Family Social Science faculty members Catherine Solheim and Elizabeth Wieling have collaborated with FSOS Ph.D. candidate Jaime Ballard on the book, “Immigrant and Refugee Families: Global Perspectives on Displacement and Resettlement Experiences,” that gives readers an interdisciplinary perspective on the challenges and resilience of immigrant and refugee families in the U.S. They address topics such as immigration policy, traumatic stress, domestic violence, and more. It is free and available to download at the U of M Library.
In addition, Solheim is among the contributors to “Teaching Interculturally: A Framework for Integrating Disciplinary Knowledge and Intercultural Development.” Published by Stylus Publishing, the book provides educators a theoretical foundation, practical tools, and process for designing and implementing an intercultural pedagogy. The book is available online.
University of Minnesota Alum Ashley Landers Lace won the best dissertation award at the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy’s 2017 annual conference. This award is given by the AAMFT Research & Education Foundation to recognize scholarly achievement by recent graduates whose research study related to couples and family therapy or family therapy training.
Lace, an assistant professor at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State College (Virginia Tech or VPI), graduated with a Ph.D. in Family Social Science in 2016. During her U of M academic career, she was honored with a President’s Student Leadership and Service Award, a M. Janice Hogan Fellowship, a Family Process Institute’s New Writers Fellowship, and a Waller Summer Fellowship (twice), as well as a AAMFT Graduate Student Research Award from American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy. Her peer-reviewed presentations included national and regional conferences on child welfare, the impact of trauma on relationships, and diversity. Following graduation she served a post doc at the University of Calgary.
The Department of Family Social Science will host the Fall Semester Undergraduate Showcase Monday, Dec. 4, 5:15 – 6:45 p.m. The event will begin in McNeal Hall room 33 and then move upstairs to McNeal rooms 274 and 278 on the University’s St. Paul campus. Refreshments will be served.
Family Social Science Undergraduate Showcase gives undergrads the opportunity to showcase their scholarly work related to their field experiences for family, friends and the FSOS community. The FSOS Field Study requirement is generally completed by senior students close to graduation. Students are asked to complete 180 hours of work in local or global communities. During the Showcase students display their ability to synthesize theoretical classroom learning with practical real-world experiences. These experiences also allow students to explore potential employment opportunities.
Through excellence in academics, contributions to research projects, and immersion in work, internship, and volunteer experiences in communities both domestic and abroad, FSOS undergraduates are dedicated to enhancing the well being of diverse families in a changing world.
The event is held both in fall and spring semesters and helps students develop their presentation and communication skills in discussing their academic projects.
Nine students in the Department of Family Social Science’s Ph.D. specialization in Couple and Family Therapy are presenting their research at the annual meeting of the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy held in Atlanta, GA.
In addition, four FSOS faculty members – Steven Harris, Tai Mendenhall, Lindsey Weiler and Elizabeth Wieling – will also be presenting and leading workshops and research discussions during the four-day conference.
Students attending include Kadie Ausherbauer, Jackie Braughton, Sarah Crabtree, Daniel Cooper, Lekie Dwanyen, Eugene Hall, Heather Hensel, Aimee Hubbard and Damir Utzran.
Their research represents the breadth of key topics affecting families nationally and internationally including: investigations with Syrian refugees resettled to the United States, local needs assessments conducted with resettled Liberian families, parenting dynamics in a Mexican context, sexual satisfaction and dysfunction and marital separation research.
“Our students are conducting research on critical issues impacting families, especially those affected by social disparities,” said Elizabeth Wieling, associate professor and program director of the Couple and Family Therapy doctoral specialization in Family Social Science. “Each of their studies represent cutting edge work advancing the clinical and implementation fields of research.”
The American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT) represents more than 50,000 marriage and family therapists. The Department of Family Social Science Ph.D. program’s Couple and Family Therapy specialization is among the 20 academic programs accredited by AAMFT in the country.
More about this program
Tai Mendenhall, associate professor in Family Social Science, addressed the National Institutes of Health’s Collaborative Research Center for American Indian Health in August.
Lindsey Weiler, assistant professor in Family Social Science, led a research team gathering data at the Minnesota State Fair.
Professor Marlene Stum was honored by the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities Board on Human Sciences, Inc. (BoHS) Monday. The Board on Human Sciences Awards are annually presented to honor national leaders working to advance human sciences in higher education.
