CSCH News Archive

Marlene Schwartz sitting on fountain edge

Steering Committee Member: Marlene Schwartz

Background

Marlene Schwartz is Director of the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity and Professor of Human Development and Family Sciences. She studies how food policy can be used to improve the nutrition environment, especially for children. Most of her research has been done in schools, childcare, and the food banking system. Schwartz has a PhD in Clinical Psychology and spent the first part of her career as a clinician treating eating disorders and obesity for both adults and children. After a number of years in practice, she found that a lot of children coming to the clinic who were obese were having a hard time making dietary changes because the environment was not supporting them. “It was hard for them to find healthy food in their schools, and they were constantly exposed to marketing for junk food. I started to feel that I would have more of an impact in my career if instead of helping individuals one at a time to cope with a bad environment, I did work designed to change the environment.”

At the Rudd Center, Schwartz developed a coding system called WellSAT that allows districts to code the quality and strength of their school wellness policy and obtain a score. It has been used by thousands of districts across all 50 states, and is recommended by several national advocacy groups. Two federal government agencies, the CDC and USDA, also promote the WellSAT. “This tool provides concrete quantitative feedback to school districts about how strong their policy is,” says Schwartz. One of her goals is to support school districts in putting their commitment to addressing risk factors of childhood obesity down on paper.

Schwartz and CSCH Co-Director Sandra Chafouleas have just developed an expanded policy evaluation tool (WellSAT WSCC) that examines how all of a district’s health-related policies align with the Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child model. Schwartz, Chafouleas, and a group of graduate and undergraduate students will be working with the State Department of Education over the 2019-2020 school year to pilot test this measure with 30 districts.

Involvement with CSCH

Schwartz was invited to participate in CSCH when the Rudd Center moved from Yale to UConn in 2015. “One of the reasons that the Rudd Center moved to UConn is because it is so much bigger and has departments where we can find great collaborators,” she says. “The Collaboratory seemed like a wonderful place to meet people from other parts of the university and discover ways that our work intersects.”

Fun Facts

Schwartz’s favorite thing to do is see Broadway musicals. “If there was ever a game of Name That Tune: Broadway Edition, you would want me on your team,” she says.

THink about the link: academic social emotional physical behavioral whole child

WSCC Think about the Link Toolkit

In partnership with staff from New Haven Public Schools and the Connecticut State Department of Education, CSCH has put together a series of brief video modules and written practice briefs to explain the Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child (WSCC) components, synthesize related evidence, and share examples of school initiatives and resulting positive outcomes. Check out our WSCC Think about the Link Toolkit!

students seated at round tables listen to speaker at podium

Public Health House and CSCH Gun Policy Prevention Panel

On April 2, 2019 CSCH collaborated with the Public Health House Learning Community, the School of Nursing, and the Human Rights Institute to host an event entitled Gun Violence Prevention: A Public Health Imperative during National Public Health Week. The event included a panel discussion with experts addressing gun violence prevention from the lenses of health, communities, and the law. Panelists included Greg Jones, Vice President for Community Engagement and Development, Hartford Healthcare; Jillian Gilchrest, Connecticut State Representative for the 18th District; and Mary Bernstein, UConn Professor of Sociology. Topics ranged from the current status of gun violence in the United States to gun violence prevention strategies. After the panel presentations, over one hundred students, staff and faculty engaged in a question and answer session. “We are rightly horrified by mass shootings but rarely think about the daily gun violence impacting people every day,” said Rep. Gilchrest. “It’s time to pay attention.”

Sian Charles-Harris and Carolyn Lumsden working at table

Telling Your Story Media Training

In March and April of 2019, CSCH sponsored a two-part workshop series called Telling Your Story: Tips from Journalists to Bring Your Research to the Public.

Attended by over 25 people from across schools and colleges at UConn, the first session offered perspectives from journalists on how to write for the public about your research. Organized and moderated by Marie Shanahan, Associate Professor in the Department of Journalism, panelists included Lynne Delucia, Editor at the Connecticut Health Investigative Team (C-HIT); Theresa Sullivan Barger, journalist and freelance writer; and Carolyn Lumsden, Pulliam Fellow and former Opinion Editor at The Hartford Courant. The panelists shared advice not only on how to pitch a story, but also how to target specific audiences and use social media as part of the process of audience engagement. Alysse Loomis, CSCH affiliate and doctoral candidate in the School of Social Work, noted “it was really helpful to hear dos and don’ts for getting research published in an op-ed or other source, highlighting different venues to consider and helping us to think about where our work would best be situated.”

The second session consisted of a writing workshop, which was offered a few weeks later to a smaller group of CSCH affiliates. Participants submitted their written pieces in advance, and received constructive feedback from journalists and from their peers. “It gave us a chance to practice what we learned in the first round and then get very tailored recommendations,” said Loomis. “The feedback from editors was immensely important,” said Carol Polifroni, CSCH Co-director and workshop participant. “They pushed us to not be afraid to try a different voice, and be action-oriented when describing implications of our work.”

The event was cosponsored by the Neag School of Education, the  Institute for Collaboration on Health, Intervention, and Policy (InCHIP), and the Department of Journalism.

TELL YOUR STORY - typed on retro typewriter is photo made with unique words.

Telling Your Story: Tips from Journalists to Bring Your Research to the Public

Please note that this event has been rescheduled to March 11, 2019.

