CEHD News Children, Families & Communities

CEHD News Children, Families & Communities

FSoS PhD student to present a regional conference

a graduate student.
Family Social Science Ph.D. student Gretchen Buchanan.

PhD student Gretchen Buchanan will be presenting at the 2018 Integrated Behavioral Healthcare Conference, April 27, at the Minneapolis Marriott Southwest in Minnetonka.

She will present, “Challenging Patients, Compassion Fatigue, Burnout, and Self-Care: A Workshop for Everyone in Integrated Behavioral Healthcare.”

The presentation is based on a series of staff trainings Buchanan conducted when she was a behavioral health clinician at a Twin Cities integrated health care clinic.

The clinic was unique in that it was a referral-based clinic for specifically patients with severe, chronic mental health and medical issues, a population that could be challenging.  Buchanan assisted staff with strategies and techniques to manage stressful situations and difficult conversations as well as strategies for self-care and self-management.

FSoS PhD student and professor to be honored at national conference

A professor and student.
Associate Professor Susan Walker and Ph.D. student Seonghee Hong. Photo by Julie Michener.

Susan Walker, associate professor, and Seonghee Hong, a Ph.D. student in Family Social Science, will receive the Family & Consumer Sciences Research Journal Best Paper Award in Family and Consumer Sciences Education for 2017.

The award will be presented at the 109th Annual Conference of the American Association of Family and Consumer Sciences (AAFCS) in Atlanta in June. Dr. Sharon DeVaney, editor of FCSRJ, will present the award.

The paper, “Workplace Predictors of Parenting Educators’ Technology Acceptance Attitudes,” was published in the June 2017 issue of FCSRJ.

The AAFCS Best Paper award recognizes work for the importance and originality of the topic; strength of the methodology and results; and the potential for a lasting contribution to family and consumer science.

In their article, Walker and Hong investigated the technology adoption of non-formal parenting educators in Minnesota. They found that attitudes toward technology use was directly related to the perceived ease of use and perceived usefulness of the technology. They recommended that organizations that employ parenting educators foster a climate that encourages technology use and provide ongoing and effective training.

The Family and Consumer Sciences Research Journal publishes original research in all areas of family and consumer sciences. AAFCS, the sponsoring organization of the journal, is the only national not-for-profit 501(c) (3) organization that provides leadership and support to family and consumer science professionals in education, research, business, and not-for-profit organizations.

In Reuters, Masten discusses importance of supportive relationships in adulthood

Dr. Ann Masten
Dr. Ann Masten

In an article in Reuters, Ann Masten, Ph.D., a professor in the Institute of Child Development, commented on new research that found that child abuse survivors have a lower risk of dying prematurely if they have strong, supportive relationships in adulthood.

For the new study, published in Nature Human Behavior, Northwestern University researchers and colleagues analyzed data for 6,078 adults who were 47 years old on average. According to the data, 2,883 reported experiencing emotional abuse as children, 1,594 reported moderate physical abuse, and 695 said they experienced severe physical abuse. Across the next 20 years, 17 percent of participants died.

The findings showed that participants who survived severe physical abuse were 19 percent less likely to die during the study period if they had supportive relationships during adulthood. Survivors of moderate physical abuse were 12 percent less likely, and survivors of emotional abuse were 11 percent less likely. The findings suggest that supportive relationships in adulthood may help buffer or reverse negative health effects caused by abuse experienced during childhood, the researchers said.

According to Masten, who wrote an accompanying editorial to the study, “toxic stress” caused by abuse or other traumatic events can impact brain development and lead to medical issues like heart problems, premature cellular aging, obesity, or depression, among others.

“Adult survivors of child abuse can cultivate and invest in supportive relationships through enduring ties to friends and family, cultural and religious practices, community engagement and many other social activities,” Masten said. “They can also keep an eye on their own mental health, getting early treatment for signs of trauma, depression, substance use problems or suicidal thinking.”

Introduction to Prevention Science to be offered online

An introduction to prevention science will be offered online summer session 2018.

The Department of Family Social Science will offer an introduction to Prevention Science course online during the 2018 summer session, May 21-August 17.

The course, “Prevention Science: Principles and Practices,” (FSoS 5701, class number 88756) is open to graduate-level students. Undergraduate and nontraditional students may take the course with the instructor’s permission. Registration opens March 1 and ends May 25, the Friday following the first day of class.

This course is an excellent introduction to prevention science concepts and methods and will cover foundations for strategic interventions to prevent behavioral problems and promote healthy development, as well as trends and best practices in the discipline.

Prevention Science is a multi-disciplinary comprehensive approach to identify how best to promote the well-being of diverse families and communities by bridging research and practice. Learn more about Prevention Science.