A professor in the Department of Family Social Science and Extension, Stum was the winner of the BoHS 2017 Outstanding Engagement Award. The award recognizes a campus-based or a state-level faculty member with exceptional creativity and scholarship in the development, application, and evaluation of outreach, extension, and public service programs.
Driven by a social justice perspective, Dr. Stum’s research and extension work focuses on improving financial literacy and decision-making in families facing later-in-life issues, including health care directives, transfer of personal property and inheritance decisions. Her scholarship and outreach also focuses on family dynamics and behaviors around long-term care, and her work has contributed to public and private policies impacting the long-term care risks facing the country’s aging population. Stum is an early innovator in the use of technology to increase access to the consumer information materials for various audiences.
More about the BoHS awards
The awards are part of the broader BoHS mission of advancing the intellectual integrity and stature of the human sciences at APLU-member institutions. The awards are aimed at supporting the development and stewardship of academic excellence in human sciences; advocating for visibility and leveraging resources to support human sciences research, extension and teaching programs; and educating leaders regarding the capacity of the human sciences to solve human problems.
Abigail Gewirtz, Lindahl Leadership professor in the Department of Family Social Science and the Institute for Translational Research, was interviewed by WCCO-TV and KSTP-TV about her research program, ADAPT, that supports military families reintegrating following deployment. The unique program provides tools and resources to support positive parenting. A U.S. Department of Defense grant is underwriting an online version of ADAPT to serve more military families.
Dworkin is among experts from across the country invited to address the Symposium topic, “Families and Technology,” that will explore how technology is rapidly changing and shaping families and family life. She will present on “Parent’s role in children’s screen time,” and discuss her research that includes the Parenting 2.0 project.
Rose Simon, a 2017 family social science graduate, was a keynote speaker at this year’s New Student Convocation, the U o f M’s welcome event for the incoming first-year class. Simon was encouraged to apply for the opportunity by her undergraduate student services adviser, Carole Anne Broad. A transcript of her speech is below, and view the event on YouTube. Simon’s speech begins around the 1 hour mark.
Welcome Class of 2021 and may I be one of many to congratulate you on this huge accomplishment. You are now officially a college student and you have certainly overcome numerous barriers to be here today and you should be very proud of yourselves. I am sure you are thrilled and eager to start classes and most importantly, for the “all you can eat” ice cream in the dining halls. However, before we get too far into your college days, I’m here to share a few of my own experiences and tips to help you along the way: and my first one to you is, don’t eat too much ice cream.
When I look back at my past four years of college, I can’t help but smile. I have done some pretty amazing things, but I was still surprised when I was asked to speak to you today. Surely, there was someone more qualified than I with a more picturesque college experience. What you heard in my bio is fairly impressive and I certainly worked hard these past four years but what you don’t hear about are the many challenges I faced throughout college. You don’t hear about the mental health issues I faced, or the time I was affected by a terrorist attack when I studied abroad, or the classes that I almost failed. These challenges became part of my journey and I realized that I DID have a perfect experience, just in a different manner that can’t be compared to any other college experience. It was perfect because I was challenged academically, mentally, emotionally and physically, and eventually I realized that I walked away with greater insight about myself and my potential.
So, I’m not here to tell you my life story, but I am here to share a few tips from my own journey through college. I have four tips for you that I hope will guide you in overcoming and succeeding when faced with your diverse challenges; whether your challenges are small or mighty.
Tip #1 Find your passion – whatever that is, and follow it, and do NOT let doubt overtake your confidence.
I love French, but boy did I struggle. When I was failing a French course my freshman year, it was difficult to remember how much I loved languages and connecting with other cultures when society was telling me that I should do something more practical, something that makes money. But my heart was telling me otherwise. When I made the wise choice to follow my passion by declaring my French major, I was able to live abroad in France for an entire year learning and challenging myself in a new space and culture. So find your passion, and stick with it, because some things are just meant to be.
# 2; Ask for help. There will be times when you feel overwhelmed and you need to know that the entire U of M community has your back. Asking for help, whether it’s going to your professor’s office hours and asking for homework help, asking your mentor, friend, advisor or coach for advice, or seeing a Boynton therapist – it will be the best way for you to find support when you face tough challenges. I personally have asked for help from all of those resources and I can attest to how much it helped me. So when faced with challenges, small or mighty, ask for help.