The Collaboratory on School and Child Health, the Neag School of Education, the Institute for Collaboration on Health, Intervention, and Policy (InCHIP), and the Department of Journalism bring you

Telling Your Story: Tips from Journalists to Bring Your Research to the Public

WHAT: A two-part workshop series on writing for the mainstream media about academic research.

Participants may choose to attend one or both sessions (however, Part I is strongly encouraged for Part 2 attendees).

WHERE: UConn Storrs Campus, Gentry Building
(March 11: Room 144; April 1: TBD)

WHEN: Part 1: 4-6 p.m. on Monday, March 11, 2019
Part 2: 4-6 p.m. on Monday, April 1, 2019

Part 1 (open to 50 people)

Join media panelists for a discussion on how to write for the public about your research. As panelists share their stories and advice, topics will include:

• how to pitch a story
• news writing vs. academic writing
• how to target specific audiences
• how to use social media as part of audience engagement process

Panelists include:
Lynne Delucia, Connecticut Health Investigative Team (C-HIT);
Theresa Sullivan Barger, journalist and freelance writer;
Carolyn Lumsden, Pulliam Fellow and former Opinion Editor at The Hartford Courant; and
Marie Shanahan, UConn professor of journalism

Part 2 (open to 20 CSCH affiliates. Becoming an affiliate is easy! Follow this link.)

Put your learning into action! This session will include a “writer’s workshop” in which attendees will bring their written dissemination piece.

Building on Part 1, interested participants will create a dissemination piece about their research (e.g. op-ed, The Conversation, plain-language research summary) to share in a Part 2 “writer’s workshop.” In the workshop, attendees will share their work, receive constructive feedback from journalists and peers, and meet in small groups to revise their pieces. Pre-registration is encouraged given max capacity of 20 participants.

To register for Part 1 or both Parts, visit
https://uconn.co1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_6PujNjx9LfaQPiZ

Debbie Cornman

Steering Committee Member Profile: Deborah Cornman

Background

Debbie Cornman is a clinical psychologist who serves as the Associate Director of the Institute for Collaboration on Health, Intervention, and Policy (InCHIP) and is an Associate Research Professor at UConn. Cornman’s research expertise lies in developing, implementing, and evaluating evidence-based health behavior change interventions that are feasible for the context in which they are implemented, acceptable to and culturally tailored for both the implementers and the target population, and sustainable over time. She has successfully developed interventions in the areas of treatment adherence, sexual risk reduction, and gender-based violence prevention, among others. In addition to her role as a researcher, she is the Director of InCHIP’s Community-Engaged Health Research Core, which facilitates and supports the development of equitable research partnerships between UConn faculty and community organizations in order to address critical public health issues in Connecticut and elsewhere.

Involvement with CSCH

In her role as Director of InCHIP’s Community-Engaged Health Research Core, Cornman works to develop multidisciplinary teams that include researchers from different academic disciplines along with community organizations and institutions.

“The Collaboratory provides an exciting opportunity to bring people together from different disciplines to address challenging child health issues,” says Cornman. “When you are working with children who are facing a variety of issues, such as early childhood trauma, anxiety, stress, mental health issues, and obesity, a single solution isn’t going to work and a single discipline isn’t going to be able to address it, so a team approach is critical. We need a variety of perspectives and skill sets, ranging from computer scientists with technology expertise to lawyers with policy perspectives to psychologists, healthcare providers, and community members, among others. We are going to need multiple teams working from different perspectives to address the many challenges facing children today.”

Fun Facts

Cornman has conducted research in Ethiopia, India, Mozambique, South Africa, and Uganda. As part of her work, she has developed training curricula and trained hundreds of healthcare providers and peer educators worldwide in theory-based health behavior change interventions.

Closeup shot of a diverse group of people applauding together

Announcement of CSCH Encore Grant Awardees

CSCH is pleased to announce and congratulate the awardees of our FY2019 seed grant competition. These grants provide funds to investigators to support projects that align with the vision of CSCH to promote an integrated approach to health and learning through collaborations across the components within the Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child (WSCC) model. Eligible applicants were InCHIP members, with CSCH affiliation. Two interdisciplinary teams are the recipients of the $8,000 grants.

  • The first team includes Miriam Valdovinos (School of Social Work), Rebecca Campbell-Montalvo (Department of Curriculum and Instruction in the Neag School of Education), Ruth Lucas (School of Nursing) and Xiaomei Cong (School of Nursing). Their project, “Healthcare Needs and Access for CT Migrant and Seasonal Farmworker Schoolchildren,” will examine if and how key school personnel in Connecticut assist the children of migrant and seasonal farmworkers with their health needs and healthcare access.
  • Beth Russell (Department of Human Development & Family Studies) and Tammy Freeberg (The Village for Families and Children) make up the second team. Their project, “Truancy Prevention Efforts to Interrupt the School to Prison Pipeline,” will study program services and outcomes related to truancy prevention to reduce juvenile justice involvement in Hartford given recent policy changes. Their project centers on informing future intervention development through stakeholder interviews with program staff, participants/families, and policymakers.

We wish to thank all of the applicants for their excellent proposals and the review committee members for their substantial contributions to the seed grant competition.

