A Message from the Department Head (2022-2023)

Welcome to the Department of Human Development and Family Sciences!


Eva S. Lefkowitz

This Fall, campus feels more vibrant than it has in several years. We are excited to welcome new students and faculty to the department, including nine new graduate students; Mary Tabb Foley (BS HDFS) in her new role on the Storrs campus after ten years of teaching in the HDFS early childhood program in Stamford; Cora Megan (BA HDFS ’10; MA HDFS ’18) in the early childhood program in Stamford; and welcome Marianne Legassey (BS Child Development and Early Childhood Education ’00) as the new Executive Director of the Child Development Labs after more than 5 years as a CDL teacher. Our HDFS community continues to demonstrate their commitment to excellence in research, teaching, and community engagement in innumerable ways. It’s impossible to briefly summarize all the recent news in HDFS. However, here are some highlights:



  • Many HDFS faculty do research engage in research to address issues of diversity, equity, and/or inclusion in Connecticut, the country, and the world. Recent efforts include a Fulbright Scholarship to study children’s rights to healthy development in Colombia (LaRusso); new funding from the Annie E Casey and Hilton Foundations to examine the role of social policies and community characteristics in promoting the well-being of immigrant families in the U.S. across early childhood (Lombardi & Chazan Cohen); and the development of an intervention to reduce social isolation among homebound older adults (Gans).
  • Health continues to be a strong focus among our faculty, including hypertension in African Americans (Kalinowski), neurocognitive impairment in cancer patients treated with immunotherapy (Bellizzi), helping food banks incorporate nutrition ranking into their operations (Schwartz), and using mindfulness to provide support to highly stressed divorced/separated parents (Zhang).

Teaching and Mentoring:

  • In the past year we developed several new undergraduate courses, including Child Development, Social Justice, and Children’s Rights; Diverse Family Structures in the US; and Cultural Diversity in Children’s Development.
  • We also developed our first course to fulfill the general education requirement of environmental literacy. Exploring Conservation and Sustainability with Preschoolers will provide UConn students the opportunity to participate in the certified Nature Explore program at the Child Labs.
  • Students in HDFS 3127 engaged in advocacy projects to investigate current policy initiatives and create projects to support a chosen policy - one student testified at a state legislative hearing.

Community Engagement:

  • During the 2021-2022 academic year, doctoral student Eleanor Fisk served as the SRCD State Policy Fellow in the CT Office of Early Childhood (OEC).
  • In Summer 2021 doctoral student Kaleigh Ligus was the Greg O’Neil Student Policy Intern for the Gerontological Society of America. During this time, she was immersed in aging-related policy development and participated in this process at the national level.
  • Charles Super continues to run the Connecticut Family Development Credential (FDC) Program. This program is part of a longtime community partnership between the Center for Health and Human Development and the CT Office of Early Childhood (OEC).
  • For the 15th year, Meg Galante-DeAngelis served as the Faculty Advisor for Jumpstart, the on-campus AmeriCorps program that pairs college students with at-risk preschoolers for a year of language, literacy and curricular support. They served seven preschool partner sites located in Manchester, Rockville, Vernon, East Hartford and Mansfield.
  • I presented to the Early College Experience (ECE) HDFS 1070 course at Wilton High School, my own high school (class of 1986!).


It was another award-winning year for our faculty. As a few examples.

  • Alaina Brenick: AAUP Excellence in Service Award
  • Laura Donorfio: 2022 Clark Tibbitts Award from the Gerontological Society of America and the Academy for Gerontology in Higher Education
  • Lisa Eaton: CLAS 2022 Strategic Goal Award for Innovative Scholarship
  • Rebecca Puhl: one of six UConn faculty named on the World’s Highly Cited Research List
  • Marlene Schwartz: Community-engaged Health Research Excellence Award from InCHIP
  • Cynthia Van Fleet: CETL Award for Outstanding Adjunct
  • Na Zhang: 2021 Barbara Thompson Award for Excellence in Research on Military and Veteran Families


HDFS faculty’s research, and the training that HDFS graduate and undergraduate students engage in, are critical for addressing some of the major concerns of our society. Even in times of uncertainty, our faculty, staff, and students continue their important work to understand individuals and families in context, and continue their missions of teaching, research, and service to the university, the community, the state, the nation, and the world.