#3: Connect with your community on campus, and you will find your home and your second family where you will only receive love, support, and connection. Find your sport team if that’s what you’re into, join a fraternity or sorority, surround yourself with those that share pride in your culture by joining a cultural group, find support through programs like the Multicultural Center of Academic Excellence, TRIO or the President’s Emerging Scholars Program. I found my niche with the University of Minnesota women’s rugby team and my President’s Emerging Scholars family, and those two groups showed me nothing but love and support and as a result, I always felt like coming to campus was coming home.
And my final tip for you…
#4; Seek challenges and step out of your comfort zone. No doubt, this will happen without choice, but there are many ways that you can deliberately step out of your comfort zone and challenge yourself with new experiences. Show up at a club meeting even if you don’t know anyone, study abroad in a different country, volunteer with a community you have never worked with, learn about a new culture. From studying abroad I learned that taking a step beyond what I was used to or comfortable with was an amazing way for me to learn beyond the classroom, and I don’t regret any of the challenges that I placed upon myself.
I know this is not the first time you have faced a challenge, and for many, you have faced bigger challenges then most can even imagine. When your faced with these new challenges, remember you’ve earned your place at the U of M and in four years you will be holding a diploma instead of a tassel and looking back at your challenges and honoring your successes, for teaching you so many life lessons.
I hope that when you look back on your college career four years from now, that you will have found your passion and followed it, found a community and embraced it, asked for guidance and given it, and challenged yourself, but most importantly, I hope you can look back and can’t help but smile. Best of luck on your journey and congratulations!
Family Social Science Assistant Professor Tim Piehler’s project, “Mindfulness Training for Juvenile Diversion Youth,” has been awarded an Institute for Translational Research in Children’s Mental Health (ITR) Collaborative Seed Grant for the 2017-2018 cycle.
The project was awarded $19,985 mico-trial grant to collaborate on an evidence-based intervention with Headway Emotional Health Services, a community mental health agency that provides pre-court juvenile diversion services for youth offenders.
These kinds of trials are an experimental design to determine the effectiveness of an intervention with the understanding that while it may not have the same effect as a full intervention, it will inform the creation of full-scale intervention program. Piehler’s collaboration with Headway will evaluate the ability of mindfulness-based skills training to impact self-control within an adolescent diversion population.
Previous trials of mindfulness training with adults provide preliminary evidence for positive effects on self-control. The proposed research will extend this work to adolescents at risk for the development of conduct disorder and associated criminality.
“Youth conduct problems, such as aggression, defiance, violence, and criminality, represent a major public health concern with substantial costs to individuals, their families, and larger society,” says Piehler. “When these behaviors escalate to the level of conduct disorder, they can be devastating not only to the youth and their families in the form of social and educational failure, but also have a far-reaching impact on mental health and education systems, juvenile justice, and social services.”
While Juvenile diversion programs serve as an important gateway in identifying youth at high risk for escalations in conduct problems, the vast majority of current diversion programming is not evidence-based, in part because there are few programs developed specifically for this population and setting.
The study will involve a randomized trial investigating an evidence-based mindfulness intervention, Learning to Breathe, (LTB) for juvenile diversion-referred youth to learn whether the intervention can help improve their self-control. The study builds upon an already active research partnership with Headway.
The study will provide critical pilot data for a federal grant submission funding a fully-powered randomized trial. The lack of available evidence-based programs for this unique population represents a substantial area of need for community-based agencies in Minnesota and nationally. With increased availability of such programming, agencies will be able to increase the effectiveness of their services and better divert youth towards prosocial pathways at this critical developmental juncture.
June Henton honored as Auburn University Champion of Change
A University of Minnesota alumna who earned her Ph.D. in Family Social Science in 1970, June Henton is currently Dean of the College of Human Sciences at Auburn University and has been a leader and champion for human and environmental sustainability throughout her career. Perhaps more than any single individual, June Henton has been responsible for sustainability becoming a strategic priority at Auburn University. She was honored with Auburn University’s Spirit of Sustainability award.