Six blank speech bubbles hanging from thread,

Writing for The Conversation Discussion – November 15

Would you like to bring your research to a wider audience? Please join us on November 15, 2018 as we talk to professors about their experience writing for and being published in The Conversation, one of the many resources used by UConn Communications to help disseminate faculty research to the general public.

Featuring UConn faculty and contributing writers to The Conversation, including Joseph Cooper, Assistant Professor of Educational Leadership in the Neag School of Education; Charles R. Venator-Santiago, Associate Professor with a joint appointment to Political Science and El Instituto: Institute of Latina/o, Caribbean, and Latin American Studies; C. Michael White, Professor of Pharmacy Practice in the School of Pharmacy; and Erin Young, Assistant Professor in Nursing and Assistant Director, Center for Advancement in Managing Pain. The discussion will be moderated by Kristen Cole, Director of News & Editorial Communications at UConn.

When: Thursday, November 15, 2018 from 12:00 p.m. to 1:00 p.m.

Where: in HBL Instruction room 1102 in Babbidge Library (map of library first floor).

This event is open to all faculty.

Sponsored by the UConn Collaboratory on School and Child Health and the Neag School of Education.

Michele Femc-Bagwell

Steering Committee Member Profile: Michele Femc-Bagwell

Background

Michele Femc-Bagwell is Associate Professor in Residence in the Department of Educational Leadership in the Neag School of Education at UConn. She is a former high school English teacher, middle school assistant principal, principal, and holds a Connecticut Superintendent’s certificate. In her 14-year career at UConn she has served as the director of the University of Connecticut Administrator Preparation Program and as the director of the former CommPACT Community Schools Collaborative, a statewide school reform model that was designed to empower community, parents, administrators, children and teachers in school change with a focus on family and community engagement. She also teaches in the teacher preparation programs.

Femc-Bagwell’s research interests are focused on family and community engagement and teacher and leadership wellbeing. She and Dr. Erica Fernandez, her colleague in the Educational Leadership department, recently completed a photo-voice research project. They gave cameras to parents and asked them to take pictures related to how they saw themselves involved in their children’s lives. With these findings they are creating a workbook to be used for teacher professional development.

She is currently collaborating with fellow CSCH steering committee member Dr. Lisa Sanetti on a mixed-methods study designed to apply the Healthy Workplace Participatory Program to address teacher wellbeing. Additionally, she received a Dean’s Research Incentive Award to continue research in the area of teacher stress and wellness.

Involvement with CSCH

What interested her about CSCH was the varied backgrounds and fields of the steering committee members and affiliates. “When I think about people on the CSCH, there is a collaborative approach to addressing the work of the whole child. Collectively we bring our areas of interest, resources, and expertise to the table in an effort to expand our thinking and to develop research projects across disciplines.”

Fun Facts

Femc-Bagwell loves to run; she ran her last marathon in Florence, Italy.

Lisa Sanetti in breakout session with UConn students

Building Links in Health and Education Undergraduate Event

On October 30, 2018 CSCH collaborated with the Public Health House Learning Community to host an event titled Field of Dreams: Building Links in Health and Education Using the Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child (WSCC) Model. The event built on prior opportunities to engage undergraduate students in learning and active discussion around topics related to child well-being. Dr. Sandra Chafouleas, CSCH Co-Director and Board of Trustees Distinguished Professor in Educational Psychology and Dr. Jaci VanHeest, Director of the Public Health House and Professor in Educational Psychology and Kinesiology moderated a faculty panel discussion about successes and challenges in working on health and education research. Panel members included UConn researchers and CSCH affiliates Dr. Ruth Lucas (School of Nursing), Dr. Jennifer McGarry (Department of Educational Leadership), Dr. Beth Russell (Department of Human Development and Family Studies), and Dr. Lisa Sanetti (Department of Educational Psychology). After the panel discussion, students divided into break-out sessions in which panelists led discussions about particular domains of the WSCC model. Topics included family engagement, employee wellness, health services, and physical activity.

Dr. VanHeest noted that collaborations such as this event facilitate student awareness about UConn researchers who are working with children’s health, and even helps them evaluate their career focus.

One student who attended the break-out facilitated by Dr. Sanetti on strategies to improve employee wellness, said “I am currently working in schools and see the everyday consequences of teacher stress, but I had never thought about it through this lens before watching the CSCH videos and talking with you tonight.”

At the end of the event, one pre-med student noted that “All of this is really great, and you are all focused on schools, which is essential, but it is cool how I can see that it applies in other settings too. Anyone going into a helping profession needs to remember to take care of the whole person.”

CSCH Booth at Research Connections event surrounded by students

2018 Research Connections

On October 17, 2018, for the second year, CSCH participated in Research Connections, a networking event sponsored by the UConn Learning Communities intended to expose first and second year students to undergraduate research. The CSCH booth stayed busy throughout the evening, with undergraduate students from many disciplines stopping to engage in conversation about opportunities in school and child health. Dr. Chafouleas, CSCH Co-Director, demonstrated how the CSCH website can be used as a resource to connect and learn about opportunities at UConn—from working with researchers to finding related courses to exploring career paths.

