The Center for Research on Families has named six UMass Amherst faculty members, including two members of the College of Education faculty, 2011-12 Family Research Scholars on the basis of their promising work in family-related research. The COE scholars, both in the Department of Educational Policy, Research and Administration, are assistant professors Ryan Wells and Sara Whitcomb.
Wells’ research interests examine the transition from secondary school to postsecondary education. During his scholar year, Wells will work on a grant proposal to study "The work-to-college transition: Investigating pathways to degree attainment for working adults." This research will consider many aspects of adult workers' pathways to college. In today's global economic climate, policymakers and education professionals need a greater understanding of pathways to college enrollment and degree attainment for the current workforce. With a better understanding of the barriers, motivations, and aids to enrolling in college, actions can be taken to help institutions and organizations reach out to working adults to help them succeed, and in turn improve the conditions of their families.
Whitcomb’s research interests include implementation of mental health promotion and positive behavior support efforts in schools, and behavioral and instructional consultation. During her CRF Scholar year, Whitcomb will be developing a proposal to research "The Impact of Implementation of a Social-Emotional Curriculum and Parent Training Program on Preschool Children Identified as Behaviorally At-Risk." This research is particularly relevant to family research in that aims to identify how families and schools may align in their efforts to feasibly promote the healthy social-emotional development of young children.
The Family Research Scholars Program provides selected faculty with the time, technical expertise, peer mentorship, and national expert consultation to prepare a large grant proposal for their research support. The Center for Research on Families' mission is to increase research on family issues, to build a multidisciplinary community of researchers who are studying issues of relevance to families, to connect national and internationally prominent family researchers with faculty and students, to provide advanced data analytic methods training and consultation, and to disseminate family research findings to scholars, families, practitioners, and policy-makers. Families are a basic unit of human and animal life and research must cross academic disciplines and engage many perspectives to fully understand family functioning.