Alleviating hunger and creating sustainable development have been longstanding passions for Henton. In 2012, she was recognized by the White House as a Champion of Change for Food Security for her work leading Auburn’s Human Sciences team to become the lead partner in the U.N. World Food Programme’s Student War on Hunger campaign. She led efforts that resulted in the launch of Universities Fighting World Hunger (UFWH) and also involved the Association of Public & Land-Grant Universities (APLU) and corporate and nonprofit organizations in the effort to address hunger.
Henton was also honored in 2000 as one of the “Centennial 100” of the College of Human Ecology at the University of Minnesota.
Susan Walker, associate professor and director of the Family Social Science’s Parent Education program, is featured in the latest issue of the College of Education + Human Development’s magazine, Connect, for her efforts to expand the education program in Iceland. The extended online feature details the Iceland-Minnesota exchange.
Tai Mendenhall, associate professor in Family Social Science, addressed the National Institutes of Health’s Collaborative Research Center for American Indian Health in August. He disussed his award-winning collaborative research project with the American Indian community to effectively manage diabetes through family and community-based approaches. An interview with Mendenhall and his presentation can be viewed on the Collaborative Research Center for American Indian Health’s YouTube Channel.
More than 400 parents and guardians of school aged children were surveyed on how communities can better support children during the Minnesota State Fair.
Assistant Professor Lindsey Weiler, Ph.D., led a Department of Family Social Science team at the new Driven 2 Discover Research Facility three days during the recent fair. They were among 37 teams from the University of Minnesota seeking research participants over the course of the Minnesota State Fair in the D2D facility.
Weiler and her team were collecting data for a research study, “How to Build a 21st Century Village,” and surveyed 425 respondents to gain their insights on the following questions:
It might be true that it takes a village to raise a child, but what does that look like in 2017?
How do parents connect their children to other caring role models or mentors?
What do parents do when they move to a new community or live away from extended family?
How can parents unlock the power of community when raising children?
“We were looking for State Fair visitors to help us understand how today’s parents build a village of safe and supportive family, friends, and neighbors,” says Weiler. “I was very happy with the turnout and received positive feedback from fairgoers. The students had a great experience too!”
Seven students assisted Weiler over the three days, including three Family Social Science graduate students, Angela Keyzers, Vaida Kazlauskaite, and Sarah Burcher, and four undergraduate students, Family Social Science Majors Ka Lor and Amberson Anderson, Psychology Major Koisey Hiama, and Urban Studies Major Sarah Hill.
Next steps include analyzing the data to understand parents’ experiences of building their own villages and making important connections for their children, and then developing an intervention for parents seeking mentors for their children.
Rose Simon just graduated in May but she’s eager to return to campus to help kick off the new academic year as she delivers the address at the University’s new student convocation, Thursday, Aug. 31.
Simon is using her experience as a peer mentor in the University of Minnesota President’s Emerging Scholars (PES) program in her new job at College Possible, a non-profit organization that serves low income high school students in preparing for college. She will be a mentor in College Possible’s new program, Fostering Graduates, that focuses on supporting students in the foster care system. She will be helping students overcome the unique challenges presented by the foster care system with skill development to enter college and the confidence they need to attain their degree.
“My past experience as a mentor with PES was a great opportunity for me to see the diverse barriers students have overcome that are often unrecognized as accomplishments in the higher education system,” says Simon. “My goal and passion is to create an environment where neighborhoods, cultures and individuals feel that they belong in college.”
Simon’s undergraduate career included an internship in France during her junior year and one with the City of Hopkins’ One Voice Coalition where she put her Family Social Science classroom work to the real world test.
The city wanted to focus energy on healthy youth development by working on alcohol and drug prevention programs,” she says. “I worked with parents and community members to help create and execute family events and programs that support students and parents.”
She credits her College of Education and Human Development advisors and Family Social Science professors for supporting and inspiring her throughout her academic career. She’s looking forward to sharing her experience at this year’s convocation and reminds incoming freshman that the anxiety they may be experiencing is all part of growing up.
“Remember how when you move from elementary school to middle school you worry about finding your locker and classes in time before the bell rings? Then in high school you were stressed about navigating that huge school and finding your niche? Whether high school was the best four years of your life, or you barely made it through… you’ve finally made it to the U of M, so congrats! You’ve arrived at your next chapter in life and boy are you in for a treat!”
And she reminds students that not only are they a college student, they are now among the Golden Gophers!
