Marianne Legassey, HDFS Faculty Spotlight, December 2022

Executive Director and Instructor in-Residence, Child Development Labs

Marianne LegasseyMarianne was a student in the HDFS Early Childhood concentration in the late 90’s. As an undergraduate at UConn she discovered the Child Development Labs and found her calling as a teacher of very young children. While an undergraduate student at the Child Labs, she worked with infants, toddlers, preschoolers and their families under the guidance and supervision of the professional teaching staff. Marianne had found her place at UConn and her home away from home.

Marianne worked for Early Head Start and the Manchester Early Learning Center in the beginning of her career before finding her way back to the UConn Child Labs in 2004 as a member of the Professional Teaching Staff in the Infant Program. While working, Marianne earned an M.S. in Early Childhood Education from Eastern Connecticut State University.

Marianne continued working as a Master Teacher in the Preschool program at the Child Labs. As a classroom teacher Marianne focused on community and relationship building. Marianne and her family moved to Mansfield to continue to develop stronger ties to the community where Marianne’s children attended the Child Labs. As a member of both the UConn Child Labs and Storrs/Mansfield communities, Marianne found her rhythm in community engagement, taking part in school and town groups with the goal of supporting children and families.

In summer 2022, Marianne became the Executive Director of the UConn Child Labs. In this role Marianne plans to continue building community within the Child Labs and the broader UConn and Storrs/Mansfield communities. Marianne continues building ties between the Child Labs and other departments within the university community as well as the town of Storrs/Mansfield. Marianne plans to focus on social justice, anti-bias and anti-racist work with the professional staff, college students, children and families at the Child Labs. Marianne is a member of a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion committee within the public school system working to support anti-racist, anti-biased, welcoming policies and practices within the local school district.

Marianne and her husband Allen, their two children Ben and Amelia, and their dog Truffle have made Storrs/Mansfield their home. The children have gone through the local school system, starting at CDL as young infants and rising into the local middle and high schools. The entire family is engaged with the community through youth sports, school leadership and social justice movements. Marianne’s hope for her children as well as all the children and college students at the Child Labs is that they know their worth and value to the community and work to build and live in a society that is just, and supportive of all its members.

Roni Lang chosen as NASW Worker of the Year 2022

Roni LangRoni Lang, HDFS adjunct professor at the UConn Stamford campus, was recently selected as the National Association of Social Workers- Connecticut Chapter- as Social Worker of the Year for 2022. Roni shared the following Maya Angelou quote which she said guides her professional life: “success is liking yourself, liking what you do and liking how you do it.” Sounds like Roni is really living her motto – Congratulations Roni!

Dilara Yaya-Bryson, HDFS Faculty Spotlight, November 2022

Dilara Yaya-BrysonDilara Yaya-Bryson is an early childhood education (ECE) scholar. In the Fall of 2022, she moved to Connecticut to join the UConn HDFS department as an Assistant Research Professor (i.e., College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Research and Teaching Scholar). She has been in academia for nearly fifteen years. Prior to coming to UConn, she worked as a graduate research assistant and lecturer in different universities in the United States and her home country, Turkey.

Dilara’s interest in educational research started in 2008, after receiving her undergraduate degree in elementary education and teaching. While dreaming of academia, she began her graduate school journey with a master’s program in educational administration at Hacettepe University, Turkey. During this period, she realized that educational administration scholars heavily focused on elementary education and onward. This realization lit a question in Dilara’s mind: “How about early childhood education?” Therefore, in 2012, she decided to pursue a doctorate in early childhood education (ECE) at the same university and infuse her administrative perspective into ECE research. Dilara’s research centers on how to improve the quality of ECE, emphasizing research, policy, and practice intersections.

“Quality” is an umbrella term for Dilara’s research, which covers a range of parameters and policy considerations, including ECE classroom environment, workforce qualifications and professional development, administrative quality, and equitable and inclusive settings. For her first doctoral dissertation, she aimed to highlight the policy gaps in quality assurance of ECE settings in Turkey and inquire about successful examples abroad. The Scientific and Technologic Research Council of Turkey (TUBITAK) awarded her with an international doctoral scholarship. She came to the United States in 2015 as a visiting scholar to collaborate with professors at the University of North Carolina (UNC) Greensboro. For a year, she collected data to look into a well-established Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS) in North Carolina. During this process, she visited several ECE centers to observe classrooms and interview teachers, center directors, and state QRIS consultants. She also had the chance to join graduate classes and better understand the graduate school system in the US.

After a productive year and meeting wonderful mentors, she returned to UNC Greensboro as an international student in 2017 to pursue her second doctorate in HDFS. This time, she framed her dissertation study toward analyzing a US-based nationally representative dataset to explore Head Start classroom quality, workforce experiences, and policy connections. In 2021, she received her doctorate in HDFS with a minor in educational research methodology.

Throughout graduate school, Dilara also worked as a research assistant in various research project teams on ECE teacher preparation and professional development, quality measurement of ECE settings, dual-language learners in Head Start settings, and Montessori education. In addition to her research experiences, she has assisted, taught, and co-taught undergraduate courses on diversity, equity, and inclusion in ECE settings and human development. Dilara is thrilled about new research collaborations at UConn, focusing on effective infant and toddler services and policies. She also will be teaching human development to UConn undergraduate students.

Outside her professional life, Dilara loves traveling, daily meditative walks, whispering her orchids to bloom quickly, cooking (and eating!), watching comedy shows from the 1990s and 2000s with her husband, and virtual coffee dates with her parents overseas.

Rohner Center provides diagnostic measures to doctors in Ukraine

Upon invitation by the American Psychological Association (APA), the Rohner Center provided diagnostic measures in Ukrainian to be used by Ukrainian psychologists, psychiatrists, and others who work with psychologically traumatized children and adults in that country. The Rohner Center has 35 measures in up to 68 languages worldwide. All of them are used internationally to help assess the effects and other correlates of perceived interpersonal rejection and acceptance. Interpersonal rejection is known to be associated panculturally with problems of anxiety, depression, suicide ideation and attempts, substance use, and many other emotional and behavioral problems. Luba Roshko, M.D. (from Ukraine) has graciously volunteered to translate many of these measures into Ukrainian, which we are now making available gratis to Ukrainian professionals.

Kim Gans Co-Investigator of intramural grant to advance research

Kim GansProfessor Kim Gans is Co-Investigator on an intramural grant funded by the University of Florida (Mobley PI). The grant is titled: “Development and Testing of Digital Learning Modules for Use in Home Visitation Programs to Prevent Early Childhood Obesity. This one year grant will develop and pilot test (for usability) digital obesity prevention modules to incorporate into the Parents as Teachers home visitation program in Florida. This will provide pilot data that was requested by reviewers in a prior NIH grant submission.