Current prevention science research being conducted at the U of M includes preventing antisocial behavior and drug abuse, developing evidence-based parenting programs and education, supporting healthy development in at-risk populations, and exploring the value of mentor-based interventions.

For more information

Contact Instructor Kristen Johnson or visit OneStop.

CEHD collaborates with Harvard Graduate School of Education

Reflection Sciences founders Stephanie Carlson, Ph.D., and Philip Zelazo, Ph.D., are professors in CEHD’s Institute of Child Development

Reflection Sciences, a Minnesota start-up founded by two CEHD professors, is teaming up with researchers at the Harvard Graduate School of Education to understand how children develop in both formal and informal child care settings through measures of early learning.

Founded in 2014 by Institute of Child Development professors Stephanie Carlson, Ph.D., and Phil Zelazo, Ph.D., Reflection Sciences provides professional development, training, and tools for assessing and improving executive function skills. Executive function is the set of neurocognitive functions that help the brain organize and act on information. These functions help us pay attention, control behavior, and think flexibly – skills that are key for school readiness.

Through the new collaboration, researchers will be able to track the development of executive function skills over the course of childhood and beyond using Reflection Sciences’ Minnesota Executive Function Scale (MEFS™) App. The MEFS App is a scientifically valid and reliable game-like tablet measure of executive function for ages 2 and up.

“The research literature clearly points to the critical role that early executive function plays in children’s academic and social success, so we need to make sure the study effectively captures children’s skills in this area,” said co-principal investigator Stephanie Jones, Ph.D., a professor of education at Harvard. “MEFS combines the strength of a trusted measure of executive function with the power of big data, allowing us to view the findings from our study within the context of the thousands of other children who have used the app.”

For the Early Learning Study at Harvard, which is supported by the Saul Zaentz Early Education Initiative and led by Jones and Nonie Lesaux, Ph.D., researchers will follow a sample of 5,000 randomly selected families with children ages 3 and 4 years from more than 100 communities throughout Massachusetts. An estimated 40 percent of the children are in an informal childcare setting, such as family care; the other 60 percent are enrolled in a formal setting, such as an early childhood education center. Across four years, researchers will document each child’s early learning experiences and measure outcomes including language, executive function, and academic and social-emotional skills.

This study aims to address important questions about how formal and informal early learning environments impact learning outcomes and developmental gains. The researchers hope to achieve a better understanding of which early education features have the greatest benefits for children, which models of Pre-K work best, why they work, for whom they work, and under what conditions. The team hopes their findings will inform public policy efforts and decisions regarding opportunities and challenges facing early childhood education.

“The Early Learning Study at Harvard is setting the standard for research on early childhood education practices and we are delighted to be able to help them achieve results using our measure,” Carlson said.

ICD researchers find early childhood program linked to degree completion

Arthur Reynolds, Ph.D.
Arthur Reynolds, Ph.D.

Participating in an intensive early childhood education program from preschool to third grade is linked to higher educational attainment in mid-life, according to a new study by researchers in CEHD’s Institute of Child Development (ICD).

The study, published in JAMA Pediatrics, tracked the progress of more than 1,500 children from low-income neighborhoods in Chicago, from the time they entered preschool in 1983 and 1984 in Child-Parent Centers (CPC) until roughly 30 years later. The children were part of the Chicago Longitudinal Study, one of the longest-running follow-ups of early childhood intervention.

“Children from low-income families are less likely to attend college than their higher-income peers,” said lead author Arthur J. Reynolds, Ph.D., a professor in ICD and director of the Chicago Longitudinal Study. “A strong system of educational and family supports in a child’s first decade is an innovative way to improve educational outcomes leading to greater economic well-being. The CPC program provides this.”

The JAMA Pediatrics study is the first of a large-scale public program to assess impacts on mid-life educational attainment and the contributions of continuing services in elementary school. The study’s co-authors include Suh-Ruu Ou and Judy A. Temple of the University of Minnesota’s Human Capital Research Collaborative.

For the study, which was funded by the National Institutes of Health, the researchers followed the progress of 989 graduates of the Chicago Public School District’s CPC program, which provided intensive instruction in reading and math from preschool through third grade as part of a school reform model.

The program provides small classes, intensive learning experiences, menu-based parent involvement, and professional development. The children’s parents received job skills training, parenting skills training, educational classes and social services. They also volunteered in their children’s classrooms, assisted with field trips, and attended parenting support groups.

The authors compared the educational outcomes of those children to the outcomes of 550 children from low-income families who attended other early childhood intervention programs in the Chicago area. The researchers collected information on the children from administrative records, schools and families, from birth through 35 years of age. More than 90 percent of the original sample had available data on educational attainment.

On average, CPC graduates—whether they participated in preschool only, or through second or third grade—completed more years of education than those who participated in other programs.