Read about our October 2018 Twitter Chat: The Importance of Bridging the Gap between Home and School for Diverse Students

CSCH #schoolequity Twitter Chat

Together with the UConn Neag School of Education, CSCH cohosted a Twitter Chat about the importance of bridging the gap between home and school for diverse students on Monday, October 10, 2018. The chat was co-sponsored by El Instituto and Rebecca Campbell-Montalvo, Postdoctoral Researcher in the Neag School of Education, was the featured guest. Participants were encouraged to watch Dr. Campbell-Montalvo’s CSCH Live Talk, “The Importance of School-Home Intersections: Language, Culture, and Health in the Florida Heartland,” before taking part. See the video here.

During the chat, Dr. Campbell-Montalvo discussed why migrant advocates are important to health care access and the importance of recognizing and validating family culture in schools.

To read through the twitter chat click here.

Ruth Lucas

Steering Committee Member Profile: Ruth Lucas

Background

Ruth Lucas, RN, is an Assistant Professor in UConn’s School of Nursing. She began her career as a maternal child nurse and spent much of it working with mothers as they tried to breastfeed. Lucas observed that although there was a lot of research on mothers and breastfeeding, there was less robust science that evaluated infant behaviors as a stand-alone and objective measure, despite the fact that some infants struggled with the breastfeeding process even with mothers who knew what they were doing. She began to take a serious interest in infant breastfeeding behavior.

“Breastfeeding is one of the first social interaction behaviors, the first dinner conversation for babies. As conversations are an interactive neurological behavior, it seems like this is a good snapshot to look at how neurologically organized babies are at birth and that behavior that might tell us something about them as they get older,” says Lucas.

“We also know the important health benefits of breastfeeding, as babies who successfully breastfeed over long durations are less likely to be at risk for infant illness and for obesity.” Lucas is currently trialing a device to evaluate infants’ breastfeeding behaviors.

Involvement with CSCH

Lucas brings a unique perspective to the CSCH steering committee since she is focused on the earliest stages of a child’s life. She has been on the steering committee since the outset. “I think the Collaboratory is trying to find ways we can work within our times, our society, our resources, to leverage ways that most effectively support families” says Lucas. “What worked 20 years ago is not going to work today and yet there are universal needs for families and children–we just need to be smart about how we adapt for it in our time.”

Fun Facts

Lucas enjoys reading and spending time with her husband (who was her high school sweetheart), her sons and extended family.

Watch Dr. Lucas discuss how breastfeeding takes effort on the part of both the baby and the mother here.

 

Encore Conference participants listening to pitches

2018 CSCH Encore Conference and Stage One Winners

On September 24, 2018, the UConn Collaboratory on School and Child Health held its second Encore Conference. The Encore conference provided an opportunity for participants to learn about work related to school and/or child health that CSCH affiliates had presented previously at external conferences. It included a poster “encore” session (sharing work already presented in another setting), time for networking, and an on-the-spot seed grant competition.

The conference was open to all people that were CSCH affiliates (faculty, postdocs, students, community partners) and faculty, student, staff and community affiliates were in attendance from many different UConn schools, colleges, departments, centers and community organizations. Following a welcome from CSCH Steering Committee member Jennifer McGarry, affiliates were given the opportunity to peruse posters, network, and find collaborators for those interested in making seed grant pitches. Participants reconvened to hear groups of people make 3-minute pitches for the seed grant competition. Using an online voting tool, participants then voted for the favorite pitches. The top five winners will move on to stage 2 and were:

    1. Students Junyoung Cho (Educational Leadership) and Sanggyu Byun (Educational Psychology)
      Pitch: Promoting Self-regulation skills for children with Autism by utilizing Taekwondo (Asian martial arts)
    2. Drs. Rebecca A. Campbell (Curriculum and Instruction), Xiaomei Cong (Nursing), Ruth Lucas (Nursing), and Miriam Valdovinos (Social Work)
      Pitch: Healthcare Needs and Access for Connecticut Migrant and Seasonal Farmworker Schoolchildren
    3. Dr. Beth Russell (HDFS) and Tammy Freeberg, MSW (The Village for Families & Children)
      Pitch: Truancy Prevention Efforts to Interrupt the School to Prison Pipeline
    4. Timothy McKay, MFT and Dr. Ryan Watson (HDFS)
      Pitch: Exploration of transgender and non-binary youth school-based psychosocial health and well-being utilizing data from the 2017 UConn/HRC LGBT Teen Survey
    5. Students Cassandra Therriault (Educational Leadership) and Emma Zuk, ATC (Kinesiology)
      Pitch: Intramural sports in an urban school aimed at improving physical literacy

Final stage 2 winners will be announced in November 2018.

Jennie McGarry

Steering Committee Member Profile: Jennifer McGarry

Background

Jennifer McGarry is Professor in and Head of the Department of Educational Leadership at UConn’s Neag School of Education. She has been an athlete and coach and has studied sport throughout her professional career, focusing particularly on the different participation rates and access to sport that people have based on gender and race. Her current interests include youth sport and sport-based youth development. She researches both the youth that participate in sport-based development programs and the college students and adults that run them. McGarry directs Husky Sport, a CSCH partner that has been in operation for 14 years and which aims to engage youth, families, college students, and partners through shared learning in various areas of youth development. She also oversees multiple undergrad and graduate sections of a sport-based youth development service learning course in which students have class time and time in Hartford to work with kids in Husky Sport.

Involvement with CSCH

McGarry’s work falls under several of CSCH focal areas. Between getting kids moving with Husky Sport and helping fund programs through a nutritional education grant from the US Department of Agriculture, her work focuses on creating a whole child environment through her programs at schools.

