Member Spotlight

Member ** SPOTLIGHT ** – Anthony James, Miami University

The focus of this month’s member spotlight is Dr. Anthony James, Associate Professor and Director of the Family Science program at Miami University (view his full vitae here). He believes in the power of professional development and connection and has a passion for marginalized families and positive youth development… and soccer! Dr. James is an asset to the field of Family Science and NCFR.

 

+  What is your current position? What does your job entail?

  • Currently, I am an associate professor in the department of family science and social work at Miami University. I also serve as the director of the family science program.
  • My employment at Miami University is categorized into four areas: teaching, research, service, and collegiality. The majority of faculty, at my campus (Oxford), teach 2-3 classes a semester and engage in research or creative activities such as publishing 1-2 empirical articles a year.

Where did you get your education, and in what field?

  • I attended Lincoln University (MO) for my undergraduate (sociology) and the University of Missouri for my MS and PhD in Human Development and Family Studies.

What inspired you to go into the field?

  • Generally, a deep desire to help marginalized families. Specifically, I initially chose this field to learn how to become qualified to be a administrator in a social service agency. Eventually my love of teaching and research replaced that desire, so I stayed in higher education.

Do you have mentor or was there someone who really helped you out in this field?  What was it that they offered to you?

  • Several! My graduate school advisor, Dr. Mark Fine, was critical in helping me think about things like how to develop a program of research. Several colleagues at Miami University (e.g., Drs. Kevin Bush, Amity Noltemeyer, Rose Marie Ward, Kate Kuvalanka…among others) helped me develop as a teacher and scholar and navigate the world of being a pre-tenured faculty member. Dr. William Bill Allen has helped me with being engaged the National Council on Family Relations (NCFR). Though those were also great things and no doubt helped me along the way, most of all I truly valued (and continue to value) each of these folks as friends.

What are your particular interests within this field?  If you do research, what are some of your recent research projects about? 

  • First, I’m interested in relational person↔ context interactions that instantiate positive youth development. I’ve looked at this across several contexts (e.g., spirituality/religion, schools, family). Secondly, I’m interested in relational family↔context interactions that help marginalized families move from surviving to thriving. I’m currently working on an edited volume (Cognella Press) that uses a systems perspective to examine different aspects of African American family life.

What has been your best experience(s) working in this field, or what do you feel is the best part of doing what you do?

  • There is so much, but I truly appreciate the opportunity to engage with a community of scholars on issues that give all individuals families a chance at thriving. I am constantly reinvigorated when I go to conferences or read through journal articles or follow certain folks on social media and see all of the work colleagues in my field are doing to help individuals and families. And with modern technology, a simple email allows me to reach out to these great scholars (or for them to reach out to me) and we can collaborate on ideas that hopefully promote the well-being of others. To me, that is pretty cool!

What has been your biggest accomplishment?

  • Professionally…
    • Getting promoted and obtaining tenure.
    • Becoming incoming deputy editor of Journal of Family Theory & Review.
    • Becoming a consulting editor for Journal of Research on Adolescence.
    • Getting elected chair of the Ethnic Minority Section of NCFR.

+ What do you find troubling or frustrating about your position?

  • Broadly, academia is undergoing several changes that threaten some aspects of protection and academic freedom. It is my belief that the protections are critical to development and maintenance of a healthy democracy. That they are under attack in several states suggest that there may be some powerful individuals who do not value living in a society that truly gives all its members a chance at reaching their full potential.
  • On a much smaller scale, it can be frustrating to deal with the let downs of research and service. As I’ve said, my goal is to help families but humans and families are complex and there are not panaceas that are going to eliminate all inequality. It is especially frustrating to see people who are really working hard at creating a good life continue to fail or not be able to rebound from past failures. That is disheartening but I’m also hopeful that we can build a society that provides more access to thriving, particularly among marginalized individuals and families.

What do you still hope to accomplish with your work?

  • My pragmatism forces me to hope that my work provides contributive insight into the relational person/family ↔context that helps individuals/families thrive. I know that may seem small, but again this work is quite hard and complex. So any help I can provide on that front is an accomplishment.