For children who received an intervention in preschool, those in the CPC group were more likely to achieve an associate’s degree or higher (15.7 percent vs. 10.7 percent), a bachelor’s degree (11.0 percent vs. 7.8 percent), or a master’s degree (4.2 percent vs. 1.5 percent). These differences translate to a 47 percent increase in an earned associate’s degree and a 41 percent increase in an earned bachelor’s degree.

CPC graduates through second or third grade showed even greater gains: a 48 percent increase in associate’s degree or higher and a 74 percent increase for bachelor’s degree or higher.

“Every child deserves a strong foundation for a successful future, and this report provides more concrete, compelling evidence that investments in early childhood education pay dividends for decades,” said Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel. “Chicago is expanding access to early childhood education so every child, regardless of their zip code or parents’ income, can have the building blocks for a lifetime of success.”

According to the study’s authors, successful early childhood programs not only may lead to higher adult educational achievement, but also to improved health. The authors note that adults with less education are more likely to adopt unhealthy habits like smoking and to experience high blood pressure, obesity, and mental health problems than those who complete more schooling.

“This study shows that a well run early childhood intervention program can have benefits well into adult life,” said James Griffin, Ph.D., Deputy Chief of the Child Development Branch at the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development at the National Institutes of Health.

In previous studies, the researchers showed that CPC program participants have attained higher incomes, and experienced lower rates of serious crime, incarceration, and depression than participants of other programs. CPC has also shown a return on investment: cost-benefit analyses have shown economic returns of 7 to 10 dollars per dollar invested.

The CPC program expanded beyond Chicago beginning in 2012. The program is now also in parts of Minnesota, Illinois, and Wisconsin.

Funding for the study is from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. To read the full research paper titled, “A Multicomponent, Preschool to Third Grade Preventive Intervention and Educational Attainment at 35 Years of Age,” visit the JAMA Pediatrics website.

Koenig comments on helping children think critically

Melissa Koenig
Melissa Koenig, Ph.D.

Melissa Koenig, Ph.D., a professor in the Institute of Child Development, recently published a commentary in NBC News Think on how we can help children think critically in the era of “fake news.”

Koenig collaborated with Valerie Tiberius, Ph.D., professor and chair of the Philosophy Department at the University of Minnesota, on the piece.

In the commentary, Koenig and Tiberius discuss recent child development research that shows that young children are able to identify false information without prior training and that children prefer to learn from those who are familiar, dominant, or attractive.

According to Koenig and Tiberius, this research suggests that “children would benefit from seeing their culturally favored sources — parents, teachers, family, clergy, political leaders — admit to the limits of their knowledge, openly discuss their mistakes, profess their doubts and make their uncertainty clear.”

Family Social Science Cornerstone Symposium highlights professor’s contributions to improve marital relationships

Professor Emeritus David Olson will deliver the 2018 Cornerstone Symposium lecture Thursday, April 5, at 4 p.m. in the McNamara Alumni Center. The event is free and open to the public. RSVP online at: z.umn.edu/cornerstone2018.

Doctor David Olson
Professor Emeritus David Olson will deliver the FSoS Cornerstone Symposium lecture April 5.

One of the pioneers in couple and marriage therapy, Olson will discuss how he bridged research, theory, and practice to create the pioneering Circumplex Model, a systemic model based on three major relationship dimensions: cohesion, flexibility, and communication. Used in a variety of settings with couples and families, the assessment provides diagnostic information that is useful for treatment planning, clinical intervention, and assessing the clinical outcome. The model has been used as the foundation for more than 1,000 research studies worldwide.

He joined the University’s Department of Family Social Science faculty in 1973, and served as Director of Graduate Programs from 1973-1987.  He also served as acting head of the Department in 1989. He conducted research studies of health family systems, marital and family conflict, premarital preparation and marriage enrichment programs, mediation approaches to child custody, and family treatment of alcoholism and drug abuse. He has written or edited over 20 books and published more than 100 articles. He currently serves on the editorial boards of six family journals.

Founder and president of Prepare/Enrich (Life Innovations), Olson created a simplified version of his assessment that has been used with over 4 million premarital and married couples around the globe to improve the health and resilience of their relationships.

He is a fellow of the American Association for Marital and Family Therapy (AAMFT) and the American Psychological Association. He has served as president of the National Council on Family Relations and the Upper Midwest Association for Marriage and Family Therapists. He was honored by both AAMFT and the American Family Therapy Association with Distinguished Contributions to Family Therapy Research Awards, as well as the University of Minnesota’s Legacy and Research Excellence Awards.

Olson was honored with Professor Emeritus status in 2001. He received his bachelor’s degree in psychology from St. Olaf College, a master’s in psychology from Wichita State University, and his doctoral degree from Penn State.

