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Maureen Perry-Jenkins, Ph.D. Named New Director for the University of Massachusetts Amherst’s Center for Research on Families

The Center for Research on Families (CRF) today announced that Maureen Perry-Jenkins, Ph.D., will take over as its new director. Dr. Perry-Jenkins will oversee the continued advancement of family research at the University of Massachusetts. She replaces Sally Powers, Ed.D. who led the Center from 2003 through 2013. Perry-Jenkins is a nationally renowned scholar whose contributions on the national, state, regional, and university levels have had profound impact.

Broadly, her work focuses on the ways in which socio-cultural factors such as race, gender, and social class, shape the mental health and family relationships of low-wage parents and their children. More specifically, her recent research, funded by NIH, examines how work conditions and workplace policies of low-income families predict both parental and child well-being across the transition to parenthood

She will manage the Center as it continues to increase research on family issues, build a multidisciplinary community of researchers, and connect national and internationally prominent family researchers with UMass faculty and students.  She, along with Associate Director Wendy Varner and Methodology Director Dr. Aline Sayer, will provide faculty mentoring to increase successful funding and management of external grant awards.

This position is not so new for Perry-Jenkins.  She began her career a the University of Illinois as an  Assistant Professor of Family Studies but returned to UMass, her alma mater, in 1995  to help create and direct what was then called the Center for the Family from 1996 - 2002.

CRF is an endowed interdisciplinary research center in the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences and College of Natural Sciences at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. “CRF is truly fortunate to have Maureen return to CRF as Director. The direction of family research and its contribution to families, practitioners and policy-makers has never been more significant.” said CNS Dean Steven D. Goodwin.  SBS Dean Robert S Feldman added We are delighted that Maureen Perry-Jenkins has accepted the role as the Director of the Center for Research on Families. Her commitment to family research incorporates SBS’s mission of integrating learning, research, and public service. The role of family in the areas of culture, society, and individual behavior has never been more important and UMass is fortunate to have a Center focusing on these areas led by such a prominent scholar in family research.” 

“I’m thrilled to take on this new leadership role at CRF.   Research on families requires an interdisciplinary approach ranging from topics as micro as stress and hormones during pregnancy to the effects of economic downturns on family functioning. The Center for Research on Families is a rare and exciting place where scholars from disciplines such as psychology, sociology, nursing, public health, political science and education come together to address pressing issues facing families.  It will be my honor to work to enhance these cross-disciplinary collaborations, foster cutting edge research on families, and build the reputation of CRF both nationally and internationally.” Maureen Perry-Jenkins

During her time as CRF Director Sally Powers ushered in over a decade of family research advancement. These 10 years were spent creating a unique niche and has helped define the term family researcher at UMass. “The early mission was to draw together a network of family researchers on campus. It’s very rare, actually, that faculty and researchers will think of themselves primarily as ‘a family researcher’—it’s not a discipline. It’s an interdisciplinary sort of term,” explains Powers. The importance of her role at CRF has been monumental. She has been immersed in developing its business plan and organizational structure, establishing CRF programs, obtaining a physical “home,” and fundraising to support the Tay Gavin Lecture Series and undergraduate and graduate research assistantships. “Involvement in CRF has allowed me the privilege of witnessing the amazing breath and quality of family research across campus. I believe that UMass Amherst is home to one of the largest and most accomplished constellations of family researchers in the nation.” Powers’ has taken a new full-time position this fall as Associate Dean for Faculty and Research in CNS.


To learn more about the work and the achievements of the Center for Research on Families visit www.UMass.Edu/Family.  

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