Faculty and Staff

Cornell in Buffalo supports applied research, teaching, and policy development by the Cornell ILR School, Cornell Cooperative Extension, and The Partnership for the Public Good.  Based in Buffalo, NY, staff conduct programs for Western New York community partners and practitioners, Cornell students, faculty, and staff.

Cornell Cooperative Extension

Photo: Diane Held

Diane Held

(716) 652-5400

Diane Held has been the Executive Director of Cornell Cooperative Extension of Erie County (CCE Erie) since late 2013. She and a staff of nineteen, use the resources and research based solutions generated through the land grant system at Cornell University to develop local programs and engage county residents in the areas of nutrition, education, agriculture, 4-H youth development, and consumer horticulture. Prior to working for CCE Erie, Diane worked for American Farmland Trust for 10 years collaborating with farmers, local governments, land trusts, and other organizations to protect New York State farmland. Diane also has a dairy farm background, as well as a Master’s Degree in Environmental Studies from the University of Buffalo, and a Bachelor’s Degree in Agriculture from Cornell University.

Photo: Sara Jablonski

Sara Jablonski

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Sara has worked at Cornell Cooperative Extension of Erie County since October 2013. She conducts youth development programming in Buffalo and Lackawanna, primarily doing civic engagement work with teenagers. She has an MS in community food systems from Michigan State University, through which she studied how to intentionally engage communities to address food system challenges. Previously, she served in the Peace Corps in Guatemala where she worked with women and elementary school students to build gardens using sustainable methods.

ILR Buffalo Co-Lab 

Photo: Lou Jean Fleron

Lou Jean Fleron

(716) 852-4192

Now ILR emeritus, Lou Jean directs the High Road program. A Cornell ILR Extension faculty member since 1977, her research and teaching areas are public economic policy, industry and community development, and labor management relations. She served as director of ILR Western Region and is the author of studies on regional economic development, including Champions @ Work: Employment, Workplace Practices and Labor-Management Relations in Western New York, and Buffalo Child Care Means Business. Prior to working at ILR, she taught political science at SUNY Buffalo and the University of Kentucky. Lou Jean was chair of Buffalo Living Wage Commission from 2003 to 2010 and co-founded the Partnership for the Public Good which she now serves as chair of the board.

Photo: Megan Connelly

Megan Connelly

(716) 852-4193

An attorney with years of policy advocacy experience, Megan joined Cornell in 2011 where she cultivates civically engaged and socially responsible students while supporting community-engaged learning and research. Prior to her role as Director of High Road Policy and Engaged Learning she held concurrent positions as the Associate Director of the High Road Fellowships and Director of Policy Advancement at Partnership for the Public Good. Admitted to practice in New York, Megan is a graduate of the University at Buffalo Law School. She previously worked at Neighborhood Legal Services in Buffalo, at the Youth Justice Project in South Bend, Indiana, and for the University at Buffalo’s Office of Civic Engagement and the Regional Institute. She believes that her own service experiences as an undergraduate at the University of Notre Dame helped to shape her values, interests and ultimately, her career path and she likes to provide similar transformative opportunities for students to engage with and learn from the community.

Photo: Kristin Szczepaniec

Kristin Ksiazek

(716) 246-1711

Kristin Szczepaniec is the Collaboration and Research Specialist at Cornell ILR, working to facilitate the network of researchers and partners on Buffalo-focused research and helping to disseminate this information in Buffalo Commons. She earned an MPA in Education Policy & American Indian Studies from Cornell University, holds a Master of Arts degree in Elementary Education form the University of New Mexico and a BA in Economics and Peace Studies from the University of Notre Dame. A native western New Yorker, she is Seneca, hawk clan and Polish. She worked with the NACA Inspired Schools Network on developing Indigenous Education Knoweldge Management systems, supporting and developing community-designed and led schools for Native students. She served as the Director of Strategic Initiatives and Partnerships for Teach For America's Native Alliance Initiative, building a strong community of Native leaders focused on culturally responsive education and was a middle school math teacher in the Pueblo of Laguna.

If you are interested in a research project, have Buffalo-focused research, or just want to learn more about Buffalo Commons, reach out to: buffalocommons@cornell.edu. 