We are excited to announce the recipients of the 2017 Collaborative Seed Grant Program. These grants — $20,000 or less with a one-year time frame — support small research projects that advance the use of evidence-based practices in addressing pressing issues for children’s mental health. Each project partners with community organizations in Minnesota. The goal of the program is to kickstart innovative ideas that have a likely chance of becoming larger, sustained research projects with external funding to improve mental health outcomes among Minnesota’s children.
Our mission at the Institute for Translational Research in Children’s Mental Health (ITR) is to advance quality research, train practitioners in evidence-based practices, and disseminate information to help bridge the gap between research and practice in our field.
Mindfulness Training for Juvenile Diversion Youth
Community Principal Investigator: Hal Pickett, Director of Client Services, Headway Emotional Health Services
ITR Principal Investigator: Timothy Piehler, Assistant Professor, UMN Department of Family Social Science
This exciting project aims to reduce conduct disorder among adolescents in juvenile justice diversion programs. The study seeks to adapt a mindfulness-focused intervention called Learning to Breathe for this audience in order to improve adolescent self control. The project will use an experimental design known as a “microtrial” to gauge specific effects of the intervention, which could be a precursor to a full randomized control trial.
Excerpt from the abstract:
“Juvenile diversion programs serve as an important gateway in identifying youth at high risk for escalations in conduct problems. However, the vast majority of diversion programming currently being provided is not evidence-based, in part because there are few evidence-based programs developed specifically for this population and setting…The proposed research seeks to innovate conduct disorder prevention in the context of juvenile diversion through several strategies…The proposed microtrial will evaluate the ability of mindfulness-based skills training to impact self-control within an adolescent diversion population. …
The proposed research project represents a collaboration between a University of Minnesota research team and Headway Emotional Health Services, a community mental health agency that provides pre-court juvenile diversion services for youth offenders. The study will involve a randomized trial investigating an evidence-based mindfulness intervention (Learning to Breathe; LTB) for juvenile diversion-referred youth.”
Foundational Research for a Parenting Mobile App with Biofeedback for Latine Parents
Community Principal Investigator: Roxana Linares, Executive Director, Centro Tyrone Guzman and Veronica Svetaz, Medical Director, Aqui Para Ti
ITR Principal Investigator: Jennifer Doty, Postdoctoral Fellow, UMN Department of Pediatrics
This project will build and test a mobile app version of Padres Informados, a skills-based parenting intervention for Latine immigrants. The work will lay the groundwork for a robust app that includes wearable technology to provide biofeedback to parents as they go through the program.
Excerpt from the abstract:
“The long-term goal of this research is to reduce depression, anxiety, and substance use among Latino adolescents through a mobile application with parenting content and personal biofeedback. The goal of this proposal is to build and test a baseline mobile application with a skills-based parenting curriculum for Latine immigrants, Padres Informados. …
The first aim is to build the baseline application and test the prototype that has already been developed in interviews with 20-30 parents who completed an earlier survey. … The second aim is to assess the functionality of the baseline mobile app and the acceptability of using a wearable.
The mobile app will have the potential of increasing community accessibility to evidence-based parenting programs and enhancing existing delivery of the program by providing mobile supplementary information and goal tracking capabilities.”
His project grew out of the challenges he overcame to attend the University of Minnesota.
“My research was about what predictors would engage parental involvement at home/school that would influence Hmong children’s academic performance,” says Vue. “I chose this topic because it connects to my story growing up as a low income immigrant student struggling in my academics. I want to use this research as a bridge not for myself but for others to follow into graduate school and research. I plan to continue to study parental involvement as I progress into graduate school.”
His research project included a review of current literature that suggested that homes where two parents are present, the degree of English fluency, the size of the family and the age of children all had an influence on academic performance, but results were inconclusive. Vue and his team worked with a Twin Cities elementary school and parents to conduct survey of 332 students. His research indicated parents’ engagement with their children’s school and teachers had a bigger impact than just their influence at home.
“I believe Chen learned a lot during the summer about the research process, from creating a research question to selecting the appropriate variables for the analysis,” said Xiong. “Chen is such a brilliant, hardworking scholar. I was so glad to have the opportunity to mentor him. I have really enjoyed working with all the brilliant students in the McNair Scholars program.”
