety of skills to accomplish shared goals. I also hope that students will gain confidence in their own skills.  In my graduate class I encourage students to refine their analytical skills and to further develop expertise in their chosen field.

 I work with students on their own research projects as well as on my research projects. I am always excited when students want to learn more about all phases of research and I try to involve them in the early phases as much as possible.  I encourage my advisees to consider their own strengths and interests when choosing a career path. I also encourage them to look for ways to use their skills and expertise in areas that may not be obvious. 

DEA 3590: Problem Solving through Programming

DEA 6500: Problem solving through Programming - Graduate section

DEA 4150: Educational and health care long range planning

DEA 6200: Studies in Human-Environment Relations

DEA 7100: Graduate Pro-seminar

DEA 4100: Diversity and facility design

Maxwell, L.E. (2016). School building quality, school social climate and academic achievement: A mediation model. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 46, 206-216. 

Maxwell, L.E. & French, R. (2016). Elementary school library design: Student perceptions of a Learning Commons. Children, Youth and Environments, 26, 61-82.

Maxwell, L. E. & Evans, G.W. (2014). Children and the physical environment. In R. Cooper, E. Burton & C. L. Cooper (Eds.) Wellbeing: A complete reference guide, Volume II, Wellbeing and the Environment (pp. 273-300). Oxford, UK: Wiley-Blackwell.

Maxwell, L.E. & Schechtman, S. L. (2012). The role of objective and perceived school building qaulity in student academic outcomes and self-perception. Children, Youth and Environments, 22, 23-51.

Sepanski, S. Evans, G.W., Barry, R.L., Maxwell, L.E. (2010). An ecological perspective on cumulative school and neighborhood risk factors related to academic achievement. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 31, 422-427.

Maxwell, L. E. (2009). Chaos outside the home: The school environment (pp.83-96). In G.W. Evans & T.D. Wachs (Eds). Chaos and its influence on children's development: An ecological perspective. Washington DC: American Psychological Association.


Maxwell, L.E. & Chmielewski, E. J. (2008). Environmental personalization and elementary school children’s self-esteem. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 28, 143-153.

Maxwell, L.E. (2007). Competency in child care settings: The role of the physical environment. Environment and Behavior, 39(2), 229-245.


Maxwell, L.E. (2006). Crowding, class size, and school size. In H. Frumkin, R. Geller, I. L. Rubin, & J. Nodvin (Eds.), Safe and Healthy School Environments (pp. 13-19). Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

Maxwell, L.E. (2006). Noise. In H. Frumkin, R. Geller, I.L. Rubin, & J. Nodvin (Eds.), Safe and Healthy School Environments (pp. 34-45). Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

Laquatra, J., Maxwell. L.E. & Pierce, M. (2005). Indoor air pollutants: Limited-resource households and childcare facilities. Journal of Environmental Health, 67(7), 39-43

Miller, A.S. & Maxwell, L.E. (2003). Exploring the role of home design in fostering family interaction: The use of programming methods in research. Journal of Interior Design, 29, 50-65.

Maxwell, L.E. (2003). Home and School density effects on elementary school children. Environmental Behavior, 35(4), 566-578

Maxwell, L.E. & Killeen, J.P. (2002). Museum Visits: Experiences of special education and typically developing children. Journal of Museum Education, 27 (1), 18-21.

Maxwell, Lorraine & Evans, G.W. (2000). The effects of noise on preschool children's prereading skills. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 20, 91-97.

Evans, G.W., Maxwell, Lorraine, & Hart, B. (1999). Parental language and verbal responsiveness to children in crowded homes. Developmental Psychology, 35(4), 1020-1023.

 Maxwell, L.E. (1996). Multiple effects of home and daycare crowding. Environment & Behavior, 28 (4), 494-511




  • Member, Environmental Design Research Assoication
  • Member, International Association of People-Environment Studies  
  • Member, Society for Research in Child Development
  • Member, Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues
  • Reviewer for Journal of Environmental Psychology
  • Reviewer for Environment and Behavior
  • Reviewer for Journal of Learning and Individual differences
  • Reviewer for Urban Education Journal
  • Reviewer for Children, Youth Environments

I participated in a group organized by the 21st Century School Fund in Washington DC to develop a research and policy agenda to explore school building design and educational outcomes. This participation began in 2017 and in 2018 I was asked to join the Advisory Board for the organization.

I was elected to the Board of Managers for Tompkins County Communiity Action.in 2018.

Director, Graduate Studies June 1st, 2013 - December 31st, 2014

Director, Graduate Studies July 1, 2015 - June 30, 2017

1990, Ph.D., Psychology, Graduate Center of the City University of New York

1974, Masters, City and Regional Planning, Rutgers University

1968, B.A., History/Political Science, Queens College of the City University of New York

View all people