More about Family Social Science

The Department of Family Social Science is in the College of Education + Human Development. Formed in 1970, the Department of Family Social Science features academic programs that are future-focused, comprehensive, and transdisciplinary. FSoS scholars not only discover new knowledge, they are committed to collaborating with families, communities, and agencies to identify challenges and create evidence-based solutions. Its multi-disciplinary focus in a research-intensive institution makes it distinctive and unique.


Gov. Dayton names Dec. 8 “Vanessa Goodthunder Day” after C&I student for her work on Dakota language advocacy

Vanessa Goodthunder and Mark Dayton
Vanessa Goodthunder (left) and her mother present Gov. Dayton with a star quilt.

Vanessa Goodthunder, an M.Ed. candidate in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction, and has gone on to make major strides in tribal issues advocacy and language revitalization in Minnesota and beyond. Governor Mark Dayton heard Goodthunder speak about her work to revitalize the Dakota language and asked her to serve as assistant to the chief of staff focusing on tribal issues, reports the Redwood Falls Gazette.

“During the seven months I was in the governor’s office I learned a lot about government and what it means to be a leader,” said Goodthunder. “I never imagined I would work in government, and even though the role was a short one I think I was able to make a difference for the tribes.”

Dayton recognized her work by declaring December 8 as Vanessa Goodthunder Day in Minnesota. Gooddthunder tweeted in response to the honor, “Happy Vanessa Goodthunder Day in the State of Minnesota. Pidamayaye Governors Office for helping me grow my confidence in my voice and perspective. I’m so honored to have been on this team and now to help open up a 0-3 Dakota Immersion School at the Lower Sioux Community. Wopida.”

Goodthunder will continue her work in the Lower Sioux Indian Community as director of the Head Start program where she received a $1.9 million grant to launch an early childhood Dakota language immersion aimed at revitalizing the Dakota language.

In addition, Goodthunder, helped to launch a Dakota language app with a grant from the Minnesota Indian Affairs Council, which is expected to be launched publicly this year, according the Star Tribune.

“My language is part of me,” she said. “Without it I am not whole.”

Read the more about Goodthunder in the Redwood Falls Gazette.

Learn more about the M.Ed. and teacher licensure programs in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction.

FSoS professor launches last doctoral advisee

Corey Yeager and Bill Doherty.
L to r: Ph.D. candidate Corey Yeager and FSoS Professor Bill Doherty. Photo by Julie Michener.

Family Social Science doctoral candidate Corey Yeager successfully defended his Ph.D. dissertation in a mid-December session attended by a supportive crowd of faculty, friends and family. But the most unique facet of Yeager’s doctoral candidacy is the distinction of being Professor Bill Doherty’s last advisee.

Doherty, who joined the Department of Family Social Science in 1986, says he  will continue to serve on graduate student committees, but he feels he’s at an age where taking on new students for the doctoral degree process (normally around five-years) would not be a good idea for the student.

“I couldn’t be more delighted that Corey was my final student,” said Doherty. “He learned and grew tremendously, and is already making wonderful contributions to the practice and theory of family social science.”

Doherty says Yeager is a prime example of the Department of Family Social Science’s focus on developing community partnerships.  That’s a big change he’s noticed over his 30 years of advising doctoral candidates. They enter the program seeking to understand the bigger picture of issues affecting families across the lifespan, and finding their unique research path to make an impact.

He has also observed that some candidates often must cope with the anxiety of their family and community about their doctoral ambitions.  “Especially in communities of color, there’s apprehension that if someone gets their doctoral degree, they’ll abandon their community,” said Doherty. “That’s not true with Corey—he’s thoroughly engaged.”

Addressing community challenges

Yeager has worked since 2013 in Minneapolis Public Schools’ Office of Black Male Student Achievement (OBMSA) that addresses the achievement gap in the district’s black male students – the largest demographic group in the district.

He steps into a new role as Educational Equity Director that will focus on professional development for administrators, teachers, and support staff to address the gap. According to OBMSA, black male students lag behind their white male counterparts in every achievement indicator, and have a 39 percent high school graduation rate, compared to white male students’ 65 percent.

“My graduate work and the ability to access, understand, and use meaningful research to support OMBSA’s work has been very helpful,” said Yeager.

As part of his doctoral work, Yeager and Doherty collaborated with black male students at South High School to create the “Relationship Project.” Using the framework Doherty has developed with his Families and Democracy Project, the two researchers listened and learned from the young men, who chose to work on improving their relationships with teachers and their female peers as a way to address their achievement gap.

The two helped the young men improve their communication skills to interview teachers and learn more about them, while the students organized a peer panel of young women to understand the behaviors they display that create discomfort, and what they could do better. Yeager says the work has been powerful for all involved and achieved positive results for the students.

