cause + effect
CEHD students and faculty conduct rigorous inquiry to understand the many factors influencing our social health and economic prosperity. Sustained focus and expertise are needed to continue improving our quality of life.
We will invest in the brightest and most creative students, and in training teachers who reflect the diversity of our schools and classrooms. We will recruit and retain bright and motivated faculty researchers who embrace new learning technologies and make STEM education come alive. We will continue to lead the way in the science of early childhood. And we will provide our students the international experiences, internships and service learning to prepare them for the 21st century.
The Improving Lives campaign seeks increased support to expand our work around four critical issues. These additional resources, applied strategically, will advance critical research, support effective interventions, and train future generations of students.
Improving Lives in action.
"The scholarship gave me reassurance that my hard work in school was worth it. Having someone recognize the achievements you have made can make a huge difference in your life. It did in mine." BECKY STEFFENS, M.Ed. ’12
early childhood education, and early childhood special education licensure read more
"The year in Berlin was a mind-changing experience. I want to see others have the same kinds of opportunities I had." FRANK BRAUN, PH.D.
CEHD faculty member retired read more
"I will use my learning in the academic community but also by serving community people who don't have access to ‘scientific knowledge.’ These are the people with the greatest need, who need our efforts." DIEGO GARCÍA-HUIDABRO, M.D. doctoral student
family social science read more
"The award has shaped me to become a critical thinker about reading and to find identity in the work I do every day for literacy development." SUE VANG
elementary teacher and M.Ed. and reading licensure student read more
"My dream is of breaking barriers, moving forward with a life that can be an example and a kind of redemption for my family." TALISHA RICHARDSON
master of social work student read more
When Virginia Puzak's children were young, she enrolled them in the Shirley G. Moore Laboratory School, a nursery school that has been a national leader since it began in 1925. Years later, Virginia's children enrolled their own children in the lab school, too. So when Virginia established the Puzak Family Scholarship Fund in 2010, she designated it for students of early childhood development.
This year, Becky Steffens became the first Puzak scholarship recipient. After completing her bachelor's degree in 2011, Becky was able to continue immediately for her master's and licensure and finish in a year because of the scholarship. She is preparing to become an early-childhood special education teacher, working with children from birth through age 6.
Steffens has known for years that she wants to work with young children. Then, employed as the lead teacher at a local daycare program, she realized nearly half of her students were receiving special-education services of some kind through the local school district. But daycare programs don't specialize in special-needs children, so finding a way to meet their needs was up to her.
"Being able to aid children in reaching new goals inspired me to change my educational direction," says Steffens. "I decided that I wanted to learn how to best meet the needs of all children, especially those who don't learn in the typical manner or at the typical pace."
Steffens has worked with children with a variety of needs-those at high risk for developmental delay because of medical complications, low birth-weight, or multiple birth; children with Down Syndrome and Autism Spectrum Disorder; children with physical conditions such as cerebral palsy and hearing and sight impairment; children with cognitive impairments and delays; and many who have a combination of needs that impair their capacity to learn as their peers.
"I would happily work within a classroom," says Steffens, "but I would love to work with children in their natural environment-home, daycare, preschool program-and help to give others the tools, too, to meet these children's unique needs."x
Excelling from Experience
Frank Braun, Ph.D. ’60, grew up in Maple Grove, Minnesota, when it was mostly farms. He attended a one-room school, graduated from Osseo High School, and came to the U. Then the U.S. Navy called.
“That meant a lot of firsts for me,” says Braun, “first train ride, first trip out of Minnesota, first time I saw the ocean.”
Bringing a Global Perspective to the U of M
But it was only the beginning. After serving on the U.S.S. Iowa as far away as Japan, Braun returned to the University to complete three degrees. He taught for two years in public schools, then embarked on an international path. First he biked and led bike tours in Europe and Canada. As a doctoral student, he studied for a year at the Free University of Berlin on one of the University’s first reciprocal student exchanges. “That was a mind-changing experience,” he remembers.
In what became a faculty position in the College of Education, Braun supported students in career preparation, planning, and placement. He began teaching with an affiliation in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction. Everywhere he brought a global perspective. He chaired an international education committee for the college, with particular care and concern for international students. He was one of three founders of the comparative and international development education (CIDE) program in 1980. His last assignment for the U before retirement was serving as a faculty mentor for a student group in Kenya in 1991.
“We talk about internationalizing the curriculum and the university,” he says. “I spent a lot of time internationalizing myself.”
Braun wants others to have such opportunities, too. In 2007, he began a series of gifts that created a study abroad scholarship for CEHD students. Then last year, he decided to take advantage of FastStart4Impact. Braun’s gift established a fellowship for graduate students in international development education.
Today the farm where Braun grew up is the site of a Hindu temple, among the largest of its kind west of the Mississippi. And he still loves to travel.
