A Message from the Department Head (2021-2022)

Welcome to the Department of Human Development and Family Sciences!


Eva Lefkowitz
Eva S. Lefkowitz

It has been amazing to start the new academic year with in person classes and meetings. Faculty, staff, and students have learned so much over the past 18 months, and although the pandemic is clearly not over, we are excited to start a more normal semester. The last two years brought many challenges, and yet, our HDFS community continued their commitment to excellence in research, teaching, and community engagement. It’s impossible to briefly summarize all the recent news in HDFS. However, here are some highlights:



  • HDFS faculty responded to the Covid-19 crisis with new lines of research, including parental challenges (Russell) and stress during Covid-19 (Tambling), disruptions in management and care of college students with mental health conditions during the pandemic (Bellizzi), LGBTQ+ college students’ health-protective behaviors during the pandemic (Lefkowitz), and stigma and stereotyping related to Covid-19 testing (Eaton).
  • HDFS faculty are highly engaged in efforts to improve climate and equity around UConn, the state, and the US, both in terms of research that addresses these issues and policy and advocacy work. For instance, recent publications address school-based nutrition policies (Schwartz), LGBTQ+-focused state policies and youth bullying (Watson), parenting among combat deployed fathers (Zhang), and improving adherence to anti-hypertensive medications (Kalinowski).


Teaching and Mentoring:

  • Our Early Childhood Specialization continues to thrive. Students in this program have multiple opportunities to work with young children in childcare settings. This year presented challenges for placements, but also opportunities, as we discovered new ways to share resources across the programs in Storrs and Stamford. Students who complete this program are eligible for the CT Early Childhood Teaching Credential.
  • HDFS is one of the five departments involved in the piloting of the Students of Color Mentorship Program through the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. The program connects current students of color with alumni of color for both one-on-one mentoring and group events.
  • Many HDFS faculty supervise undergraduate student research, including:
    • Isabella Otoka, who won an award for her undergraduate paper written for HDFS 2004W (Csizmadia)
    • Two students who won summer SURF awards supervised by HDFS faculty (Russell and Csizmadia)
    • Two students who won IDEA awards supervised by HDFS faculty (Lombardi and Brenick).


Public Engagement:

  • In April, 2021 the Center for the Study of Culture, Health, & Human Development launched their new video, “Making Voices Heard: Diversity, Disadvantage, and Discrimination in Educational Settings.” 
  • HDFS faculty continue to have an impact on federal, state, and local policies. For instance, Marlene Schwartz recently provided oral testimony in favor of a CT House Bill to address food-insecure students at public institutions of higher education.


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

  • Louisa Baker: UConn CETL University Teaching Award for Outstanding Adjunct
  • Terry Berthelot: 2021 NAELA John J. Regan Writing Award
  • Alaina Brenick: CLAS Award for Mentoring of Undergraduate Students
  • Rebecca Puhl: 2021 Obesity Canada Distinguished Lecturer’s Award
  • Vida Samuel: 2020 LiveGirl Board Member Impact Award.
  • Marlene Schwartz: InCHIP Community-Engaged Health Research Excellence Award


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.