Kelly Rulison, Ph.D.

Promoting Health, Engaging Communities, Changing Lives

Kelly Rulison, Ph.D.



Department of Public Health Education

School of Health and Human Sciences

University of North Carolina at Greensboro

P.O. Box 26170

Greensboro, NC 27402-6170

(336) 334-4963 (office)

Office Location: 420-G Mary Channing Coleman (HHP) Building

LinkedIn Profile


Education and Training

My interdisciplinary training includes:

  • An undergraduate degree in psychology from the University of Rochester
  • A master’s and doctoral degree in Human Development and Family Studies from The Pennsylvania State University
  • A master’s degree in applied statistics from The Pennsylvania State University
  • A two-year pre-doctoral research fellowship as part of Penn State University’s Prevention and Methodology Training program.

Curriculum Vitae


Research Interests

Broadly, my research focuses on the dynamic social processes and contexts that shape the development of health-risk behaviors during adolescence. Notably, rates of drug use and delinquency rapidly increase during adolescence. At the same time, adolescents spend increasingly more time with their peers in unsupervised settings and the nature of these peer relationships changes. These simultaneous changes in behavior and the peer context, however, are not conclusive evidence of a strong causal link between peers and health-risk behaviors. Before we can develop effective, and ideally optimized, interventions that can reduce the prevalence of health-risk behaviors as well as strengthen developmental assets, we must first identify the different mechanisms through which peers impact these behaviors. In addition, we must utilize methods that can capture the interdependent factors that shape health-risk behaviors over time and across different contexts (at school, at home, in after-school activities, and in the neighborhood).

In response to these challenges, my research centers around three inter-related themes. These three themes, which draw on my training in human development, statistical methodology, and prevention science, are: (1) To identify mechanisms through which social networks shape health-related behaviors, (2) To identify when and how social networks facilitate the diffusion of intervention effects from individuals who participated in an intervention to their friends, sexual partners, and family members, and (3) To optimize interventions so that they have a greater public health impact.


Current Studies

Principal Investigator: Wayne Osgood (Penn State University)
Agency: National Institute for Drug Abuse, WT Grant Foundation
Aim: This project explores whether family- and school-based interventions had setting level effects on substance use through their impact on school friendship networks. This project includes friendship and substance use data from over 11,000 youth over five waves between 6th and 9th grade. Within the larger project, I am exploring how social networks promote the diffusion of effects from the family-based intervention to non-participants.

Increasing Concussion Disclosure among Student-Athletes (2016-2018)
Principal Investigators: Jeff Milroy, David Wyrick (Public Health Education)
Agency: National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA)-Department of Defense Minds Matters Challenge
Aim: To move prevention science forward, we must move beyond questions of whether or not an intervention is effective and begin asking questions about whether the public health impact of the intervention has been optimized. The purpose of this study is to optimize a concussion prevention program (BrainCare) that targets college student-athletes. This project entails completing several different rounds of “component selection experiments” in which we evaluate the effectiveness of each program component and then revise any of the non-effective components.


Courses Taught

  • HEA 325 Public Health Data Analysis
  • HEA 604 Public Health Statistics
  • HHS 630 Survey Design in Health and Human Sciences
  • HEA 752 Quantitative Methods in Public Health

Links of Interests

Research Gate

Honors and Awards

  • Mary Frances Stone Teaching Award (2013)
  • Harold F. Martin Graduate Assistant Outstanding Teaching Award (2009)
  • Joachim Wohlwill Endowment in Human Development and Family Studies (2007)


  • School Heath Advisory Committee Member (Guilford County Schools)
  • Youth Risk Behavior Survey (2011-2012)