The University of Massachusetts Amherst
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Social Justice Related Research

The Center for Research on Families (CRF) has a deep commitment to social justice which is demonstrated through our core mission of advancing research for the health and well-being of all families. Our goal is that the faculty and student research that we support will inform policy and practices that will reduce and, ultimately, eliminate social, economic and health inequities. Our student and faculty scholars are studying topics across a broad range of areas that affect families. Many are looking at inequality in the lives of families that exist at the intersections of race, ethnicity, social class, gender, and abilities. 

Former CRF Scholars Received SEED Grants

Three former CRF Family Research Scholars have received SEED Grant funds from the Institute of Diversity Sciences. Director of IDS Nilanjana Buju Dasgupta announced this month that the scholars, Krista Harper (FRS '08-'09), Mark Pachucki (FRS '18-19) Nicole VanKim (FRS '19-'20) were awarded the grants as members of interdisciplinary and inter-university teams for working on projects that "strive to solve important equity-related problems through science and engineering research.” 

CRF Announces 2020 Student Award Winners

The Center for Research on Families (CRF) is pleased to announce the recipients of this year's Student Research Awards. CRF is committed to supporting students engaged in family research — our student researchers are addressing family challenges such as malnutrition in older adults, women’s health in remote regions of the world, health effects of breastfeeding, socioemotional development of the multiracial children, how brain structures affect memory, and  how young children’s ability to understand language influences brain development. This competitive awards program recognizes outstanding student research on issues related to families. 

Scholar Highlight: Jamie Rowen, Veteran's Courts

In the criminal justice world, veterans are a uniquely sympathetic population. “We end up thinking about veteran trauma differently than we think about the trauma of growing up in the inner cities,” says Dr. Jamie Rowen. How do courts conceptualize war? Is it traumatic? Is it noble? Can it be both?

 Dr. Jamie Rowen, 2017-18 Center for Research on Families (CRF) Family Research Scholar, socio-legal scholar, and legal studies professor, received one of the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) most prestigious awards — the CAREER Award, which is the highest recognition NSF gives to early-career faculty. The five-year, $500,000 grant is supporting Rowen’s research into Veteran’s Treatment Courts (VTCs) – a program that emerged as one response to a growing concern that veterans are disproportionately represented in the criminal justice system, and have unique, unmet needs.

Scholar Highlight: Jeffrey Starns, Reasoning in the Face of Uncertainty

Dr Jeffrey Starns is helping people make good decisions in the face of uncertainty.  Given all we are facing in the world these days with the COVID-19 pandemic, this research seems especially relevant. “Probability is a mental tool for dealing with uncertainty,” he says. “It is a way to think about what is likely to be true when you have only partial information, and a way to decide what is the best thing to do when you don’t know exactly what is going to happen. People deal with uncertainty every day, and we are trying to develop ways to teach probability concepts that help people recognize the relevance to their everyday life and apply the concepts intuitively.”

CRF Director, Maureen Perry-Jenkins, selected for Distinguished Community Engagement Awards Given for Teaching, Research and Engagement.

CRF Director, Maureen Perry-Jenkins, was selected by the Provost Office for the Teaching, Research and Engagement Award. Dr. Perry-Jenkins was chosen for her ground-breaking work in creating a community and university teaching partnership through a course offered in the UMass Springfield campus that joins students and professionals together in Springfield to address risk and resilience in young families. Learn more about the award here.


Jamie Rowen, Former FRS, Describes the Risks Veterans Face from Covid-19

Jamie Rowen, former CRF Family Research Scholar and current fellow with UMass Amherst Public Engagement Project, wrote an article in the Conversation describing risks to military veterans during the coronavirus pandemic. While with CRF, Rowen studied Veteran Treatment Courts in the United States. Through her work, she has determined veterans to be a particularly vulnerable population in the U.S. Veterans, she finds, are very susceptible to health and economic crises.