“I tell my students, ‘when you get these jobs that you have been so brilliantly trained for, just remember that your real job is that if you are free, you need to free somebody else. If you have some power, then your job is to empower somebody else. This is not just a grab-bag candy game” – Toni Morrison

Public Speaking


As a behavioral scientist trained in the Lewinian tradition of conducting action research in the public interest, it is important to me that our research findings do not remain locked away behind expensive paywalls in inaccessible academic journals. I want our work to be accessible and useful. 

One of the ways that I work to make our research useful is by sharing it not only with other scientists, but also with the multiple publics that can apply it in their work. I frequently give talks to community organizations, governmental and intergovernmental agencies, non-profits, and other organizations that are interested in using social and behavioral science research to improve social and organizational outcomes. To schedule a talk, please send me an email at nlewisjr@cornell.edu.  

Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, as well as environmental concerns, I prefer to give talks remotely whenever possible (and have invested in home studio equipment to facilitate high-quality remote talks). If it is essential, then I will consider traveling for talks and workshops, but my strong preference is to speak remotely.

Public Engagement Efforts


Putting research into action is not always about speaking or writing after the studies are done. Often it requires working alongside stakeholders from the very beginning to ensure that the knowledge that gets produced is ultimately useful. That is the goal of much of my public engagement efforts. I find ways to work alongside a variety of stakeholders to use the scientific approach to study and find solutions to pressing social issues. Some of the initiatives I have worked on in partnership with communities and policymakers are below. 

Equity in Pandemic Response (2020-Present)

Throughout the pandemic, I have been involved in task forces and working groups that work with local, state, and federal governments to improve equity in the COVID-19 pandemic response.


Preparation Initiative, Ross School of Business, University of Michigan


The Preparation Initiative (PI) is a learning community designed to assist students from underprivileged backgrounds who, as a result of the limited resources of their high schools, enter the University of Michigan without many of the tools necessary to thrive in their courses, and on campus more generally. Our objective is to help these students gain admittance to the Ross School’s Bachelor of Business Administration program at the end of their freshman or sophomore year, and to help them excel while in the BBA program. We do this by providing students with coaches who work with them on improving their quantitative, writing, studying, and time management skills. In addition, we provide students with academic advisers and peer mentors who provide them with guidance throughout their academic journey.

I initially got involved with the PI as a consultant, providing insights from social psychological research on how to improve students’ motivation. After that, I developed the writing coaching component of the PI to work on improving students’ writing skills. I then served as the program’s interim director for a year while faculty director Dr. J. Frank Yates was away on sabbatical leave. Currently I am an external advisor for the program.

Officials with the city of Lansing, the Lansing School

Lansing SAVE, Lansing School District & City of Lansing, Lansing, MI


The Lansing SAVE initiative is a multi-level collaborative project led by practitioners, advocates, nonprofit organizations, institutions of higher education, local government, and school district officials. The goal of the initiative was to create a universal, automatic savings structure targeting youth residing in the city of Lansing in order to improve academic outcomes (for theoretical rationale, see Oyserman, 2013, Econ Educ Rev), increase access to the financial mainstream, and asset building for Lansing’s future generations. In addition, the Lansing SAVE initiative aimed to create a common model for Child Savings Accounts initiatives that has the potential to be implemented in any Michigan community, with the goal of creating a foundation for eventual statewide policy, disseminating the model to all Michigan youth.

I was heavily involved in the development and launch of the program, and chaired the classroom intervention and curriculum working group from 2013 to 2015. I still periodically consult with the program administrators, but day-to-day operations are now managed by the Lansing School District and City of Lansing.