Photo: Nicole Golias

Nicole Golias

(716) 235-1031

Nicole Golias is the Communications and Program Support Specialist for ILR Buffalo Co-Lab assisting the High Road Fellowships and Buffalo Commons. She earned a BS from Cornell University's College of Human Ecology in 2017 studying how to craft and implement effective policy with people at the forefront. Prior to joining the extension office, she taught middle school special education. During her time at Cornell, Nicole conducted research as part of the Policy Analysis and Management Lab and was a Brand Ambassador for Teach For America.  

Photo: Sam Magavern

Sam Magavern

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Sam Magavern co-directs the Partnership for the Public Good and teaches at the Cornell University ILR School and the University at Buffalo Law School. A graduate of Harvard University and the UCLA School, he serves as the attorney for the City of Buffalo Living Wage Commission and as a member of the Niagara River Greenway Commission and the Open Buffalo Advisory Board. His publications range from scholarly articles to comic books, including a non-fiction book (Primo Levi's Universe), a novel (Ooh La La), a movie (The Last Word), and a book of poetry (Noah’s Ark). He hosts a radio show, the Public Good, every Tuesday at 1:00PM on WUFO AM 1080.

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Aaron Bartley


Current ILR Visiting Scholar and co-founder of People United for Sustainable Housing (PUSH Buffalo), which mobilizes residents to create sustainable neighborhoods with quality affordable housing, green jobs and next generation infrastructure.   In 2011, PUSH's Green Development Zone, which combines green housing, job training, stormwater management and urban agriculture in a district on Buffalo's West Side, was named the winner of the global Sustainable Housing competition sponsored by the Rockefeller Foundation, the Brazilian Ministry of Cities and HUD. Aaron grew up in Buffalo and attended Buffalo Public Schools.  He is a graduate of Swarthmore College and Harvard Law School, where he co-founded the Harvard Living Wage Campaign, which resulted in $10 million in annual wage and benefit increases for the low-income campus workers it represented. In 2011, Aaron was appointed by Governor Andrew Cuomo to the WNY Regional Economic Development Council, which is now charged with investing $1 billion in state funds to revitalize Buffalo's economy. Aaron writes columns on cities and community organizing at Huffington Post.

Rusty Weaver


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Russell S. Weaver, PhD, has been named Economic Geographer, Senior Extension Associate, in the ILR Buffalo Co-Lab. Russell has a M.A. in Economics and a Ph.D. in Geography from SUNY at Buffalo. He comes to Cornell ILR from Texas State University, where he has been an assistant professor of geography since 2014. Russell is the lead author of Shrinking Cities: Understanding Urban Decline in the United States (NY: Routledge, 2016) with S. Bagchi-Sen, J. Knight, and A. Frazier. His research portfolio includes 37 articles in refereed journals, including Applied Mathematics, Berkeley Planning Journal, New Urban Research, Ecological Economics, The Review of Regional Studies, Journal of Geography, Urban Science, and National Civic Review. He serves on the Review Board for the Journal of Extension.

The Worker Institute 

Photo: Art Wheaton

Art Wheaton


Art Wheaton is the Director of the Western NY Labor and Environmental Programs. Art manages the online Labor Leadership Skills (non-credit) course and the Labor Studies undergraduate (credit) certificate program. He also is the treasurer and general board member for the Western New York Environmental Alliance and teaches the EPA RRP Initial and Refresher Lead Based Paint Programs. Art graduated from Michigan State University with a Masters in Labor Relations and Human Resources.

Photo: Nellie Brown

Nellie Brown

(716) 852-1444 x111

Nellie Brown is the Director of the Workplace Health and Safety Program, a statewide program of the Worker Institute at Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations. A certified industrial hygienist, biologist, and chemist, Nellie has over thirty years of experience providing on-site training and technical assistance services in a wide range of occupational safety and health matters. These efforts include: workplace exposure to chemicals, biological agents, ergonomics, occupational stress, shift-work and long hours of work, crisis and violence prevention, hazard analysis techniques, and indoor air quality for employers, labor unions, and the public. Nellie also provides industrial hygiene services for the Center for Occupational and Environmental Medicine at the Erie County Medical Center, a NYSDOH-funded clinic for diagnosis and treatment of occupational injuries and illnesses for five counties of Western New York.

Photo: Veronica Moore

Veronica Moore

(716) 852-4191

Veronica Moore is the Administrative Manager at Cornell University’s ILR extension office in Buffalo, New York. She oversees the extensions operations and also serves as a senior training programs assistant for the Workplace Health and Safety, and Labor and Environmental Training Programs.  Veronica is a graduate of Bryant and Stratton College and a Notary Public for the County of Erie, State of New York.