+ How has the field changed since your entry?

  • One area where I think the field as changed is being the development of tools to impact the daily lives of real people and families. There is this stereotype, which at many levels can be true, that faculty members are cloistered in the ivory tower and have no clue about what may be happening “in the streets”. I think modern technology, and being more active in professional organizations, have helped the field be more of an active agent in demanding change. Though it wasn’t perfect, one example was how many organizations produced position/policy/research statements about the separation of immigrant children from their families and how that effects the psychosocial well-being of the family members. Such examples are how professional organizations, like NCFR, can help issues “go viral”, put pressure on decision-makers, and create some change that potentially reduce the oppression and marginalization of individuals and families.

+ What do you feel is the future of Family Science in Ohio?

  • I think the future of FS in OH is two-fold. First, there has to be a stronger connection between active family life educators and OHCFR. Secondly, that relationship can blossom into external relationships with communities, legislators, and institutions. What this allows is a movement of resource and knowledge across different levels of decision making that directly effect individuals and families. No one person or institution can know all the content related to helping individuals and families thrive. So building systems that allow the free movement of information and resources will be key to helping to promote thriving among Ohioans.

What advice would you give to a student considering going into the Family Science major?

  • I would first ask the student to peruse the website family.science to get a better understanding of what family science professionals do. If the students is still interested, I would hope to talk to the student about differences in prevention vs. intervention work and which of the two may be more suited to their interests and skills. Finally, I would ask the student to develop a relationship with a faculty member who is actively engaged in a family science professional organization.

+ What advice would you give to a new generation of graduates going into the field?

  • First, I would advise the novice professional to either develop or not lose connection with a family science professional organization. Too often, these organization can be research/faculty heavy, but as I said before…there needs to be strong systems in place that connects all of the components involved in helping individuals and families. Secondly, I would strongly encourage graduates to not forget the content they learned in their theories and research methods courses. These are tools that are going to be important in helping families in their career, in a systematic way.

What is a “must read” book for those interested in Family Science?

  • I’m a little biased so I lean heavily towards theory. There are several good theory books that provide a great entry into family science and thinking about the many ways people go about helping families (e.g., Allen & Henderson, 2016; Boss, Doherty, LaRossa, Schumm, & Steinmetz, 2009; Fine & Fincham, 2013; White, Klein, & Martin, 2015; note: A simply google search of each set of names with “and family theory” should populate a given text).

What is your most used or go-to Family Science resource? 

  • Besides the texts listed above…I would also suggest the three journals produced by the NCFR (i.e., Journal of Marriage and Family, Family Relations, Journal of Family Theory & Review) and the resource library found on NCFR’s website.

To what professional organizations to you belong?

  • National Council on Family Relations
  • Society for Research in Child Development
  • Society for Research on Adolescence
  • American Humanist Association

What do you like to do in your free time?

  • Hang out with my immediate family….engage with my friends….read…travel…listen to inspiring talks on my way to work (e.g., TED Talks)…watch television (usually sports).

+ How do you practice self-care? What is your favorite way to de-stress?  

  • Regular dates with my wife. Integrating myself into a community of caring people. Watch a lot of soccer! Domestic…Go FC Cincinnati (orange & blue); International….Go Man United (Red Devils)! J

What do you do to effectively balance your work and family?

  • I try to not answer emails in the evening or on weekends. I also try to not work, with the exception of writing. I try to write as often as possible. I also incorporate my family into some of my work by explaining what I’m working on and asking for their feedback. I also acknowledge that feedback in my manuscripts. Lastly, regular weekly meals with my immediate family. These dinners are refreshing and keep me connected to the most important folks in my life. Oh, and I’m lucky that my family likes soccer!

