Psychology professor Maureen Perry-Jenkins has been appointed director of the Center for Research on Families (CRF), an endowed interdisciplinary research center in the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences and the College of Natural Sciences.
Perry-Jenkins is a nationally renowned scholar whose 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 the National Institutes of Health, examines how work conditions and workplace policies of low-income families predict both parental and child well-being across the transition to parenthood.
She began her career at the University of Illinois as an assistant professor of family studies but returned to UMass Amherst, her alma mater, in 1995 to help create and direct what was then called the Center for the Family from 1996 to 2002.
Perry-Jenkins succeeds Psychology professor Sally Powers, who led CRF from 2003-13. Powers was recently appointed associate dean for faculty and research in the College of Natural Sciences.
“CRF is truly fortunate to have Maureen return to CRF as director,” said Steve Goodwin, dean of CNS. “The direction of family research and its contribution to families, practitioners and policy-makers has never been more significant.”
SBS dean Robert S Feldmanadded, “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,” said Perry-Jenkins. “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 on the nationally and internationally.”
During her 10-year tenure as director, Powers moved family research forward and helped define the term “family researcher” on campus. “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,” said Powers.
Powers led efforts to develop CRF’s business plan and organizational structure, establish the center’s programs, obtain a physical “home,” and raise funds 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,” said Powers.