About the McNair program
Named for Physicist Ronald McNair, who was a member of NASA’s ill-fated Challenger space shuttle that exploded moments after liftoff in 1986, the McNair Scholars Program is among the educational opportunity TRIO programs funded by the U.S. Department of Education that help first generation college students with financial need, or those who are members of traditionally underrepresented groups.
The McNair prepares undergraduate students for doctoral studies through involvement in research and other scholarly activities with the goal to increase graduate degree awards for students from underrepresented segments of society.
Students receive financial support for a ten-week summer research apprenticeship that include weekly seminars that help them prepare for graduate school as well as year-round seminars and advising.
The program is administered at the University of Minnesota with support from the College of Education and Human Development, the Office of the Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education and the Office of the Vice President for Diversity and Equity.
Three Family Social Science undergraduate students are among a College of Education and Human Development group exploring and blogging about South Korean culture, language, and education during a study abroad course. Faculty leaders are CEHD Program Specialist Marina Aleixo and Dr. Catherine Solheim from FSoS (who joins the group August 12).
Nina Thao, Cathy Xiong, and Isabella Xiong will be sharing their experience as they examine the historical background of Korean education and its impact on current social, political and educational policies. They will return to the Twin Cities August 23.
Heather Hessel and Kadie Ausherbauer, doctoral students in the Department of Family Social Science, won first place in the Doctoral Category of the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy’s 2017 Student Ethics Competition.
“Being grounded in ethics and knowledgeable about ethical practices is essential to credible research and professional practice,” said Lynne Borden, head of the Department of Family Social Science at the University of Minnesota. “These two young professionals are positive role models for our community and leaders of the future.”
Only in its second year, the competition is designed, according to AAMFT, to “foster an interest in ethical issues and enhance their ability to analyze and respond to the various ethics issues that they will undoubtedly encounter throughout their career.”
The ethics competition has two categories: one for Master’s and PDI students and one for Ph.D. students. Open to teams of two to three students at the same program level, the competition is unique because students do not know the exact case study on which they will be asked to respond until after they have registered. The “hypothetical scenario” is posted on the AAMFT’s website and students have six weeks to research, analyze, and write an essay.
“Our essay required that we research and discuss ethical codes, legal statutes, and commentaries on ethical issues,” said Hessel. “As is usually the case with ethics questions, there was quite a bit of “gray” area to debate between ourselves. We also selected and applied an established ethical decision-making model to the scenario, which helped us provide additional structure to our response.”
A fourth-year doctoral student, Hessel is working on a dissertation that explores how both noncollege and college-going emerging adults are using communication technology with extended family members.
“I had a great time working on this project,” said Kadie Ausherbauer. “It was interesting to sift through areas where best practices didn’t correspond with specific ethical codes, so some things that initially seemed very problematic weren’t necessarily violations of the code of ethics. We applied the ethical decision making model to find ways that the hypothetical therapist could have prevented or improved the situation at different junctures in the process.”
Ausherbauer is a third year doctoral student whose research centers on development of self-regulation, early childhood trauma and micro-level behavioral analyses.
In addition to a cash prize, both Hessel and Ausherbauer were awarded complimentary registration, hotel accommodations and airfare to attend the AAMFT’s annual conference in Atlanta in October. Their winning essay will also be published on the AAMFT’s website and will be recognized in the organization’s publications and other communication channels.
Students considering a family social science degree will have new options for fall 2017. Following a redesign of the curriculum, the Department of Family Social Science has created three concentrations for the family social science undergraduate major that create clear career paths for students interested in improving the lives of diverse families.
“We wanted to help students focus and create a roadmap to careers or an advanced degree in family social science,” said Lynne Borden, department head. “It’s a degree that gives students a great multidisciplinary foundation with the opportunity to be mentored by some of the country’s top researchers in the field.”
Family social science degree concentrations
The family and community engagement concentration is designed for students aspiring to work directly with families in community settings. The family therapy option prepares students for entry-level clinical positions or for advanced study in marriage and family therapy or a practitioner certification, such as the parent education teaching license. The family financial studies concentration is designed for students who are interested in becoming a family financial counselor or coach or other similar career paths.
“Our alumni use their FSoS degrees in a variety of careers,” said Jodi Dworkin, associate department head, professor, and extension specialist. “Alumni are working as mortgage counselors for banks, program case managers at non-profits and in a variety of teaching positions in K-12 education and in the community.”
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.