Communities as co-producers

Doherty says this democratic approach builds credibility and trust with individuals, families and partnering organizations.  He has spent his career honing this framework that recognizes a community as a base of both knowledge and action.

The temptation of academia he says, is to go into a partnership with a top down mindset as the “expert deliverer of new knowledge.”

“But when you access both the academic knowledge and the knowledge that resides in those communities – that’s dynamite,” he says. Being able to implement that kind of approach requires developing communication and facilitation skills that foster open community engagement.

“Never start with a powerpoint,” says Doherty. Doherty advises dialogue – ask those in the room to share what they know, what they’ve observed, and how they feel about the issue at hand.

“I call it ‘being on tap’ rather than ‘being on top,’” he says. “The dialogue builds trust and appreciation for listening and we – the academics – become resources.”

Yeager expressed his own appreciation for Doherty’s mentorship in attaining his doctoral degree.

“Dr. Doherty was a guide, trainer, motivator, therapist and confidant for me through this doctoral journey,” he said. “I am ever indebted to him and will work diligently to repay him for all he has become to me…”

Learn more

You can learn more about Professor Doherty’s work at the Citizen Professional Center site.

Project to help first responders wins MN-REACH grant

Professor Tai Mendenhall.
Tai Mendenhall, professor of Family Social Science.

Family Social Science Associate Professor Tai Mendenhall’s project to help first responders, called “Preventing Compassion Fatigue in Disaster-Responders: Advancing and Evaluating the Effectiveness of a Mobile Self Care App,” has been selected for MN-Reach funding.

The University of Minnesota launched MN-REACH in 2015 to help researchers with new health-related discoveries navigate the complex path(s) from laboratory to market. MN-REACH is also one of three sites in the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) Research Evaluation and Commercialization Hubs.

Mendenhall is principal investigator (PI) on a team that created a self-care app for trauma-responders, the UMN Responder Self-Care App. In 2012, providers and researchers from the University of Minnesota’s School of Public Health, Academic Health Center (Office of Emergency Preparedness), and Department of Family Social Science collaborated with colleagues at the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) to develop the innovative self-care app for emergency responders in-the-field.  They pilot-tested an early version of the app with volunteer members of the UMN’s Medical Reserve Corps (Behavioral-, Biomedical-, Veterinary-, and other teams) and MDH.

“These volunteers assisted us with understanding their use-cases, so that we can refine and revise this early version across both content and organization,” said Mendenhall, who earned his Ph.D. in Family Social Science at the U of M in 2003. “We are now working toward widespread use and rigorous (randomized) empirical testing.  This is very timely and important work!”

Mendenhall’s co-investigators include Andrew Morrow, in the U of M’s Office for Technology Commercialization, and two professionals from the MDH’s Center for Emergency Preparedness and Response: Nancy Carlson, a doctoral student who also works as a behavioral health and community resilience program coordinator, and Tom Garcia, a medical countermeasures planner.

The interactive smartphone app (available for iOS and Android) engages responders in a variety of ways before, during, and after deployments. The personally-customizable tool serves to promote and aid responders’ attention to their own physical, emotional, and social well-being.

High stress – high risk 

Disaster-responders are already a high-risk group for compassion fatigue and – paired with the high-risk nature of fieldwork, itself – they are also at high-risk to become impaired. This puts both providers and the families they serve at risk. A 2016 Survey conducted by the National EMS Management Association (NEMA) described in detail the current needs of the responder community, including a call to action: “There is a significant mental health and wellness problem among the EMS workforce in the United States. Insufficient data exists to fully describe the extent and impact of this problem across the 800,000+ professionals that serve around the clock each day.”

Currently organizations address compassion fatigue during after-action processing and/or debriefing sequences, which do not sufficiently address the personal health and well-being of responders. This gap is partly connected to the cultures of medical education, law-enforcement, and emergency services institutions (e.g., rigid hierarchies between classes and specializations, long working hours, and an ethos that does not support or encourage asking for help or appearing vulnerable).

The risks associated with compassion fatigue have personal consequences for emergency responders, including physical and mental illnesses, relationship stress, and professional consequences for the individuals and families that disaster response personnel serve (ranging from missing important cues, to ineffective teamwork and/or straightforward medical errors).

“The opportunity to use the UMN Responder Self-Care App in real-time – privately or in coordination with assigned team-members – will help responders with self-care during times when doing so is most needed, while also capturing much needed data to support long-term research so crucial in this field,” said Mendenhall.

Early development of the UMN Responder Self-Care App was supported by University of Minnesota: Simulations, Exercises, and Effective Education (U-SEE) funding to investigate the effectiveness of public health preparedness training methods with the goal of developing training models that build system capacity.

