Annenberg PetSpace Announces Second Class of Leadership Institute Fellows

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Group of International Scientists Convene for Two-Day Retreat to Explore the Human-Animal Bond

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By gathering some of the best minds on these subjects, we are excited about the opportunities to facilitate collaboration and also share this information with the public to further expand and deepen how we view contemporary society’s connection with dogs.

Wallis Annenberg PetSpace today announced the second class of the Wallis Annenberg Leadership Institute Fellows, featuring a leading team of international experts in human-animal studies.

With the creation of the Wallis Annenberg PetSpace Leadership Institute in 2017, a group of seventeen scholars from numerous academic principles including Alexandra Horowitz, Greger Larson, and Clive Wynne came together to discuss and share their work, disseminating the historical perspective of the human-dog relationship. Now, the second class of fellows will convene for a two-day retreat in Los Angeles beginning Saturday, February 29, to take a deep dive into the modern-day implications dogs have in society. 

The Second Class of Wallis Annenberg Leadership Institute Fellows includes:

Sandra Barker, Virginia Commonwealth University
Gregory Berns, Emory University
Emily Bray, Arizona Canine Cognition Center
Mia Cobb, Monash University
Aubrey Fine, Cal State Polytechnic University
Nancy Gee, Virginia Commonwealth University
Nathan Hall, Texas Tech University
Harold Herzog, Western Carolina University
Melody Jackson, Georgia Institute of Technology
Angie Johnston, Boston College
Evan MacLean, University of Arizona
Sandra McCune, Waltham Center for Pet Nutrition
Cindy Otto, Penn Vet Working Dog Center
Kerri Rodriguez, Purdue University College of Veterinary Medicine
Janet Trammell, Pepperdine University
Monique Udell, Oregon State University

“Three years ago, our first class of fellows met to develop a broad new multi-disciplinary framework for human-animal-environmental research that explores human-dog relationships through time and space,” says Wallis Annenberg PetSpace Director, Donna Fernandes. “Now, we’re thrilled to be welcoming our second class of fellows who will expand upon the positive impact dogs have in contemporary society. The convening of this group is particularly timely as we are witnessing the innovative ways dogs are having an impact in crucial areas of our lives, including helping with natural disasters like the Australian wildfires, protecting endangered wildlife, helping people battle traumatic nightmares, and even learning how to communicate with humans in emergency situations.”

Presentations will include exploring the medical and psychological benefits dogs have on humans such as lowered blood pressure, heart rate, anxiety and stress hormones, as well as the role of dogs as facilitators in promoting human-to-human social interactions. In addition, the fellows will address the selection, training, performance, and welfare of working dogs.

The group will also discuss the power of the human-animal bond, studying our canine connection, the next generation of working dogs, and how well-being is a two-way street between humans and their canines.

Following the two-day summit, the class will work on a symposium volume of their current research and any new potential collaborations resulting from the weekend. This volume will be made available to students, researchers, and others interested in learning more about this topic.

“With wide-ranging roles as family pets, to therapy animals, to working dogs deployed to assist the military, law enforcement, and even medical researchers by sniffing out cancer in blood samples, our modern-day relationship with canine companions has more diversified implications than ever before,” says Fernandes. “By gathering some of the best minds on these subjects, we are excited about the opportunities to facilitate collaboration and also share this information with the public to further expand and deepen how we view contemporary society’s connection with dogs.”

Created with the mission to help promote and strengthen the human-animal bond, Annenberg PetSpace opened its doors in June 2017 and since has welcomed over 65,000 guests, adopted out hundreds of pets to homes, and convened some of the leading researchers to help us understand the mutual benefits of our connection to companion animals.

About Wallis Annenberg PetSpace
Wallis Annenberg PetSpace is a unique community space featuring an interactive place for pet adoptions, an education center, and an academic leadership institute. The mission of Annenberg PetSpace is to strengthen and promote the human-animal bond.

Annenberg PetSpace represents the latest extension of Wallis Annenberg’s philanthropic work, which has long supported organizations and projects dedicated to improving the wellbeing of people and communities in Los Angeles, surrounding regions, and throughout the world.

Learn more at


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