“I’m fascinated by the transition of cultures and people,” he says.x
Correlating Family and Research
For more than 25 years, David Olson taught and advised students as a faculty member in the Department of Family Social Science. He and his wife, Karen, used their expertise to create a company and the PREPARE/ENRICH assessment tool to help couples build stronger relationships. Several years ago, the Olsons decided to create an endowment to help students complete their doctorates in this critically important field.
"Completing a dissertation is a very demanding task that requires intense individual effort," says Olson, now a professor emeritus. "Students need to be able to focus on completing their dissertation before accepting job offers."
This year, one of those students is Diego García-Huidobro, a family physician from Chile. Working with patients struggling with mental illness and chronic health problems, García- Huidobro became aware of the importance of the family system to their well-being and care.
How It All Links Together
"Today's most important health challenges are cardiovascular disease, cancer, and mental illnesses," says García-Huidobro. "All of these can be related to individual and family health behaviors such as eating or physical activity and the type of family relations."
He recognized that he needed more clinical skills and deeper understanding of the unique and appropriate ways of conducting research with families. His search led him to pursue a Ph.D. in family science in Minnesota.
"Here, I have found a perfect combination for my clinical and research interests-great family science and family medicine departments and a well-known school of public health," García-Huidobro says. "I have been able to combine learning experiences in these three units, tailoring my program to my needs."
Supported by the Olson fellowship, García-Huidobro will be able to collect data for one of his doctoral preliminary written exams and stay on track in the program. After his Ph.D., he plans to become a family scholar practicing holistic family medicine as part of a health team, conducting research, and teaching.
"David and Karen Olson's generous support has allowed me to gain experience as an independent investigator," says García-Huidobro, "but more importantly, it has allowed me to connect my studies with my passion."x
A Passion to Read and Lead
Judy and Bob Potts are avid readers who passed that love on to their daughters. As an elementary teacher in Hopkins for many years, Judy found she had an affinity for children who struggled to read.
"It just broke my heart," she says. "I knew some kids hadn't been read to…they came to kindergarten not knowing how to hold a book right side up or that pages should be turned right to left."
After their daughters finished college, Judy and Bob started thinking about how they might support education beyond their family. Ten years ago, they created two funds, one to support in-service teachers and one for graduate students. The Judy King Potts Endowment for Teaching and Literacy was named in part to honor Judy's parents.
"My parents were not wealthy people, but they had three daughters and paid for college for all of them," says Judy. "I always thought that was one of the greatest gifts they could have given us."
Now Judy and Bob are passing on the gift to others.
Perusing Her Gift
Sue Vang is a recent recipient of support from a Potts endowment. As a child, she was a struggling reader and overcame a bleak prediction that she would never learn. Today she is a creative and charismatic teacher.
Working with kindergarteners in Minneapolis, Sue began to write cultural stories in the Hmong language to increase oral language development. She realized she needed to expand her understanding of literacy development.
"Knowing that I work in a highly mobile, culturally diverse, high poverty-rate location, I did not want the students to settle for less—even if that meant going back to school myself," she says.
"It's a matter of getting kids motivated," she says, "allowing students to see themselves in the text they are reading."
Sue Vang, elementary teacher and M.Ed. and reading licensure student
The scholarship provided Sue the financial support to further her education, with many paths to reflect, collaborate, educate, and develop better understanding of her daily work with children. Meanwhile, she assembled her Hmong stories into unpublished books that her students can read and judge.x
Life changed in a split second for alumni Elliot and Eloise Kaplan when Eloise (M.S.W. '11) was struck by a hit-and-run driver in February 2011. She suffered multiple injuries, spent weeks in a coma, and was hospitalized for months. Doctors weren't sure she would ever regain her speech or memory.
Today, after countless hours of rehabilitation, Eloise's speech and memory are exceeding doctors' expectations. To honor her courage in recovery from traumatic brain injury (TBI), the couple pledged $200,000 to establish the Eloise and Elliot Kaplan Fellowship for TBI Field Placements for graduate students in the School of Social Work. The gift highlights the school's evolving collaboration with the health sciences.
Talisha Richardson is one of the first recipients of the Kaplan Fellowship. As a student in the master of social work program with a focus on clinical practice, her foundation-level field placement is at University of Minnesota Medical Center, Fairview. For 16 hours a week, with an on-site supervisor, she is a heart transplant social worker on a team of professionals working with patients who often arrive by helicopter after the trauma of a heart attack or brain-injuring stroke.
Richardson brings personal experience of trauma to her study and work. Raised in poverty in St. Paul, she lived at one point with 10 others in a one-and-a-half bedroom house and was eventually raised by her grandmother. She spent a lot of time in medical settings, eventually losing both parents and her grandmother. Witnessing her mother's struggle, in particular, influenced her growing interest in the connection between trauma and mental health disorders.
In addition to earning a bachelor's degree in ethnic studies, Richardson has worked in social services with people with disabilities and long-term illness. She sees herself as a bridge between different cultures and communities.
"The fellowship means I can pursue this degree without making every decision based on finances," she says. "I desire to work in a medical setting where people are being attended to, mended, and healed."x