“In terms of the whole child model…the work that I do can’t just be physical activity, it can’t just be nutrition, it can’t just be the school climate or the connectedness to school, it has to be all of those things and others, all of the academic pieces as well… none of those things can work in a vacuum and really make an impact, they have to be together.”

“The concept of the Collaboratory…made sense to me given what I do,” she adds. “And not just the content but the idea of being a Collaboratory and working with other people across disciplines is important to me.”

Fun Facts

McGarry likes to play sports with her four kids.

Read about our April 2018 Twiter Chat (birds talking)

CSCH Twitter Chat: Teacher Stress and Teacher Well-being

Together with the UConn Neag School of Education, CSCH cohosted a Twitter Chat about teacher stress and teacher well-being on Monday, April 23, 2018. Lisa Sanetti, Associate Professor in the Department of Educational Psychology, was the featured guest. Participants were encouraged to watch Dr. Sanetti’s CSCH live talk, ” Teacher Wellbeing: Secure Your Own Oxygen Mask First Before Attending to Others,” (https://youtu.be/0uszD07ce1A) before taking part.

During the chat, Dr. Sanetti discussed why teacher stress is different than the stress from other occupations and wrote about the negative results of that stress. She also answered questions about secondary traumatic stress, the difference between stress and burnout and wrote about the importance of mentorship. The Neag School also shared numerous resources about the topic.

To read through the twitter chat you can view a pdf of the chat from Storify here.

Alice Forrester

Steering Committee Member Profile: Alice Forrester

Background

Alice Forrester is the Chief Executive Officer of Clifford Beers Clinic in New Haven, CT. She graduated with a BA in Art History and was a performance artist in the East Village of New York City before her interest in drama and group work led her to get a Masters Degree in Drama Therapy. After working as a drama therapist, Forrester went on to obtain her doctorate in clinical psychology and then joined Clifford Beers, where she has been working for over 21 years. Clifford Beers is a mental health organization that delivers services related to social determinants in health, integrated healthcare, and work in early intervention and prevention. “My specialty and dissertation work is the interpersonal nature of violence and trauma. I have been able to explore the topic in various ways as the CEO of the agency, basically trying to break the taboo of people talking about trauma and violence in order to get the help that they need,” says Forrester.

One of Forrester’s current projects is the New Haven Trauma Coalition. The Coalition’s work with students, parents, teachers, and the community uses a tiered approach that includes in-classroom work and after-school activities for all children; specific coaching and intervention for children evidencing problematic behavior; and clinical assessment to identify kids and/or families that might be in need of mental health services and care coordination services.

Involvement with CSCH

Forrester brings invaluable outside connections to the Collaboratory and contributes to events hosted at the University. Clifford Beers Clinic was a partner with CSCH and others in hosting a symposium on trauma and mental health in schools that included school, mental health, and community leaders from across the state. “That was a terrific opportunity,” says Forrester. “It was exciting to work with the doctoral students and faculty to really have a top-notch event.”

“People need to understand the lifelong health consequences of trauma and violence on health and wellness,” Forrester adds. “It’s been really important to be able to create places to have those conversations. UConn has made that opportunity available to Clifford Beers multiple times this year.”

Fun Facts

Forrester and her partner adopted three children a little over 11 years ago, and she enjoys family dinners, vacations, and activities at home.  She also tries to make time to paint and create art, and is an avid reader.

Kathryn Libal

Steering Committee Member Profile: Kathryn Libal

Background

Kathryn Libal is an anthropologist who has a joint appointment between the UConn School of Social Work and Human Rights Institute (HRI) and directs HRI. Her early love for learning language and travel led her to anthropology, finally resulting in a focus on anthropology of childhood and on human rights. “I loved language because it allowed you a window into how other people were thinking about what their lives meant,” she says. Early in her graduate work she became interested in why children and childhood were not being studied systematically and “in trying to understand children as human beings in their own right who had ideas that were worth hearing and listening to.” Libal first conducted research on children’s rights issues in China where she looked at ethnic education models for Kazakh children. She later shifted to a dissertation project examining the emergence of child welfare and child protection in Turkey. She is currently working on a collaborative qualitative study of the politics of refugee resettlement in the U.S. and Europe, focusing in part on refugee children’s ability to access support in school and community settings. Libal is particularly concerned that in the United States, such refugee children often fail to have their rights to adequate housing, food, health care and education realized.

Involvement with CSCH

Libal was drawn to the Collaboratory by its interdisciplinary nature and the idea that “if we come together we can push forward on some of the priorities around child well-being collectively.” She is interested in building connections between the School of Social Work and other departments at UConn and says that as part of the Collaboratory, “you’re always learning about new work and new dimensions to research on children and childhood that you might not pay attention to as much if you didn’t have a relationship with that person.”

The Collaboratory prioritizes “innovative research that helps to create programs that are really sound in terms of outcomes that better children’s lives in schools and out,” Libal says. While many steering committee members focus on one aspect of schools and health and well-being, Libal tries to understand how the broader community and social context sets limits or helps to build opportunities for children through social systems that are supposed to foster child well-being. “I generally think more at a macro level about creating a policy design where you prioritize resources for children in general, not just in schools but also in terms of their basic living conditions,” says Libal.

