Yuan Zhang, HDFS Grad Student Spotlight, August 2022

Yuan ZhangYuan Zhang is a Ph.D. candidate who joined the HDFS department in 2017 to work with Dr. Linda Halgunseth. She earned her B.S. in Psychology and M.A. in Education from Shanxi University in 2011 and 2014, respectively. She earned a second M.A. in Psychology from Pepperdine University. Yuan’s research interests focus broadly on the development and mental health of individuals within minority communities (e.g., ethnic minority and sexual minority) and parenting and parent-child relationships within different cultural contexts. Specifically, Yuan is interested in the role cultural beliefs play in parenting children in China, the well-being of individuals with diverse backgrounds, as well as how acculturation experiences in the U.S. impact immigrant Chinese parents’ well-being, parenting, and child development. Over the past few years, she has been actively involved in multiple research projects on mental health, parenting, and parent-child relationships within diverse populations, including Chinese adolescents, LGBTQ+ college students, international students, as well as parents and children from immigrant families in the U.S.

Yuan successfully defended her dissertation in July 2022. In her dissertation, Yuan explored the association between Chinese immigrant mothers’ parental psychological control and its association with the mothers’ acculturation experience, as well as their indirect association via parental psychological adjustment using data from over 200 Chinese immigrant mothers and their children ages 3-6.

In addition to research, Yuan has actively sought leadership experiences within international societies. In 2019, she was elected through a competitive process to serve as a graduate student representative on the SRCD Asian Caucus International Scholars Network Subcommittee. Yuan continues to work in this capacity and has enjoyed collaborating with developmental researchers in ways that support and promote collaborations among international scholars across the world.

After graduation, Yuan will be working as a Research Associate in the Department of Human Development and Family Studies at Michigan State University. She will support Dr. Linda Halgunseth’s research activities that focus on parenting and parent-child relationships, as well as the developmental outcomes of children and adolescents, considering the critical role of cultural context.

Hilal Kuscul, HDFS Grad Student Spotlight, July 2022

G. Hilal Kuscul- Graduate Student Spotlight, July 2022G. Hilal Kuscul is a family and human development scholar whose research centers around the dynamics of low-income family environments and their influences on children and parents, particularly fathers. She studies the contextual factors that influence fathering and the effects of fathering behaviors on children. During her doctoral study at UConn, she worked with Dr. Adamsons, gaining experience in working with secondary data through projects using the Fragile Families and Child Well-Being Study and the Turkish Fathers Project. Her work is theoretically driven, primarily using bioecological and identity theory and framed by gender roles and cross-cultural perspectives. She strongly supports research-based policies and practice and uses her research to inform family-based prevention and intervention programs that promote resilience and wellbeing in parents and children.

In addition to research, Hilal embraces teaching as a central privilege of her career. In her previous professional life, she had a rich experience teaching and mentoring adult learners in the nonprofit sector. She also received a college teaching certificate while at UConn to have a deeper grasp of teaching college students. In addition to teaching HDFS classes, she also worked as both program coordinator and facilitator for the Parenting Apart: Strategies for Successful Co-Parenting program, a state-certified program for divorcing parents coordinated by UConn’s Center for Applied Research in Human Development.

Hilal expects to finish her doctoral degree in the Summer of 2022 and will be a visiting assistant professor of Human Development at the State University of New York in Oswego in the 2022-2023 academic year. This experience will provide her with new opportunities in teaching.

Hilal likes to spend time with her husband, her college-aged sons, and friends. She loves to read books on ancient history and visit museums.

Mackenzie Wink, HDFS Graduate Student Spotlight, June 2022

Mackenzie Wink is a PhD candidate who joined the HDFS department in 2017 to work with Dr. Maria LaRusso. She earned her BS in Psychology from the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay in 2016 and MA in HDFS from UConn in 2019. Mackenzie’s research interests largely focus on supporting the well-being of students and teachers in schools, primarily through Social Emotional Learning programs focused on building skills in awareness of the emotional experiences of oneself and others, relationship building, and self-regulation.

Mackenzie recently successfully defended her dissertation, which examined teachers’ social-emotional experiences in the classroom, such as their levels of compassion toward themselves, empathy toward their students, and experiences with job stress, to understand how these characteristics might impact their approaches toward behavior management. Findings illustrated that teachers’ well-being and empathy toward their students play an important role in their decisions for behavior management and interactions with the students in their classroom. Mackenzie hopes to continue this work within Social Emotional Learning interventions to shift from only teaching these skills to students, into a more a systematic approach for building social-emotional skills for everyone at school, including teachers and staff. Mackenzie also completed the graduate certificate in program evaluation and hopes to utilize those skills in this future work.

In addition to research, Mackenzie has had the privilege to independently teach or work as a teaching assistant for a number of undergraduate courses, including Research Methods, Infancy through Adolescence, Professional Communication, and Social and Community Influence on Children in the United States. Mackenzie also received recognition for excellence in teaching by the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning in 2021.

Mackenzie accepted a Postdoctoral Fellowship position with the Child Health and Development Institute to start over the summer. She is looking forward to continue toward supporting children’s mental health and social-emotional well-being through school-based programming in Connecticut!

Undergrad Sophie Lindsay earns two HDFS awards

Congratulations to undergraduate student Sophie Lindsay who earned two HDFS awards!  Sophie worked for two years with the DASH project, the first year fully on WebEx before she met anyone in person.  Sophie participated in a range of projects, held her own with a group of graduate students, trained and supported other students, and collaborated on multiple conference presentations, so has earned the Outstanding Involvement in HDFS Research award.

In addition to all of her research accomplishments, Sophie also supported the department as a member of the curriculum committee, and by volunteering her time at multiple departmental recruiting events, so has also earned the Outstanding Senior in HDFS award.

FS Undergrad Council hosts Social Sciences Career Night

On March 28th, the Family Sciences Undergraduate Council hosted a Social Sciences Career Night event.  Ten career experts offered their time to 70 UConn students.  The career experts included representatives from the fields of Marriage and Family (Emberleigh Luce, Jill Donohoue, Jennifer Anderson), advising (Kristin Van Ness ‘09 BA, ‘14 MA), entrepreneurship in real estate (Cheryl Hilton, ’91 HDFS), Early Childhood Education (Nancy Walsh), Career Development/Higher Education (Lisa Famularo), School Counseling (Wheeler Deangelis, ‘15), Social Work (Ashley Dyer ‘19), and the Juvenile Justine Judicial Branch (Catherine Foley, ’92 HDFS).

Many of the career experts that participated were UConn HDFS alumni—professionally, products the career experts have become widely recognized and accredited by the state of Connecticut, published novels, and have taught their own classes.  Thanks to Ryan Watson, the faculty advisor, who helped the FSUC members organize the event!