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CRF Hosts Second Annual Research Forum and Awards Dinner

The Center for Research on Families (CRF) hosted its 2nd Annual Family Research Forum and Awards Dinner on Thursday, September 22, 2011 at the Marriot Room in the Campus Center. The dinner provides an opportunity to recognize the contributions of faculty and students over the past year to the field of family research and present awards to the Student Research Grants and Awards and Family Research Scholars.  

Speaking to the crowd of 100+ faculty, students, and donors in attendance, Robert Feldman, Dean of the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences led off the night with an overview of the center.  CRF, which began in 1996 as the Center for the Family with a generous endowment by Dorothy Dunklee Gavin ’43, who was in attendance at the dinner, and the late Joseph Gavin, is dedicated to increasing research on family issues at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. 

The mission of the center is to build a multidisciplinary community of researchers who are studying issues of relevance to families, to connect national and internationally prominent family researchers with UMass 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.

Steven Goodwin, Dean of the College of Natural Sciences, presented the eight Graduate and Undergraduate Student Research Assistantship Grants and Methodological Studies Grant winners this year.  In total, these students received $50,000 to further their research of family issues.  For more information on the winners, visit the student awardees page

Former CRF Graduate Student Research Assistantship Grant winner (’10-’11) Melissa Hodges described her research which focuses on gender and race income inequality and work and family policy, in a talk titled “The Impact of Children on Mothers’ and Father’s Earnings.”  Her journal article, co-authored with CRF Scholar and Professor Michelle Budig, titled “Variation in the Motherhood Penalty across White Women’s Earning Distribution", was published in the American Sociological Review and won the 2011 Reuben Hill Award, given by the National Council on Family Relations.  Her presentation can be dowloaded here.

CRF Director and Professor of Psychology Sally Powers spoke about the heart of CRF’s mission: the mentoring of students and faculty.  The numerous programs offered by CRF provide students and faculty with additional resources to contribute to the field of family research.  Whether it is students who receive mentorship through the Student Research Grants and Awards Program, where promising undergraduate and graduate students are paired with distinguished faculty at UMass, or the Tay Gavin Erickson Lecture Series that brings nationally and internationally recognized experts in family research to campus to work with UMass faculty, CRF strives to ensure that each participant realizes the possibility and reality of a long-lasting career in family research.  

Family Research Scholar (’06-’07) and Associate Professor of Sociology Jennifer Lundquist discussed her research on health effects and racial disparities in a talk titled “Race and Preterm Births: A protective Effect of Military Affiliation.”  Her research finds a gap between the rate of preterm births of African Americans with and without a military affiliation, suggesting that denial to institutional structures such as health care, and not genetics, are to blame for the difference.  You can find slides from her talk here.

Another former Family Research Scholar (’03-’04), Professor of Psychology Paula Pietromonaco presented her joint research with CRF director Sally Powers in her talk titled “Stress Patterns During Marital Conflict.”  Their research measures cortisol levels in participants prior to, during, and after tough conversations between marital partners.  They find that differences in levels of security between partners contribute to significant differences in levels of stress.  Her presentation can be found here.

If you have any questions about the Center for Research on Families, its mission, or upcoming grant opportunities, please contact Associate Director Wendy Varner at or (413) 545-3593.