Fun Fact

Kathryn Libal grew up in a small town in Alaska, which she visits all the time. She also gardens and loves to hike in the U.S. Southeast.

Read about our April 2018 Twiter Chat (birds talking)

CSCH Twitter Chat: The Effect of Play on the Brain

Together with the UConn Neag School of Education, CSCH cohosted a Twitter Chat about the effect of play on the brain on Thursday, February 15, 2018. Jaci VanHeest, Associate Professor in the Department of Educational Psychology and the Department of Kinesiology, was the featured guest. Participants were encouraged to watch Dr. VanHeest’s CSCH live talk, “The Boy Who Learned How to Play,” (http://ow.ly/Ti0V30i5L3I ) before taking part.

During the chat, Dr. VanHeest discussed how play affects the brain physiologically and how it impacts executive function. She also answered questions about the importance of free play, physical literacy, and gave advice for teachers and for those trying to implement programs in schools. Dr. VanHeest also shared numerous resources about the topic.

To read through the twitter chat you can either put #brainplaychat into Twitter’s search bar or you can view a pdf of the chat from Storify here: https://csch.uconn.edu/wp-content/uploads/sites/2206/2018/02/STORIFY_The-Effect-of-Play-on-the-Brain.pdf

Lindsay DiStefano

Steering Committee Member Profile: Lindsay DiStefano

Background

Lindsay DiStefano is the Athletic Training Program Director and an Associate Professor in the Department of Kinesiology at UConn. With a background in athletic training and sports medicine and an appreciation of working with children, DiStefano found that “working to prevent sport-related injury in a youth athlete population was a natural fit.” Her research is centered around the promotion of physical activity in children (through the prevention of childhood sport related injury and ensuring appropriate motor development). She believes preventing injury is at the core of encouraging physical activity because when children are susceptible to physical injury they are unable to develop the necessary skills, motivation, and confidence to be active. DiStefano leads school-based interventions that promote a more active classroom experience.

Involvement with CSCH

DiStefano finds that her work fits in very well with the CSCH mission and focus: “In order to truly make a difference in terms of exposing children to safe physical activity, we need to make sure that we are affecting every child. So the school based setting is the obvious platform to launch interventions and screenings for motor development issues that may make a child susceptible to injury as well as preclude them from future activity.”

DiStefano values the Collaboratory’s ability to facilitate the communication and dissemination of ideas as well as its opportunities for funding and collaboration. “I think it’s just a fantastic way to network and get to know a lot of different faculty across the university with similar efforts in an efficient way,” says DiStefano. “It’s very easy to get bogged down at the university in your own silo, doing your own thing, and not have that opportunity to connect with others. The CSCH serves as a meeting point to share ideas and help us all become more efficient with easier access to identifying future collaborators and reaching out to each other.”

DiStefano encourages others to join the Collaboratory: “At the university especially, it facilitates communication and quick dissemination of ideas, opportunities for funding, opportunities for collaboration. It helps all of us market ourselves within the university as well as externally, and work together to hopefully facilitate greater change and truly affect children’s lives.”

Fun Fact

DiStefano likes to get moving with her three highly energetic sons.

CSCH Logo and Text: 2018 Encore Seed Grant Winners

Announcement of CSCH Encore Grant Awardees

CSCH is pleased to announce and congratulate the awardees of our FY2018 seed grant competition. These grants provide funds to investigators to support projects that align with the vision of CSCH to promote an integrated approach to health and learning through collaborations across the components within the Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child (WSCC) model. Eligible applicants were InCHIP members, with CSCH affiliation. Two interdisciplinary teams are the recipients of the $8,000 grants.

The first team includes Rory McGloin (Department of Communication) and Jaci Van Heest (Department of Kinesiology/Department of Educational Psychology). Their project “Gearing up! Using Exergaming to Impact Health in Overweight Children” will study whether a 10-week school-based physical activity intervention delivered via an exergaming bicycle will positively impact acute and transfer physical activity behaviors and perceptions or beliefs related to the exergaming experience in overweight/obese youth.

Lisa Sanetti, (Department of Educational Psychology), Alicia Dugan, (Division of Occupational and Environmental Medicine in the School of Medicine), and Michele Femc-Bagwell, (Department of Educational Leadership) make up the second team. Their project “Applying the Healthy Workplace Participatory Program to Address Teacher Wellbeing: A Mixed-Methods Pilot Study” will pilot and evaluate the effectiveness, acceptability, and feasibility of a workplace health and wellness intervention for teachers in a public school.

We wish to thank all of the applicants for their excellent proposals and the review committee members for their substantial contributions to the seed grant competition.

UConn Science Salon graphic

UConn Science Salon Featured Work of CSCH

The UConn Collaboratory on School and Child Health (CSCH) was excited to partner with co-sponsors UConn and the UConn Foundation to host the first Science Salon of the 2018 series. The event, “How Schools Succeed by Nurturing the Whole Child,” took place on the evening of Thursday, Nov. 9, at the Lyceum in Hartford, Conn. Approximately 50 people took part in the exciting discussion about how teachers, researchers, and schools in the state are helping the whole child be healthy, resilient, and ready to learn.

Desi Nesmith, Chief School Turnaround Officer with the Connecticut Department of Education and Neag School alum, moderated the panel, which included CSCH Co-Director Sandy Chafouleas; CSCH Steering Committee member Lindsay DiStefano; and UConn alum Althea Brooks, Executive Director of the Bridge to Success Community Partnership in Waterbury, Connecticut.