 

 

 

Member ** SPOTLIGHT ** – Back to school edition –

Dean Leite, Ohio University

Dr. Randy Leite, Dean of the College of Health Sciences and Professions at Ohio University is the focus of our member spotlight series this month. A graduate of both Ohio Dominican College and The Ohio University, Dr. Leite stayed true to his Buckeye roots by serving various institutions in his 35 years of service in higher education (Ohio University, Bowling Green State University, The Ohio State University at Marion, Otterbein College, and Ohio Wesleyan University – view his full vitae here). He is currently a member of 7 different professional organizations with his longest affiliation being with NCFR / OHCFR (since 1996).

What is your current position? What does your job entail?

 I am dean of the College of Health Sciences and Professions at Ohio University. In that role, I provide leadership for all academic, research, and service activities for a college enrolling 9,400 students across 15 academic disciplines. I oversee an operating budget of $39 million, raise money to support our programs, and facilitate college outreach efforts in our region, the State, and around the world through our Global Health Initiative. Information about the College can be found atwww.ohio.edu/chsp. I’ve also facilitated the development of the Ohio Alliance for Innovation in Population Health with colleagues from the University of Toledo.  Information can be found at www.ohiopopulationhealthalliance.com.

Where did you get your education, and in what field? 

I have a Ph.D. in Human Development and Family Science from The Ohio State University.

What inspired you to go into the field? 

I became intrigued with family dynamics and the powerful influence of families on child and adult outcomes while enrolled as a doctoral student.  As a result, I switched from a program in education to the HDFS program.

Do you have mentor or was there someone who really helped you out in this field?  What was it that they offered to you?

My earliest mentor in the field was Patrick McHenry, a professor at Ohio State at the time I was there. Pat helped me to appreciate the broad scope of family impacts and issues, helped me to understand how to think as a researcher, and shaped the course of my career after I completed my academic program.

What are your particular interests within this field?  If you do research, what are some of your recent research projects about? 

My earliest work was on nonresidential fatherhood and factors associated with father involvement with children in nonresidential settings.  Today, I am much more interested in child and family policy, the policymaking process, and the impacts of policy on child and adult outcomes.  As a dean, I do not get to do much research.  What little I do tends to be as part of research teams focusing on understanding policy and best practice around responding to opiate abuse as this is an epidemic in our region and our state.

What has been your best experience(s) working in this field, or what do you feel is the best part of doing what you do? 

The best part of being a dean is that I have the opportunity to shape the direction for a large college and our many programs and then see the impact of what we do on our students.  Every year at our Commencement programs, I get to shake the hands of over 2,000 students as the graduate and move into their careers. This is incredibly gratifying.  I also have the opportunity to shape the many outreach activities of our college and, through those activities, get to tap the resources of our college for the benefit of populations in need in our region.

What has been your biggest accomplishment? 

During the past seven years, we’ve grown our enrollment from 2,500 to 9,400 students through a variety of transformative decisions.  As one of the largest health-focused colleges in America, we can bring considerable resources to bear in addressing various critical social issues and in preparing the next generation of professionals across our disciplines.

 + What do you find troubling or frustrating about your position? 

By far, the biggest frustration I have is associated with financial resources.  This is a particularly difficult time for higher education as State support continues to diminish, tuition is frozen and the cost of what we do continues to escalate.  So much of what we can do to be innovative and have an impact on our students and our region requires financial investment to support start-up costs.

What do you still hope to accomplish with your work? 

I am fairly late in my career so I am not sure how much I will be able to accomplish in whatever time I have left to work.  I am trying to facilitate our college becoming defined around innovation and community engagement and will continue to focus on those as aspirational goals.

+ How has the field changed since your entry? 

I would say our attention to family issues has become far more sophisticated as we develop and utilize new and complex strategies to research family issues, far more complex theoretical orientations, and increased sources of data on families. We’ve also moved away from an earlier focus on normative versus non-normative family comparisons to complex explorations of variations across all families.  I believe this reflects the dramatically changing family demographic patterns we’ve witnessed over the last two decades.

What do you feel is the future of Family Science in Ohio? 

I believe it can be strong if those in the field embrace cross-institutional collaborations that pool resources, are open to research and teaching that reflects the very real issues that exist for families in our state and our nation, and are willing to undertake increasingly sophisticated research that directly engages community issues.