Masten discusses resilience in Monitor on Psychology

Dr. Ann Masten
Dr. Ann Masten

Ann S. Masten, Ph.D., Regents Professor and Irving B. Harris Professor of Child Development in the Institute of Child Development (ICD), was recently featured in an article appearing in the September 2017 issue of the American Psychological Association’s Monitor on Psychology.

The article, “Maximizing children’s resilience,” by Kirsten Weir, highlighted new research that examines how to foster resilience in children and adolescents and the importance of early intervention.

According to Masten, the field has shifted from focusing on traits of resilient individuals to looking at resilience from a systems perspective. For example, Masten, along with other researchers, have found that having supportive relationships, including with parents or primary caregivers, is important for healthy development.

“The resilience of an individual depends on drawing resources from many other systems,” Masten says. “A child is embedded in interactions with friends, family, community. The way those other systems are functioning plays a huge role in the capacity of that child to overcome adversity.”

ICD professor, graduate student present research on mindfulness in education

ICD Professor Philip D. Zelazo delivering a keynote address at the Mindfulness in Education Summer Institute.

Philip D. Zelazo, Ph.D., a Nancy M. and John E. Lindahl Professor in the Institute of Child Development (ICD), and Andrei Semenov, a child psychology doctoral student in ICD, recently presented at the Mindfulness in Education Summer Institute.

The summer institute is a community event hosted by the University of Minnesota’s Center for Spirituality and Healing. The 3-day event aimed to bring together teachers, researchers, clinicians, and practitioners to discuss mindfulness research and ways to promote practices that support wellbeing in school communities.

For the event, Zelazo delivered a keynote address that focused on how mindfulness practice has been shown to promote reflection and executive functions in children and adults.

Semenov’s presentation highlighted findings from curriculum evaluation conducted this past year. The novel curriculum, developed in collaboration with the Center for Spirituality and Healing, introduced mindfulness practice to a cohort of elementary school teachers in an effort to improve teacher wellbeing and promote mindful approaches to student-teacher interactions.

Minnesota gathers to address social emotional learning at Educational Equity in Action II

Attendees visit in between sessions at Educational Equity in Action.

On June 20 and 21, roughly 500 of Minnesota’s education leaders, researchers, policy makers, and nonprofit organizations gathered at Educational Equity in Action II. This was the second convening hosted by the University of Minnesota. Its focus: improving educational equity by “Working across schools and communities to enhance social emotional learning.”

Opening keynote

Brokenleg leads a small group discussion following his keynote.

Dr. Martin Brokenleg, Co-author of the book Reclaiming Youth at Risk: Our Hope for the Future and co-developer of the Circle of Courage model, explained that trauma from oppression, like that experienced by the American Indian community, can span generations.

“Our culture is plagued by intergenerational trauma,” said Brokenleg, whose mother’s family was among those imprisoned at Fort Snelling. He cited the incredibly high suicide rate among Native people, especially in the 18-30 age group, and among people in Ireland and Scotland after generations of oppression by the British, whose methods not coincidentally were adopted by the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs. “We’ve had a normal human reaction to an abnormal history.”

Brokenleg described his Circle of Courage model which supports character building or “teaching the heart” through generosity, belonging, independence, and mastery. Brokenleg finished his talk with practical strategies from Circle of Courage attendees could take back to their schools and communities to help young people—especially those suffering from intergenerational trauma—learn and grow.


Members of Rodriguez’s Minnesota Youth Development (MYDRG)

Dr. Michael Rodriguez, professor of educational psychology at the University of Minnesota, Jim and Carmen Campbell Leadership Chair in Education and Human Development, and co-director of the Educational Equity Resource Center and the covening, led a plenary discussion on the results of the Minnesota Student Survey (MSS).

Rodriguez explained, although  at a high-level the MSS tells a positive story about the developmental skills and supports of Minnesota youth, a closer look at the data demonstrates the reality of the inequities some students experience in Minnesota’s education system. This is particularly apparent for students identifying as lesbian, gay, or bisexual (LGB); students who skip school; students who receive disciplinary action in school; and students who have experienced trauma.

“Ninety-nine percent of our youth say their goal is to graduate from high school—and 65 to 85 percent across demographic groups also want to go to college,” said Rodriguez. “That’s a lot higher than our state’s high school graduation goal for them, which is now about 90 percent by 2020!”

He emphasized that students’ own goals are higher than those we’ve set as a state.

Following the plenary, students in Rodriguez’s Minnesota Youth Development Research Group (MYDRG) led detailed discussions on the MSS results for some of these groups, including: American Indian students, Hmong students, students in special education, LGB students, and students experiencing trauma.

Download presentations from the convening on the MYDRG website.

Breakout sessions

Dr. Clayton Cook leads a discussion on school climate.

