Princeton University’s Kahneman-Treisman Center for Behavioral Science & Public Policy is pleased to announce the inaugural cohort of the Jay Sugarman Practitioner in Residence program. In Spring 2022, Kristine De Jesus and David Henderson will join the community as Sugarman Fellows. Brian Chapman will be affiliated with the Center as a Sugarman Associate Practitioner. Later in the year, the cohort will expand to include Sugarman Fellows Bryant Adibe and Chukwuemeka Vincent Chukwuemeka, as well as Associate Practitioners Vivian Burgnon and Sebastien de Ghellinck of SkillSignal.
Established through a gift by Jay S. Sugarman ’84, the program is intended to support practitioners in a variety of fields to pursue a breakthrough solution to a society-relevant problem, the success of which depends on understanding certain aspects of human behavior, and which could benefit from the support, guidance, and mentorship of members of Princeton's academic community. Each Sugarman Fellow has proposed a project, hypothesizing that the gap between the current state and an improved future could be solved by addressing some aspect of human motivation, judgment, decision, or perception, whether individual or collective.
Kristine De Jesus is a vocal ally for people in recovery from substance use disorder and is an organizer involved in the local and national recovery advocacy movement. While a Sugarman Fellow, Dr. De Jesus will be developing an innovative solution to the problem of substance misuse among college students. She will be creating a virtual student recovery community that will ensure that services are centered in supporting students from systematically marginalized groups within higher education and are grounded in models of equity and justice. This virtual recovery program will target students at colleges that do not offer collegiate recovery programs, specifically at minority serving institutions (including tribal colleges and historically Black colleges/universities), community colleges, and trade schools, with the intention of reducing both health and academic disparities and increasing the successful matriculation of students in recovery in the post-secondary education setting. Previously, Dr. De Jesus has worked at Montclair State University as the Coordinator of the Alcohol and Other Drugs program; in Tuttleman Counseling Services at Temple University as the educational coordinator of the Campus Alcohol Substance Awareness (CASA) program; and as an employment consultant helping people with Autism Spectrum Disorders and other mental health issues enter or return to the workforce. She works diligently to ensure that the voices of people from marginalized groups—including people with disabilities as well as the 2SLGBTQIA+, Latinx, and African American/Black communities—are amplified and empowered to facilitate change. She holds a Bachelors of Arts degree from Rutgers University in Psychology and Puerto Rican Studies; a Masters of Arts degree in Organizational Behavior from Alliant International University; and a Doctorate of Psychology from the California School of Professional Psychology, where she specialized in Health and Cross Cultural Psychology.
David Henderson has spent his entire career in the social sector working at the intersections of U.S. social welfare policy, data analytics, and software engineering. Most recently Mr. Henderson spent eight years at UpTogether, a national nonprofit (rebranded from Family Independence Initiative) that trusts and invests in people living with low incomes. As Chief Technology Officer, he helped scale the organization by leading its analytics, engineering, support, and policy teams. In 2020 and 2021, his teams distributed a total of $200 million in direct cash transfers to hundreds of thousands of people through UpTogether’s online platform. Building on his learnings from UpTogether, Mr. Henderson will spend his time as a Sugarman Fellow building technologies that aim to enhance and capitalize the informal lending, borrowing, and banking that naturally occurs every day among people in low-income communities across the country. Mr. Henderson holds a Bachelor of Arts in Politics from Pomona College and a Master of Science in Public Policy and Management from Carnegie Mellon University.
Joining the two Sugarman Fellows this spring, Brian Chapman will serve as the first Sugarman Associate Practitioner. He will be working on a project that will address the limitations of and threats exacerbated by the current model of debt collection in the United States and will develop a new model that uses behavioral insights on repayment motivation and the benefits of removing systemic barriers to repayment. The societal costs of the current debt collection model are extraordinarily high. The stress inflicted on families, and disproportionately on people of color and the elderly, is profound: The long-term economic cost of the current model keeps many people in a cycle of debt and poverty; the extreme proliferation of debt-related lawsuits clogs courts. Mr. Chapman’s project will use philanthropic funds to buy debt—typically at pennies on the dollar—then work with consumers to pay back only what was paid for the debt without regard to interest, fees, and other charges that swell debt beyond recognition. By starting with a respect for consumers and by removing the profit motive, the project aims to prove that the predatory tactics employed by most debt collectors are unnecessary and counterproductive. Mr. Chapman is an experienced executive with deep skills in non-profit management, fundraising, strategy, analysis, and operations and was a founding member of The Bail Project, a national non-profit bail fund, designed to address systemic inequities in the provision of bail.
Later in 2022, the cohort will be enlarged as architect Chukwuemeka Vincent Chukwuemeka joins as a Sugarman Fellow to develop a market-driven state-of-the-art sanitation infrastructure, envisioned to address the sanitation challenges in urban Africa. Bryant Adibe, a former Chief Wellness Officer at major U.S. hospital systems, will spend his time as a Sugarman Fellow on a project to improve mental health service delivery to medical professionals. Sugarman Associate Practitioners Vivian Burgnon and Sebastien de Ghellinck, cofounders of construction safety and compliance firm SkillSignal, will similarly work on a project to improve construction workers’ access to mental services.
Like an “artist-in-residence” program, the Sugarman Practitioner in Residence program provides a sanctuary from everyday responsibilities that can impede breakthrough thinking, along with the opportunity to deepen engagement with the behavioral sciences and related policy tools through collaboration with the university community. In addition to developing their projects while in residence, the cohort members will participate in the full life of the Kahneman-Treisman Center, giving talks and workshops and engaging with Princeton faculty, fellows, and students, who will benefit from the Sugarman Fellows’ knowledge and applied approach to their fields.