Annual Report

Letter From the Director

Dr. Barbara Fiese

I am honored to introduce to you the Family Resiliency Center’s (FRC) FRC Decade in Review. Over the past 10 years, FRC has seen remarkable growth in its research, education, and outreach programs that have sought to address many of the grand challenges facing society. This report is organized around these which include: Addressing Childhood Obesity in Early Childhood, Addressing Food Insecurity in Households with Children, Immigrant and Transnational Health and Wellbeing, Protecting Children’s Health in the First Thousand Days, and Meeting the Needs of Individuals with Autism Across the Spectrum.

We were able to make great strides in these areas due, in part, to our transdisciplinary research seed grant programs, with the largest one funded by the Christopher Family Foundation. Investigators were able to use seed grant funds to further develop their programs and then, in turn, secure sustainable external funding. This approach was highly successful as you will note in the description of the Food and Family program which included federal, foundation, and nonprofit organization funding. This multi-pronged approach across multiple disciplines allowed us to fulfill the land-grant mission of serving our community.

Fostering transdisciplinary teams was a focus from the start. It evolved through a series of conversations, breakfasts, lunches, colloquiums, brown bags, and two national conferences. An example is the Food for Thought colloquium series whereby scholars were challenged to present their work in eight slides or less and to talk for no more than 20 minutes so that the majority of time could be spent in discussion. These presentations preceded lightning talks so many of the presenters were challenged by what was then a new format and now is commonplace in many academic circles. These interdisciplinary gatherings taught us that it was crucial to create common language around complex issues if we were to address the grand challenges facing society.

Recent events have brought new attention to the grand societal challenge of addressing structural racism. To that end, the Family Resiliency Center has dedicated seed funds to professors Shardé Smith of the Department of Human Development and Family Studies and Carla Hunter of the Department of Psychology to expand their ASPIRE program. ASPIRE is the Ambitions and Stories of Young People Inspiring Resilience and Engagement program which works collaboratively with two youth organizations in the community. This project is significant as it will engage and
illuminate the voices and experiences of middle school Black youth and co-create a youth-centered space of healing and hope.

This will be my last director’s letter to you. Effective July 1, 2020, I have retired from the University of Illinois. These have been the most rewarding years of my professional career. I have worked with some of the world’s top scholars, had the pleasure mentoring outstanding undergraduate and graduate students and postdoctoral scholars, and learned immensely from our staff. I am pleased to announce that Dr. Jacinda Dariotis, director of the Evaluation Services Center and director of research at the University of Cincinnati will be the new FRC director beginning August 2020. Please welcome her upon her arrival.

— Dr. Barbara Fiese

Past Annual Reports