Krystal Cruz is the Elected 2022-2024 Northeast Regional National Council Representative to the United Nations Foundation’s United Nations Association of the United States of America (UNA-USA). She is particularly inspired by Columbia University’s Arnold A. Saltzman Professor of International and Public Affairs—Edward C. Luck (1948-2021); Prof. Luck (SIPA'72) served as the UNA-USA President (1984-1994) and became known for his work on the Responsibility to Protect, a doctrine that aims to prevent and halt genocide and other mass atrocities.
She is completing her dissertation in the Research Group on Disparities in Health at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Education, Health and Psychology in the Department of Health and Behavior Studies and is graduating in 2023.
She studies the biopsychosocial model as a theoretical framework to explore critical racial health disparities related to maternal morbidity and mortality, perinatal mental health and substance use disorders, the influence of neighborhood social conditions and built environmental factors on psychosocial stress and wellbeing during gestation, intrauterine environmental influences across the life course, and global mental health.
For her RCSS Project, she is exploring a 4+ year historical timeline of events that occurred from the film screening in Schermerhorn Hall on February 27th, 2018 of A Dangerous Idea: Eugenics, Genetics and the American Dream documentary about genetics, eugenics, and social inequality in the United States, featuring Professor Bob Pollack as a key expert; to the unanimous historic board of trustees vote to remove the name of a eugenicist off of a campus building on July 15, 2020; to the ultimate Call-To-Action to rename the building formerly known as Thorndike Hall to Dr. Edmund W. Gordon Tower—after one of Columbia’s first ever African American tenured professors. Notably, Professor Gordon’s scholarship both dismantled the concept of a Hierarchy of Human Race as well as informed the Supreme Court about the harmful effects of school segregation—leading to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act in 1965.
She is honored to join RCSS as a visiting scholar particularly given RCSS’s historical roots linked to The Earth Institute’s Center for the Study of Science and Religion with prior locations and operations occurring within the Department of Religion, the Martin Luther King building of The Riverside Church as well as Knox Hall of The Union Institutional memory of RCSS especially resonates, as her dissertation committee member, Sociomedical Sciences Professor Robert E. Fullilove, Dean of Community and Minority Affairs at the Mailman School of Public Health sowed transformational seeds of inspiration and cultivated a strong conviction within her to conduct research and promote scholarship imbued with liberation theology. This metamorphosis occurred during class trips in Autumn 2015 to the City of Orange, New Jersey Township applying community based participatory action research methods towards a neighborhood environmental scan with local community members in East Orange, NJ in collaboration with HANDS, Inc. and University of Orange.
She is also honored to be the doctoral student of Professor Barbara Wallace (Princeton ’80), her academic mentor, and the first African American woman to move through the ranks and gain tenure in the history of Teachers College, Columbia University in Morningside Heights, doing so in 1994. For quite some time, Professor Wallace was the only African American female tenured Full Professor at TC and her tireless advocacy for institutional change informed the TC President's 1999 Taskforce Report which led to the establishment of the Vice President’s Office for Diversity and Community Affairs. Accordingly, Professor Noah Pizmony-Levy Drezner, in tandem with Professor Wallace and Professor Celia Oyler, catalyzed the resurgence of campus-wide morale and momentum that led to the ultimate removal of a eugenicist's name off of the campus building. Throughout her academic studies, she has participated in the following extracurricular activities: Chairperson of the Office of University Life Interschool Governing Board; Columbia University Senator serving on the Student Affairs, Libraries and Rules committees; Office of University Life Race, Ethnicity & Inclusion/Task Force on Inclusion and Belonging committee member, Columbia University’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences Students of Color Alliance commencement co-chair, The Roger Lehecka Double Discovery Center mentor, founding member of the School of Education, Health and Psychology’s Diversity and Community Affairs committee, she is the founding president of the United Nations Association of the United States of America Columbia University-wide Chapter; she is also founder of the Columbia Orthodox Student Association (COSA).