What advice would you give to a student considering going into the Family Science major?

This would depend on why they are doing so.  If they want to be a practitioner such as a child life specialist or a certified family life educator, I would stress to them that they must use their time as students to seek out experiences that will differentiate them from others in the field so they will be most competitive for positions.  As an example, we currently have approximately 200 students who are pursuing a child life credential at Ohio University. Those who will be successful in finding professional positions will be the ones who find a way to stand out.  For those who want to be a researcher, I would stress that they should find a strong mentor and research collaborator who can facilitate their entry into the community of scholars and then seek positions that will offer them considerable support in establishing a dynamic research program. I believe research is most successful when it is done in very collaborative, relational ways.

What advice would you give to a new generation of graduates going into the field? 

Beyond what I stated in my previous response, I would also suggest that they remain open to new perspectives and new ideas.  For new practitioners, strive to understand the experiences of those who have lived very different lives than you and the needs that may exist for them.

What is a “must read” book for those interested in Family Science? 

As I am very interested in the diversity that exists among families, I would suggest books that explore the impacts of race, ethnicity, poverty, and location on families and their members.  I just finished reading White Trash, which is a history of social class in America. I also just finished Being Mortal, which explores end-of-life issues around caregiving and decision-making for elderly family members as they face inevitable physical decline. I believe this issue of caring for aging family members is rising to the level of a defining crisis in family life today.

What is your most used or go-to Family Science resource? 

I find many great resources on various extension system websites.  I also believe NCFR offers a number of wonderful policy briefing materials.

To what professional organizations to you belong? 

National Council on Family Relations, American Public Health Association, National Rural Health Association, Association for Gerontology in Higher Education, Gerontological Society of America, Association of Schools of Allied Health Professions

What do you like to do in your free time? 

I spend a lot of time riding my bike. There are some wonderful roads in southeast Ohio.  I also spend a great amount of time with grandchildren.

+ How do you practice self-care? What is your favorite way to de-stress 

Quiet time at home in the evening.  Reading books that are thought-provoking but not directly related to my work, spending time with my grandchildren.

What do you do to effectively balance your work and family?

Probably not enough. I spend about 12-15 hours a day on work activities including a number of hours at home in the evening.

 

 

OHCFR is pleased to highlight Rhonda A. Richardson, Ph.D, CFLE in this edition of Career Spotlight! Dr. Richardson is Professor of Human Development and Family Studies at Kent State University, and is retiring this year after more than three decades of faculty service at Kent State.

Dr. Richardson has written a beautiful account of her work as a teacher and mentor, researcher, and family scientist in whole. Read on to learn about her great accomplishments and the legacy she will leave at Kent and beyond (and we should note, she’s made her impression on the OHCFR board as well, not the least of which by supervising the Master’s Theses of OHCFR President Carmen Irving and recently-defended Student Member Amy Kelly).

On being a professor: 
“I am Professor of Human Development and Family Studies at Kent State University. I came to Kent State in 1984 fresh out of my Ph.D. program. I chose Kent State because I was looking for an institution that prioritized teaching but also valued research. I have not been disappointed. I primarily teach undergraduate students, but also graduate students enrolled in our Masters degree program. I also direct Masters theses (26 total throughout my career) and projects (16 total) and serve on dissertation committees (30 total) for doctoral students from a variety of departments such as Psychological Sciences, Sociology, Communication, and Counseling. Over my career I have taught 15 different courses; the one course that I have taught at least once a year for 34 years is Parent-Child Relationships. Currently, my teaching and research center on my primary interest in adolescent development and parent-child relationships. Throughout my career I have had the opportunity to contribute to curriculum development and to conceptualize, develop and teach new courses on Early Adolescence, Positive Youth Development, and Family Theories and Processes. 

