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Resilience in Change: Impact Report 2019-2020 UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA, FAMILY, YOUTH AND COMMUNITY SCIENCES DEPARTMENT

FROM THE DEPARTMENT CHAIR

Tracy Irani, Professor & Department Chair
2020 has been unlike any other year that any of us have experienced, so it is fitting that this year’s Impact Report is unlike any other we have done . In 2020, we have learned that “living through history” is not always a pleasant experience. During this year, we have mourned those who have succumbed to COVID-19. We have struggled to overcome the evils of systemic racism, and to stand in solidarity with those who want to end its grip on our country. We have had our livelihoods affected by economic collapse and we have reached out to assist others who are in need. We have seen the effects of extreme weather events – hurricanes, floods and wildfires- that are occurring at increasing rates throughout the country as a consequence of climate change. In times like these, it is important to note that the work we do in the University of Florida’s Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences (FYCS) is as important as ever. Our faculty, staff and students are passionate about what we do to help people and to create positive change in a changing world. Even a year like 2020 cannot deter us from working to achieve this goal. We hope you enjoy this year’s Impact Report– for the first time, it is in a virtual online format and includes videos. Let us know what you think and as always, thanks for your support and the work that you do.

30 faculty

2 new faculty in 2020

6 departmental staff

1 part-time departmental staff

300 undergraduate students

35 online graduate students

17 online certificate students

21,584,350 grants awarded

43,200 service learning hours

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460 Zoom meetings attended by FYCS faculty, staff and students

1243 times an FYCS zoom call was interrupted by a child or pet

550 times someone in a Zoom meeting had to be told “You’re muted!”

300 average number of times students attended their FYCS Zoom classes in their pajamas

200 average number of times faculty taught their FYCS Zoom classes in their pajamas

2038 times someone in FYCS used the term “unprecedented times”

39890 times someone in FYCS used the term “the new normal”

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Cole Slate Scholarship: Antoneik Evans Destiny Cruz

FYCS Faculty, Friends and Family SCHOLARSHIP: Macey Keel

Drunell Maule Scholarship: Brittany Bryant

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ADAPTING TO CHANGE

One of the common bonds that FYCS faculty, staff and students experienced during the transition to online learning and communication was learning to work alongside some new furry "employees"! It turns out that our department has plenty of these employees, who can bring fun (and sometimes challenges) to the workplace.

GRATITUDE DURING SOCIAL DISTANCING

As many of us were forced to stop in place for the first time in a long time, our department found that taking a step back and focusing on what we were grateful for gave us a lot of strength, and talking about these things connected us with others. We used social media as a way to connect with students and each other so that we still felt connected when we couldn't be together in person.

Before the pandemic sent everyone to work in a new, virtual way, we began a video series on the FYCS Practicum, which is a cornerstone for many students who are about to graduate and work in a field of service. Students gain valuable experience in an area of their choosing and apply the coursework they have learned throughout their academic career.

The video below of FYCS senior Emma Frierson, who graduated in 2020, was the last we were able to conduct before COVID-19 changed the way we live and work.

Practicum is a core requirement for the Family, Youth and Community Sciences major, the Nonprofit Organizational Leadership minor, and the Certified Family Life Educator (CFLE) certificate program.

We are excited to discover what new methods students will find to complete their practica in this new era of social distancing.

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GRADUATING DURING A GLOBAL PANDEMIC

Donovan Miller, a 4 year FYCS student and FYCS Club President, took some time to meet up (virtually, of course) with Communications Specialist, Shannon Jackson to talk about his experience graduating during a global pandemic and how the Family, Youth and Community Sciences major prepared him to adapt to this change. Check out the video below:

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FYCS ALUM SPOTLIGHT: JESSICA ROJAS

Jessica Rojas graduated summa cum laude in Spring 2019 with a B.S. in FYCS and minors in Nonprofit Organizational Leadership, and Disabilities in Society. She then went on to work as a Development Associate at a nonprofit in New York City. This year, she relocated back to Florida and started working as the Development Coordinator at GRACE Marketplace.

GRACE is a one-stop homeless resource center serving Gainesville and Alachua County. They provide helpful and effective services for anyone experiencing or at risk of homelessness.

"Starting a job during a pandemic has called for a lot of flexibility, and slow discovery into what a “normal work day” is like. During my first month at GRACE, me and many of my coworkers were working from home. I introduced myself to them through Zoom calls and Slack channels. Over time, I started to transition into working at the office, meeting everyone through masks, and regularly getting tested for COVID. We’ve had to get creative with how we’ll hold events, accept donations, and continue to engage with our community safely. As the GRACE campus slowly starts to reopen, I get glimpses into what a busy day looks like, and I’m looking forward to continuing to learn and adapt to new challenges as life reopens."