After brief introductions, panelists discussed their work and current status of understanding about the social, emotional and physical needs of children.  Mr. Nesmith then led an animated discussion about what can constitute a “whole child” approach, and the many things that can impact a child’s learning. The scope of discussion and audience questions was broad but panelists specifically touched on the areas of community involvement and family engagement; physical literacy and brain breaks; and trauma-informed school practices.

  • Althea Brooks reminded audience members that we have to be willing to understand the cultural context in which the school and families are situated and discussed the importance of community involvement.
  • Lindsay DiStefano, Associate Professor in the College of Agriculture, Health, and Natural Resources, emphasized the need for physical literacy. She described her work on brain breaks, and talked about the evidence that shows that even a five-minute break can help students learn.
  • Sandy Chafouleas, Board of Trustees Distinguished Professor in the Neag School of Education, dismissed the notion that students experience trauma only in urban areas. She stressed that trauma is everywhere and discussed the necessity of recognizing the school as a potential hub for identifying students in need and connecting to various supports. “As a school community we have to realize that we are one of the first lines of defense. You only go to the pediatrician once a year but you go to school roughly 180 days a year.”
Lisa Sanetti

Steering Committee Member Profile: Lisa Sanetti

Background

Lisa Sanetti is an Associate Professor in the Department of Educational Psychology within the Neag School of Education. Her primary area of research relates to implementation science, specifically how interventions are implemented in schools. Prior to working in school psychology, Sanetti had worked in a clinical setting for kids with very significant mental health issues. “It was really evident that very few youth were able to access that specialty care for reasons related to insurance, transportation, and knowledge of healthcare systems. I was really inspired to work in schools where all students are” says Sanetti. She then made the switch to work in a school setting as a consultant to address social, emotional, and behavioral challenges before joining UConn as a faculty member and researcher in the school psychology program.

Sanetti’s work on assessing implementation and how to support educators in implementing interventions led to her current research on teacher stress and wellbeing. “One of the things I recognized was how influential teachers’ wellbeing was in influencing their ability to implement high quality instruction or behavioral intervention for students in the classroom,” says Sanetti. “Initial data show that teacher stress levels are the number one predictor of whether teachers will stay in the field. We know that we lose most of our teachers within their first five years of teaching. So it’s a pretty high turnover, and if we can help to prevent that, I think we would be in a much better place in education.”

Involvement with CSCH

Sanetti has been part of CSCH since its inception, serving to help develop the initial proposal and continuing today as a steering committee member. She was drawn to CSCH because of the idea of “serving kids as whole beings.” Joining the steering committee was an “exciting opportunity to work with people from other disciplines, and be able to get at the root cause of why I got into the field in the first place,” she says.

Fun Fact

Sanetti likes to hike with her kids in the mountains of New England.

Kerri Raissian

Steering Committee Member Profile: Kerri Raissian

Background

Kerri Raissian is an Assistant Professor in the UConn Department of Public Policy who studies policies that relate to kids and the family. She has a particular interest in policies designed to reduce family violence, either between parents/adults or directed towards children. The interest stems from her background volunteering with victims and managing a domestic violence shelter; her focus on policy originates from the realization that policies weren’t always clear cut or helpful to families.

“I wanted to figure out a way to measure and estimate if a policy actually helps people on average… whether or not they make people better off in the way that they intended to do,” says Raissian. Her current research looks at differential response policies—that is, policies adopted by child protective service agencies that are meant to help get early intervention for a family that is at risk for abuse or maltreatment of their children.

Involvement with CSCH

Raissian says she was drawn to serve as a steering committee member of CSCH because of the idea of looking at kids, families, communities, and schools holistically. “We need to think big and not in our individual siloes or within our individual research agendas. There are lots of synergies and ways that one policy affects lots of different decision points in a family’s thinking…these policies and programs we have in place that involve schools don’t just stop and end with schools, they really branch out in lots of ways.”

The Collaboratory “is just a really cool place to brainstorm research,” says Raissian. “The agenda is unlike other places where people might connect their research. There isn’t an agenda outside of thinking about how all these things connect together. That connectivity is what’s exciting about the Collaboratory.”

Raissian urges any researcher or community to become involved in CSCH if they have an interest in school and child health. “Many would say there is no better investment than our kids. I would say there is no better investment than learning how to truly help our kids. The CSCH aims to figure out which investments are wise to make to truly help kids.

Fun Fact

Raissian is from Texas and is a Longhorn fan. She also loves square dancing and has an early morning gym addiction.

Encore Conference attendees

First CSCH Encore Conference

On September 18, 2017, the UConn Collaboratory on School and Child Health held its first annual Encore Conference. The Encore conference provided an opportunity for participants to learn about work related to school and/or child health that CSCH affiliates had presented previously at external conferences. It included a poster “encore” session (sharing work already presented in another setting) and active networking.

