Everybody’s got a little light under the sun . . .
-Flashlight ~ Parliament
I am an Associate Professor and the chair of the Department of Human Development and Family Studies in the School of Human Ecology at the UW-Madison. I earned my BA in Psychology in 1995 from Hampton University, a Historically Black University in Hampton, Virginia. After obtaining my doctorate in Psychology with a Clinical emphasis in 2001 at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey in 2001.
My scholarship revolves around how early developmental contexts help or hinder children’s development into competent, productive members of society. I address this broad issue on how parents and coparents, parenting behaviors, and the social and physical impact to self-regulation development and school readiness.
I review graduate applications for potential advisees every fall. I encourage interested students to email me directly and to learn more about SoHE graduate programs here.
A little bit about me:
Do you know that song, “Eyes on the Prize”? It’s the influential song from the Civil Rights era that’s based on a spiritual – Keep your hand on the plow. It represented a shift in thought from the promise of a joyful hereafter to overcoming the obstacles of this world. I began thinking about “the prize” when reflecting on the lives of my parents and elders. They achieved so much despite being a few short generations from slavery and, despite growing up under Jim Crow, paved the way for me to become a wife, mother-of-two, professor, and department chair at a Big Ten University. So what is “the prize”? Today, for me it’s a healthy body, healthy marriage, healthy kids, and a safe place me to engage in the “pursuit of happyness” of being who I am. In reality, though, “the prize” is a series of prizes that I received even before I was born – none of them deserved, all of them appreciated.
Where I am today reflects a series of opportunities and choices made by me, my parents, my wider family, and my various communities. Now as a professor of Human Development and Family Studies, I focus on “the prize” for children in two ways: healthy parent-child relationships and safe environmental spaces for children to live in.
There is an implicit assumption that Black mothers parent alone. The story of the “absent Black father” makes a compelling narrative, but it contradicts the reality that Black children do have regular interactions with significant father figures and kin at rates equal to or greater than children from other ethnic groups. As a result, Black fathers are invisible in discussions of the coparenting and school readiness of Black children. For the next few years I will teach, engage in research, and engage the community in “the prize” of Black coparents work together to prepare their children for school.
I am also interested in “the prize” of a safe physical environment. We’ve all heard of the lead crisis in Flint, Michigan. Unfortunately, what is happening in Flint is happening in Black communities around the country right now. I am embarking on a series of studies with colleagues from the State of Wisconsin’s Health Department, the UW School of Engineering, and the UW School of Medicine and Public Health to investigate how multiple environmental pollutants and social risks like poor schools, racial discrimination, and poor health care relate to school readiness, academic achievement, and court involvement.
I’ve chosen to focus on two prizes of early childhood. There are many more. However, as we think about the prize, we can think across many levels (individual, family, community, government) and age ranges (prenatal to grave). The key is thinking of “the prize” as something bigger than any one person. At the end of the day, The Prize I seek is the prize of equity.