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Rebecca Shlafer2014 Rising Alumni

Rebecca Shlafer photo

Rebecca Shlafer partnered with Sesame Street Workshop to lead the dissemination of new resources for children and families impacted by incarceration in Minnesota. The project has been incredibly successful – in just six months, her group distributed over 24,000 resource kits to providers and families across the state. Rebecca was invited to present her research at a White House event focused on children with incarcerated parents. She serves as a guardian ad litem in Hennepin County, advocating for children’s best interests when they are involved in the child protection system because of abuse or neglect. In 2012, Rebecca was selected as the Young Investigator for the Society for Adolescent Health and Development.


Assistant Professor, Department of Pediatrics
University of Minnesota

CEHD Degree

Ph.D., Child Psychology

What professors were most influential during your time in CEHD?

Byron Egeland was my dissertation adviser and I will never forget the countless meetings during which we bantered about Big Ten sports. Sure, we’d eventually get around to talking about work, but he reminded me that you could work hard, be successful, and still have fun. Ann Masten was also very influential. During my second year, Ann asked me if I would consider co-teaching with her. I remember feeling like a rock star had just asked me to prom. I learned so much that semester about teaching and life as an academic. Our 10-minute walks to and from class were filled with good advice and great conversation, which I reflect on often today. My time at CEHD exposed me to some of the most influential thinkers in child psychology and developmental science. I learned from living legends in the field, which was an incredible experience and something I will always be thankful for.

Who has inspired you the most during your career?

My parents. My dad is a professor and despite him always telling me not to go in to academics, he is still my biggest fan. He is an incredible teacher and I am inspired to impact students the way I know he has. My mom has also served as an incredible role model. She inspired me to have the career that I love, make (mostly) edible and well-balanced meals for my family, and never miss my kid’s swim meet or band concert. It’s not always easy or pretty, but it is a good life.

What skills are important to succeed as a young professional today?

#1 is passion. I often tell my students to think about a topic that really gets them mad. That’s when they know they care about something enough to devote a career to it. I study children with incarcerated parents because the inequities in the system anger me and I want to be a part of the solution.

What gets you excited about work?

My students. I truly feel like I have the most intelligent, passionate, and enthusiastic young women on my research team. Not only are they incredibly productive, but they also keep me hip and laugh at my jokes. What more could I ask for in a research team?

What is a good book you would recommend to others?

The New Jim Crow. This book confirmed every thought I had about social justice in America.

What is a "fun fact" about you?

My family represents five different Big Ten schools – Michigan (parents), Michigan State (sister and brother-in-law), Ohio State (brother), Wisconsin (me), and Minnesota (my husband and me). Football Saturdays are filled with the family rivalry!