We will be featuring Jessica and many other FYCS alumni that are out in the field working with their communities in our new "Alumni Spotlight Series" in the fall semester. Stay tuned!

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CREATIVE CONNECTION DURING COVID

For the past 5 years, the FYCS department has held a celebration to honor the graduating seniors and MS students. This year, due to Covid-19 restrictions, we adapted quickly and held our celebration online - with the largest turn out we have ever had! Check out the video below to see how our faculty and staff honored our graduates:

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TWO FACULTY CREATE A VIRTUAL CLASSROOM TO CONNECT WITH STUDENTS

Dr. Dale Pracht and Senior Lecturer, Kate Fletcher decided to be creative when they suddenly found out that their 6 week study long abroad trip to Ireland focusing on service learning would be converted to an online class.

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NEWNESS IN CHANGE: MEET OUR NEWEST FACULTY MEMBERS

DR. MICHELLE ABRACZINSKAS

1) Tell us your name, your background, and what you'll be doing here at FYCS?

I am an Assistant Professor of Youth Development and Prevention Science here in the Department of Family, Youth, and Community Sciences. Before coming to UF, I completed a NIDA-funded T32 postdoctoral fellowship at the REACH Institute at Arizona State University focused on Prevention, Dissemination and Implementation Science, and closing the Research to Practice gap. I earned my PhD in Clinical-Community Psychology with a Quantitative Concentration from the University of South Carolina's APA-accredited program in 2018. My clinical specialty is child and adolescent trauma and the majority of my work has been with families living in poverty. I completed my APA-accredited pre-doctoral internship in Clinical and Community Psychology at The Consultation Center in the Division of Prevention and Community Research, School of Medicine, Yale University. On internship, I conducted community-based participatory research and service system evaluation, as well as therapy with uninsured and Medicaid-enrolled families.

2) Where did you move from? How has it been moving to a new city and starting a new job during COVID-19?

I moved from Phoenix Arizona. It has been strange moving to a new city in the middle of a pandemic, but not as bad as I thought that piece would be. People are being friendly from a distance, and I have made some friends in my neighborhood and through connections with friends of friends, which is better than I thought it would be. Starting a new job has been challenging because I really thrive off of the in person piece - being in the community and around colleagues and students. I am counting my blessings though, especially considering the challenges many are facing during this time.

3) Please talk about how it feels to come into UF in the time of a global pandemic as a new faculty member. Challenges? Opportunities?

It is a bittersweet time to be starting a faculty job. Those of us starting have gone to school for many years to get to this point, and our advisors have likely all told us their views on how it would be, based on their experiences. However, they did not start in a pandemic, and so it is very different than those stories. Though we would likely all complain about it, I was looking forward to in-person orientations and trainings to meet potential new friends and future collaborators. Doing orientations and trainings via Zoom does not have that same personal bonding feel, unfortunately. The challenges are: not having the ability to just walk to the next office over or down the hall to ask a question, hunting around more to figure out university resources, and for myself, since I do community partnered research, not knowing the state of the community and their willingness to even be involved in research right now, especially schools. Opportunities are to learn how to teach online, and learn creative pedagogical methods for engagement. I don't know if I would have opted to teach online early on if there was not a pandemic, so it's a great learning opportunity. Additionally, the pandemic gives me the opportunity to find ways to engage youth and families online. For example, the YPAR hub is making an online platform for schools to use, so it provides unique opportunities to study youth participatory processes online. Finally, right now is a time of great community need, and I think I can put my community practice skills to good use in the community by identifying needs and trying to move the needle on health equity locally.

4) How do you plan on connecting with students/conducting research?

I plan to connect with students through my courses right now, and meeting with any who reach out to me. I also will connect with the student organization. I plan to take on a graduate student, likely in my second year. Students could also play a role in the grant on which I am a co-investigator (an Improving the Use of Research Evidence grant funded by the William T. Grant Foundation; PI, Emily Ozer):

Use of Research Evidence grant funded by the W.T. Grant Foundation (PI: Emily Ozer). In six school districts across the United States, their team is working to understand what is necessary at the school and district level to use research evidence, and youth-generated research evidence, in policy and programmatic decision making.

In terms of conducting research, I plan to take my initial time here to build relationships in the community, and learn from faculty colleagues about what relationships already exist, and what opportunities there might be for collaboration. I hope to connect with schools and/or youth-serving programs to increase the engagement of youth and families in them, and build the capacity for routinized, youth-led initiatives within these settings, while studying these processes."