I have been a member of NCFR since 1980 and OHCFR since 1984. I have been a Certified Family Life Educator since 2001 and have used that credential to engage my students in a parenting education initiative providing parenting information workshop sessions at various venues throughout Portage County. I have fond memories of serving on the Board of the Ohio Council on Family Relations from 1992-1996 and presenting numerous papers at the annual meetings from 1985 through the mid-1990s. I am pleased that OHCFR has been reinvigorated over the past decade or so and I admire the energy and innovative initiatives of the current Board members.”

 On finding her home in family science:
“I came of age as a ‘child of divorce’ and a ‘latchkey kid’ during the early 1970s and I can still recall feeling stigmatized by teachers, adult neighbors, and parents of my friends. I think that personal experience was foundational to my interest in studying adolescent development within the context of the family. As an undergraduate psychology major in the 1970s, there were two classes that were particularly formative for me. One was developmental psychology, in which I was captivated by the newly emerging notion of lifespan development. The other was community psychology, where I learned about prevention and education as one of the core service components mandated by the Community Mental Health Act of 1963. During my first year of graduate school I read Bronfenbrenner’s newly published book on The Ecology of Human Development, and I completed my graduate education just as Stinnett and DeFrain’s writing about family strengths emerged. I also had the opportunity to learn from Richard Lerner as he articulated the idea of developmental contextualism, and I was a research assistant on Anne Petersen’s groundbreaking longitudinal study of early adolescence. These and other academic experiences set the trajectory for my professional life. Throughout my career, my teaching, research, and service have converged around a central focus on building positive, growth-enhancing connections between adolescents and their families, schools and communities.

There have been so many gratifying moments over my career that it is hard to identify just one or two. In teaching, my best experiences have been when I see students express enthusiasm for what they are learning, and when I hear about alumni who are having a positive impact on children, youth, and families. I hope that in some small way I have contributed to their ability to make a difference. In research, I have always loved discovering new knowledge that can be translated into recommendations and materials that will contribute to strengthening families, schools, and community settings for the direct benefit of children and adolescents.

HDFS has been a wonderful professional ‘home’ for me. Over the years I have seen it develop from a new field of study to a well-established and recognized discipline distinct from its origins in home economics and psychology. Bronfenbrenner’s ecological systems theory has grown from a novel, fledgling idea to a central and widely adopted framework for studying and teaching about human development within the context of the family. The strengths-based and prevention-focused perspective of positive youth development is increasing in popularity and beginning to shape the approaches that schools and community agencies use to support children and youth. Family studies has evolved into family science and is beginning to receive the recognition it deserves as a discipline that can inform and partner with related fields of research and practice. I believe the future is bright for family science and for children, adolescents and families who will be the beneficiaries of the good work of researchers and practitioners in the field.”

On research: 
My research has always centered around an interest in adolescent development, with a focus on understanding and strengthening the contexts that support positive development. In addition, throughout my career my research has been intertwined with my teaching, as I have both incorporated my research into course content and assignments as well as derived impetus for research from my classroom teaching.

My early work focused on adolescent mothers, examining social support networks in relation to parenting stress and concluding that both parents and peers can play an important role in the lives of young mothers. That work led me to participation in a Character and Competence Research Program at Radcliffe College in the early 1990s where I examined predictors of competence in a sample of urban African-American adolescent mothers and concluded that the family context was a predictor of the degree to which young mothers were thriving, striving, or surviving. I became curious and concerned about variations in parents’ capacities for maintaining supportive connections with their children as they transition into adolescence.

