New faculty eager to collaborate

New faculty eager to collaborate

23 Nov 2016     By Brad Stauffer

The Ohio State University. The University of South Carolina. The University of California-Davis. Winona State University. What do these four institutions of higher learning have in common? Four talented teachers and researchers came from each this fall to join the University of Nebraska–Lincoln’s Department of Child, Youth and Family Studies (CYAF).

As part of a “cluster hire” in the area of early childhood education, Rachel Schachter (Ohio State), Kelley Buchheister (South Carolina), Holly Hatton-Bowers (UC-Davis) and Evan Choi (Winona State) all joined Nebraska and CYAF to bolster an already strong field of early childhood faculty. All were drawn to their new positions because of CYAF’s environment of collaboration, the quality of established faculty in early childhood, and a commitment by the College of Education and Human Sciences and the university to elevate a well-respected program in early childhood.

“I’m already developing collaborative relationships with colleagues,” said Choi who was raised in South Korea, earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in social work in South Korea, and completed his Ph.D. in social work from the University of California-Los Angeles. “I’m able to look at the problem of child poverty from different angles and different perspectives. People in totally different areas are helping me look at things with new approaches.”

Choi’s primary area of research interest is in child development with low-income single mothers and specifically how non-resident fathers can contribute to family success. Each of the new faculty members has a different area of focus, but all desire to impact the success of young children and their families.

“I am interested in how stress reducing practices, such as mindfulness and reflective functioning, support parents and early childhood professionals in providing high quality care and quality learning environments,” said Hatton-Bowers, who completed her Ph.D. at UC-Davis and was also a faculty member there.

“I believe research and extension (outreach) should be going on simultaneously. What drew me to this job was that I could do both. My work has always been about how does it translate into the community and how is the community informing what I’m doing?”

“I’m really interested in early childhood teachers and their experiences in the classroom,” said Schachter, a Michigan Ph.D. graduate who did a post-doctorate fellowship at Ohio State. “How do we build [on their experience] to create meaningful learning opportunities for them? This position is really up my alley because it’s about thinking of ways to foster professional development for early childhood teachers through coaching.”

With Schachter’s help, CYAF is hoping to develop a new master’s degree program in the area of coaching for early childhood educators. The program will help teachers and other professionals move into a coaching role or help school administrators or other education leaders provide better leadership and coaching for their teams.

Schachter, Buchheister, Hatton-Bowers and Choi are finding opportunities to collaborate with each other, but they are also finding it exciting and valuable to work with veteran faculty who have already made a name for themselves in early childhood research.

“Dr. Ruth Heaton (Gilmartin Professor of Math Education in Teaching Learning and Teacher Education) is an integral person in math education,” said Buchheister, who earned her Ph.D. at Missouri before joining the faculty at South Carolina. “The work she’s done with Dr. Carolyn Edwards (Willa Cather Professor of Psychology and Child, Youth and Family Studies) and Dr. Tori Molfese (Chancellor’s Professor of Child, Youth and Family Studies and CEHS interim associate dean for research) on the Math Early On program was one of the reasons I was interested in this position. It’s very exciting. I get to learn from people who I’ve looked up to in the field for a while.”

Buchheister has been invited to contribute her own elementary math education expertise on the Math Early On research. She is eager to collaborate, learn from new mentors and develop her own expertise. Like her fellow new colleagues in CYAF, she’s hoping to make a difference in the lives of young children and their families and to contribute to such an important field of research.

New faculty in Child, Youth and Family Studies are stepping up the commitment to early childhood in CEHS.
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