Throughout the convening, participants selected from 28 smaller group breakout sessions on social-emotional learning led by University of Minnesota researchers, youth engagement groups, school districts, the Minneapolis Department of Education, and more. Several sessions included youth as presenters and/or  focused on youth participatory action research projects.

Small group discussions

Attendees share their educational equity challenges in small groups.

Before the final keynote, attendees participated in a process called TRIZ. They met in small groups—dividing themselves up based on the different developmental skills and supports students need to be successful (identified in Rodriguez’s work). Participants started with the unusual task of listing actions communities might take to destroy the skill being discussed in youth. Then, they shared opportunities they had to remove some of these destructive activities and developed action plans for their schools, communities, and organizations.

View TRIZ sampling responses for destructive actions and action steps.

Action commitments

At the final session participants responded to the statement “I am committed to” with their commitments to take action on educational equity.

Closing keynote

Khalifa gives the final keynote at Educational Equity in Action.

Dr. Muhammad Khalifa, associate professor in Organizational Leadership, Policy, and Development, closed out the convening by challenging the group to practice culturally responsive school leadership (CRSL). He asked that school leaders promote schooling that addresses the specific cultural and learning needs of students by focusing on the perspectives of parents, students, and community members.

“Change in schools can be promoted and fostered by ‘leaders,’ but culturally responsive school leadership is practiced by all stakeholders,” said Khalifa. “Community-based based knowledge informs good leadership practice.”

In this statement, Khalifa connected his keynote to Rodriguez’ and Brokenleg’s work. Each of the speakers stressed the importance of listening to all members of our community to improve educational equity.

Khalifa ended his talk by sharing strategies to help attendees to achieve CRSL in their own schools, organizations, and communities.

View an artist’s interpretation of Khalifa’s keynote by Jen Mein.

Thank you to our sponsors

The Educational Equity in Action convening was created by the University of Minnesota’s Educational Equity Resource Center. This year’s event was organized in partnership with the University’s Office for Equity and Diversity and made possible by the Minneapolis Foundation, Youthprise, Jim and Carmen Campbell Leadership Chair in Education & Human Development, College of Education and Human Development, Department of Educational Psychology, and the College Readiness Consortium.

Bill Doherty is “on the bus”

Bill Doherty (far right) leads a discussion group in Ohio. Photo by Ciaran O’Connor.


Family Social Science Professor Bill Doherty is spending part of his summer applying his research to help America heal.

The November 2016 election accelerated a trend that researchers have been watching grow over the past several decades: that Americans are coming to view people who differ from them politically not just as political adversaries but as enemies whose ways of living and thinking are alien and dangerous. The American society is polarizing – separating into mutually antagonistic groups that do not trust or even know one another.

The “Red” and Blue divide” has reached the point where far fewer Americans would approve of their son or daughter marrying across political party lines than across racial lines. Family and friendship bonds are being frayed and in some cases ripped apart over who voted for which presidential candidate.

“This degree of rancor and mistrust threatens the foundations of our democracy,” said Doherty. “We are experiencing levels of polarization not seen, in the opinion of some historians, since the Civil War.”

Doherty has been researching the “citizen professional” concept for more than a decade. He has examined the role of professions in society and how the role has evolved from a detached expert to a citizen professional – someone with special expertise working with – not over – members of a community to collaboratively solve problems.

Doherty is walking his talk. He has been collaborating with a small nonprofit in New York called Better Angels where he’s been the lead designer and facilitator of a series of depolarization workshops for Red and Blue Americans.

They began in Ohio after the election with two weekend dialogues for Trump and Clinton voters who came together for carefully structured weekends that led to a joint statement to the nation, a documentary (by an Emmy Award winning producer) that will come out in 2018, and the formation of a Southwest Ohio chapter of Better Angels where conservatives and liberals are working together on depolarizing work and a joint Red/Blue policy platform.

In early March, an hour-long interview did with National Public Radio’s “Indivisible” series generated interest from people in several dozen towns and cities around the country who offered to organize local red/blue dialogues. The response gave birth to the Better Angel’s One America Bus Tour, funded by the Einhorn Foundation that launched July 4 with a benefit concert featuring Peter Yarrow (of Peter, Paul and Mary). The tour is traveling from Ohio through New England and down to Virginia, doing Red/Blue dialogues and depolarization skills workshops in local communities and promoting the development of Better Angels chapters.

This September, Doherty will lead a dialogue as part of the Nobel Peace Prize Symposium in St. Paul, and in October the next bus tour will head to states in the south and end in Montgomery, Alabama. Rotary Club leaders in California have also expressed interest in Red/Blue dialogues for their members. Locally in the Twin Cities area, the Hennepin County library system has signed to promote these civic dialogues across its 41 branches.

Learn more

Updates from the  Better Angels One America Bus Tour.