Shortly after that time I was asked by a colleague in Middle Childhood Education to develop a graduate course on Early Adolescence in order to better equip middle school teachers and administrators to provide a developmentally responsive learning environment. While teaching this new course I was inspired by conversations with middle school teachers to listen to the voices of middle schoolers about their relationships with their parents. This resulted in a study of what questions young adolescents most want to ask their parents. The findings were the basis for a book I co-authored with a former graduate student; titled What Kids REALLY Want to Ask, the book is a guide for using movies to launch parent-child conversations about topics of interest to young adolescents.  During the time I was immersed in studying and teaching about middle schoolers, I began reading Richard Lerner’s new scholarly work on the concept of positive youth development. The view of adolescents as resources to be developed rather than problems to be managed strongly resonated with me. I developed a new course on Positive Youth Development and around that same time launched a new research project centered around PYD and family systems. Since 2013 I have been engaged in this research that uses a positive youth development approach to examine resilience and family systems of bereaved children and adolescents longitudinally and to evaluate the impact of bereavement camps for these youth. The project has been funded by the New York Life Foundation and conducted in partnership with the Kent State Research and Evaluation Bureau, the Moyer Foundation, Camp Erin, and Comfort Zone Camp. Over 2,000 Camp Erin and Comfort Zone Camp campers, their families, and adult camp alumni who attended Camp Erin and Comfort Zone Camp bereavement camps as children have participated in the study. The findings are being used to recommend best practices for strengthening bereavement camps as settings that promote strength, resiliency and growth in bereaved children and to provide evidence of the importance of family processes for supporting positive outcomes in children and adolescents.”

We’re sure Dr. Richardson will find plenty of things to spend her time on, as she says she enjoys a variety of activities including “reading historical and literary fiction, being physically active (running, bicycling, hiking, tennis, and weight training), practicing yoga, trying out new plant-based (vegan) recipes, playing fiddle in a Celtic band, playing board games and attending concerts with my husband and friends”. She also noted that she has “two wonderful adult daughters and [is] looking forward to gaining a son-in-law and two ‘step’ grandsons within the next year.” Thank you for all you’ve done for OHCFR and Family Science, Dr. Richardson! We wish you all the best in this next stage of your life!

 

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Introducing a new OHCFR Post Series: Career Spotlight! This series will regularly highlight family professionals working in Ohio in a range of positions. To kick us off, we hear from Ms. Jessica Needham, CFLE, who is a Child Abuse Specialist (or Child Victim Advocate) for the Stark County Prosecutor’s Office.

Ms. Needham received a Bachelor’s of Science in Human Development and Family Studies with a concentration in Family Life Education from Kent State University at the Stark Campus in 2013. She is a Certified Family Life Educator and is in the process of becoming a Registered Advocate through the State of Ohio. Prior to her current position as a Child Abuse Specialist (since 2016), Ms. Needham was a Social Worker II for Children Services where she investigated possible cases of child abuse or neglect and helped get children into safer arrangements when needed. In her current role, Ms. Needham works with a team of social workers, law enforcement officers, prosecutors, advocates, medical staff, and counselors to determine if cases of child abuse will be prosecuted, and then works with the families in these cases to help them through the process and make sure the children’s voices are heard and needs are met.

Ms. Needham is passionate about this work because she knows that not all kids experience the supportive, safe childhood that she had. In her own words: “Children depend on their family to keep them safe and protect them from bad things happening to them. Some kids can’t depend on their family to protect them…I want these children to know that there is someone out there who believes them, who will help them feel safe, and who will help them have a voice…to know that they have someone standing in their corner and will help them fight through this difficult time in their life. These bad experiences do not have to define who they are. I want to help them move past these bad experiences and rise above them. I want these children to know that I’ll be their voice when they don’t feel like they have one.”

She says that some of the best moments in her job are when she sees a child improving over time. She says “It is great seeing the smile on their face as they hug you telling you that they are happy to see you. It helps to know that despite all the bad things that have happened to them, they are doing better and they are safe. It’s also a great feeling when one of the kids hands you a picture that they have colored and each time they come in they want to make sure you still have their picture in your office. Looking at those pictures helps you realize that you’ve helped one child feel comfortable. I know I won’t be able to help every child but as long as I can help one or two feel better then that’s what matters.”

In her down time, Ms. Needham enjoys spending time with her family and friends, but also appreciates the quiet times that help her recoup after especially rough days. Recently, she’s taken up reading to relax, though work is never far from her mind as the most recent series she’s started stars a female bounty hunter.

Photo credit goes to Joe Albert and the Characters of Canton Facebook page.

National Council on Family Relations
The Ohio Council on Family Relations is an affiliate of the National Council on Family Relations