Focus on Faculty

Llewellyn Cornelius

Graduate assistant and associate producer of the “Voices of Social Justice” podcast Avital Abraham interviews Llewelyn Cornelius. (Photo by Dorothy Kozlowski/UGA)

Llewellyn Cornelius, the Donald L. Hollowell Distinguished Professor of Social Justice and Civil Rights Studies in the School of Social Work, conducts research that is focused on improving the health and well-being of under-resourced communities.

When did you come to UGA and what brought you here?
I have been here since August 2015. I was attracted to UGA by an endowed professorship in social justice studies as well as being given the opportunity to collaborate with others across the university who are also involved in social justice scholarship. My work here is a natural extension of my long-term teaching and scholarship in health, social and economic equity.

What are your favorite courses and why?
The course I enjoy teaching the most here at UGA is a course that focuses on human and civil rights, diversity, oppression, inclusion, advocacy and empowerment; it represents the pillars of the code of ethics for the social work profession as presented by the National Association of Social Workers. I enjoy the class, as it creates an opportunity for students to examine both our complex journey in America as well as examine ways to promote a fair and inclusive society.

How do you describe the scope and impact of your research or scholarship to people outside of your field?
As an HIV/AIDS scholar, I document the structural and interpersonal barriers people face in getting access to needed services. As an equity researcher, I use national, state and local data to examine trends in access to health and behavioral health care for underserved populations. As both of these areas are very dynamic, I would say that it is not so much my work that has impact, but the work that many of us are independently doing that reaffirms the importance of improving the health and well-being of Americans.

How does your research or scholarship inspire your teaching, and vice versa?
I would say that it is the process of discovery that is inspiring. I have always shared with my students that it is the study question that drives the methods that are used to answer that question. This has helped them see both qualitative and quantitative approaches as meritorious. It also has helped them both to maximize the impact of small scale studies as well as studies that involve complex designs, such as randomized control trials or large-scale surveys.

What do you hope students gain from their classroom experience with you?
To become open to exploring things that are outside of their comfort zone and to be OK with the idea that some of these concepts may not make sense for some time after they have taken the class. My biggest thrill is meeting an alum who comes to me years later and says, “Dr. C.,  thanks—I did not like that material at the time, but it was one of the most important learning experiences I have ever had.”

The one UGA experience I will always remember will be …
Hands down, it was my FIRST EVER tailgate/BIG college game in the fall of 2016. YES, I said EVER!!!!!—the Bulldogs vs. the Gamecocks! To place this in context. I came to UGA from an urban campus, the University of Maryland, Baltimore, so we did not have this experience and it was not part of my life either in grad school or college. The whole experience was electric, before, during and after the game!!!!