The conference was open to all people that were CSCH affiliates (faculty, postdocs, students, community partners) and reflected the truly multidisciplinary nature of the Collaboratory, with affiliates in attendance from six different UConn schools and colleges, 17 different UConn departments, two UConn Centers, and five community organizations/schools. Following a welcome from CSCH Steering Committee member Jennifer McGarry, affiliates were given the opportunity to peruse posters, network, and find collaborators for those interested in making seed grant pitches. Participants then reconvened to hear 12 different groups of people make 3-minute pitches for a CSCH seed grant competition. Using an online voting tool, participants then voted for the favorite pitches. The top five winners will move on to stage 2 and were:

1. Drs. Rebecca A. Campbell (Curriculum and Instruction), Ruth Lucas (Nursing), Miriam Valdovinos (Social Work)
Pitch: Migrant Advocates Broker Healthcare Access: Breastfeeding and Domestic Violence Implications?

2. Drs. Rory McGloin (Communication, UConn) and Jaci Van Heest (Kinesiology, UConn)
Pitch: Gearing up! Using Exergaming to Impact Health in Overweight Children

3. Dr Carolyn Lin (Communication), Dr. Valerie Duffy (Allied Health Sciences), and Sue Peters (Director of School Health Center for New Haven Public Schools)
Pitch: Clinical and mobile-technology engagement to improve student well-being and attendance

4. Dr. Lisa Sanetti (Educational Psychology)
Pitch: Piloting the Healthy Workplace Participatory Program to address Educator Stress

5. Students Frank Amaefuna and Samuel Schick (Physiology and Neurobiology)
Pitch: Concussion App in High School

Final stage 2 winners will be announced in November 2017.

Carol Polifroni

Steering Committee Member Profile: Carol Polifroni

Background

Carol Polifroni is a registered nurse, Professor, and Dean of the UConn School of Nursing, whose research and scholarship focuses primarily on health policy and transition to care for nurses in particular. She is also Director of the UConn Office of Public Engagement. As part of that dual role she has been involved in the Greater Hartford School System, and the Academy of Nursing and Health Sciences in particular, for over fifteen years working with inner city youth preparing them for careers in healthcare, focusing on diversity.

Involvement with CSCH

The UConn Collaboratory on School and Child Health was born out of conversations between Polifroni and CSCH Co-Director Sandra Chafouleas. “It was really the notion of “nobody is looking at the entire system’” that led to their collaboration, says Polifroni. When the CDC and ASCD released the Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child (WSCC) model, Polifroni understood that it corresponded to how the Office of Public Engagement wanted to look at systems. The model helped researchers and practitioners to look at issues through a holistic lens of coordination and with an appreciation of the complexity of the connectedness between the ten components of the model.

The “model looks at all the interactions, all the connectedness between [the school, the community and the child] and so it’s a natural connection with my role of being a nurse and then also as my role as Director of the Office of Public Engagement,” she says.

Polifroni urges anyone interested in community, school, or child health, to consider joining CSCH because of the coordination between the three components. “It’s a broad umbrella…if you’re interested in schools, communities, or children, the Collaboratory is a natural place for you.”

Fun Fact

When she is not working and if the sun is shining, you will find Dr. Polifroni at the beach.

Marlene Schwartz and Amy Mobley

Announcement of CSCH Grant Awardees

CSCH is pleased to announce and congratulate the two awardees of our FY2017 seed grant competition. These grants provide funds to investigators to support projects that align with the vision of CSCH to promote an integrated approach to health and learning through collaborations across the components within the Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child (WSCC) model. They are intended for projects that can lead to innovative external grant applications. Eligible applicants are InCHIP members, with CSCH affiliation. Drs. Amy Mobley and Marlene Schwartz are the recipients of the $10,000 grants.

Dr. Amy Mobley, an Assistant Professor in the Department of Nutritional Sciences, and her co-investigators are studying the impact of local foods on elementary school students’ nutrition behaviors. The first phase of the project will determine the salient reasons that may motivate elementary school students’ to choose to eat local foods in their school. The second phase of the project will involve evaluating a local food procurement intervention on students’ nutrition health behaviors in low socioeconomic schools in Connecticut.

Dr. Marlene Schwartz is Director of the UConn Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity and Professor in the Department of Human Development and Family Studies. She will be creating a WSCC Policy Assessment Tool that captures and scores all of the school policies relevant to the WSCC model. In creating this WSCC tool, she will follow the framework she used to create the already existing Wellness School Assessment Tool (www.WellSAT.org) that measures and scores the strength of school district wellness policies.

We wish to thank all of the applicants for their excellent proposals and the review committee members for their substantial contributions to the seed grant competitions.

audience with stage

Enhancing Media Presentation Skills in School and Child Health‐Related Topics

CSCH is sponsoring media training for affiliates interested in enhancing skills in effective dissemination and promotion of their work. We are pleased to partner with Drs. Rory McGloin and Stephen Stifano in the Department of Communication, who will lead attendees throughout the fall semester in developing knowledge of effective communication and using skills to produce a TED-style video presentation.

Key topics covered include:

  • The fundamentals of communication and mastering presentations
  • Writing, Organizing, and Delivering an Effective Presentation
  • Integrating multimedia into your presentation

After the fall training process, selected participants will give presentations in the spring of 2018. Check back on our homepage for updates.

UConn Academic plan logo

CSCH Receives 3-year UConn Academic Vision Grant

July 13, 2016

In 2013, UConn launched a comprehensive process to develop a new academic vision and identify initiatives that will enable the University to enhance excellence in research and education. One of the priority areas identified in that process was health and wellness. CSCH is pleased to announce that is has received a 3-year Academic Vision grant as part of the UConn Academic Plan.

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