Listen to WNYC’s Indivisible program podcast, “Can we reunite America,” and MPR’s program on “How to talk politics with someone who disagrees with you.”

Read the Southwest Ohio chapter of Better Angels joint statement.

Watch a six-minute excerpt from the documentary from the second dialogue.

Original material courtesy of Bill Doherty, edited by Julie Michener. 

Research into Practice to support families affected by trauma

Family Social Science Professor Abi Gewirtz is leading a new center dedicated to putting trauma-informed and parent-focused interventions into the hands of practitioners throughout the country who can use them to support families affected by traumatic stressors.

The Center for Resilient Families is a program of the Institute of Translational Research at the University of Minnesota. The work is funded through funded by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Child Traumatic Stress Network. Read more about it at the National Children’s Alliance blog.

C&I student, Fadumo Mohamed, wins CEHD Multicultural Recognition Award

Lori Helman, Fadumo Mohamed and her parents, Anthony Albecker, Vichet Chhuon

Fadumo Mohamed, a senior in the Elementary Education Foundations program in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction received the CEHD Student Multicultural Recognition Award this year. The award is given to a candidate who has made outstanding multicultural efforts to the CEHD community in community outreach as part of their extracurricular or professional work.

Mohamed was nominated by her McNair Scholars program advisor, Lori Helman, on the strength of her many outreach activities. She worked as a literacy mentor in Pratt Community School as part of the America Reads program where she became interested in creating an effective mentoring program for Somali-American youth in the Cedar Riverside neighborhood.

The existing government programs designed to support positive extracurricular activities were transforming into programs to monitor youth for potential future terrorist threats. This was creating a divisive and mistrustful atmosphere in the community, so Mohamed urged the community school to not take the government funding for these programs that offered tutoring and instead to let her provide tutors with the support of the Young Muslims Collaborative (YMC).

In support of that effort she trained almost 40 mentors over two years that were paired with unmotivated or disconnected students. By training mentors who have had similar life experiences, the students are given emotional and strategic support for setting life goals. This is in contrast to programs that attempt to see these youth as potential deviants.

“Fadumo shares the importance of knowing who you are- the values of dual identity, dual language, and works to develop a curriculum that highlights this,” says Helman. “It has been my great honor to work alongside her and learn from her as she gives her full effort toward ensuring equity and positive identity formation for Somali Americans.”

Mohamed will enter the Master of Education and Initial Teaching License program in Elementary Education in the fall where she plans to continue her work towards engaging youth and creating a curriculum that responds to the needs of multicultural student communities.

Learn more about the elementary education programs in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction.


Williams Ridge presents at Children & Nature Network annual conference

Headshot of Sheila Williams Ridge
Sheila Williams Ridge

Sheila Williams Ridge, director of the Shirley G. Moore Lab School in the Institute of Child Development, presented at the 2017 Children & Nature Network (C&NN) International Conference and Summit.

C&NN aims to connect children, families, and communities to nature through innovative ideas and evidence-based resources. The theme for the 2017 conference was, “Kids Need Nature, Nature Needs Kids.”

During the conference, Williams Ridge spoke about tailoring outdoor learning opportunities to children’s specific developmental needs, depending on their age. She also moderated a panel about best practices for nature-based learning in the early childhood field.

CE+HD Connect Magazine highlights CEED research on children’s theater program

A recent article in CE+HD Connect magazine discussed research by the Center for Early Education and Development that is examining the effectiveness of a children’s theater program. The story is one of three articles about play that appear in the magazine’s Spring/Summer 2017 issue.

Early Bridges is a preschool theater arts outreach program developed by the Minneapolis-based Children’s Theatre Company (CTC). Early Bridges aims to build early literacy through interactive storytelling and theater arts.

Through a research collaboration with CTC, CEED evaluates Early Bridges’ impact, such as whether students show improvement in certain areas. CEED also has helped develop new measures and rubrics for the program, which incorporate both theater arts and child development theory.

To learn more about Early Bridges and CEED’s research, read the full story, “Setting the stage for learning,” or register for ICD’s Community Symposium on “The Importance of Play for Learning.” The symposium will take place on May 15 at 8:30 a.m. at the University of Minnesota McNamara Alumni Center.

Shirley G. Moore Lab School featured in CE+HD Connect Magazine

The Shirley G. Moore Lab School in the Institute of Child Development was profiled in a recent article in CE+HD Connect magazine, which highlighted the school’s focus on play-based learning. The story is one of three articles about play that appear in the magazine’s Spring/Summer 2017 issue.

To learn more about the Shirley G. Moore Lab School and how it incorporates play into its curriculum, read the full story, “Play lab,” or register for ICD’s Community Symposium on “The Importance of Play for Learning.” The symposium will take place on May 15 at 8:30 a.m. at the University of Minnesota McNamara Alumni Center.