5) Any fun facts about you personally you would like to share? Hobbies? Things you enjoy?

I like to spend my free time outdoors. I love walking my two dogs around my neighborhood. I also love hiking, surfing, indoor rock climbing, and attending festivals and farmer's markets. I also enjoy watching sports, especially college football. Go Gators!"

DR. JENEÉ DUNCAN

1) Tell us your name, educational background and what you will be doing in the FYCS department?

​My name is Jeneé Duncan and I received my MS and PhD in Human Development and Family Sciences from the University of Georgia. I am joining FYCS as an Assistant Professor in Prevention Science and Human Development and Family Science.

2) Where did you move from? How has it been moving to a new city and starting a new job during COVID-19?

​I moved from Austin, TX where I was a Postdoctoral Research Associate at Texas State University. Moving to a new city and starting a new job in the midst of COVID-19 has been an interesting experience. It has definitely had its challenges, but I have learned through other transitions the skill of being able to adapt which is certainly being utilized now!

3) Please talk about how it feels to come into UF in the time of a global pandemic as a new faculty member. Challenges? Opportunities?

It is truly a strange time to start as a new faculty member! I do miss the opportunity to organically meet and connect with my new colleagues and students. It is also a bit challenging to feel that you're finding your footing within the new position. However, the FYCS department, as a whole, has been incredibly supportive during this transition. As new challenges or questions arise, it is great to know that advice and answers are just an email away!

4) How do you plan on connecting with students/conducting research?

Fortunately, I understand there will be opportunities to connect with student through departmental (virtual) events. I look forward to teaching in the Spring to have regular engagement with students. On the research end, as I am working to expand my research to include the local community, I am currently brainstorming how I can be creative in my approach!

​5) Any fun facts about you personally you would like to share? Hobbies? Things you enjoy?

I really enjoy reading and am in a virtual book club with friends who are scattered around the country. It is definitely a highlight during this time! I also love to travel and explore new places, which is hard to do right now. I am looking forward to when I can truly explore my new home, Gainesville!

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RETURNING TO "THE NEW NORMAL" AS A PhD STUDENT

Two-time Gator Selena Garrison returns to FYCS

In August of 2019, I stepped foot onto the University of Florida’s campus as a student for the first time in nearly 10 years. I had received my Bachelors’ degrees and Master’s degree here, and it felt surreal to be back and pursuing my PhD in Youth Development and Family Science. As a “non-traditional” student, I was returning to the classroom as a 34-year-old married mother of three, and unexpectedly added baby number four through foster care in October. I thought that adding a newborn to the mix and bringing her to class with me for her first seven weeks of life would be the craziest thing that happened to me during this round of grad school…

Then came 2020.

We began to hear about how COVID-19 was ravaging parts of China in January, but I had no idea that by March, the university (and much of the world) would be closed. Two days before I was to leave with my graduate advisor for a much-anticipated research trip to Africa, the university banned international travel. My then eight-year-old left his third-grade class for Spring break, and by the end of the week, it was evident that he likely would not be going back to finish the school year. Suddenly, I was facilitating third-grade distance learning with all three of my little kids (ages four, three, and six months at that time) also home from daycare. I had a full course load and a graduate research assistantship. My husband is a high school teacher and he continued to teach synchronously through Zoom from his classroom for the remainder of the semester. Managing it all was… a lot.

During the hard weeks of quarantine, the support I received from faculty and other students in the Family, Youth and Community Sciences department was incredible. Instructors moved in-person courses to online modalities within a matter of hours. Grace was extended on deadlines, and instructors personally checked in on students to make sure we were okay. The department scheduled Zoom hangouts to keep us all connected and tried to maintain some semblance of normalcy during a decidedly abnormal time.

I didn’t think I would miss my little graduate assistant cubicle, but six months later, I really do. I miss trekking across campus from the parking garage that had just opened a few weeks before everything shut down. I miss walking into McCarty Hall B and being greeted by students sprawled out in the hallway waiting for their next class to start as I made my way to my office. I miss the graduate assistant “Beehive” where I could always find someone willing to be interrupted to chat about life or blow off steam. I miss eating lunch every day with my friend, Liva. I am sad to have missed graduations and births; pregnancies and engagements.

But good things have happened, too. Classes have been completed. Conference proposals have been accepted. Manuscripts have been drafted. Relationships have become more intentional. We got a puppy named Gus. That baby girl who spent her first weeks of life as an honorary graduate student was adopted in July and is now my daughter. Faculty members and students showered us with gifts from our Amazon wish list and enough diapers and wipes to last the rest of the year.

As Fall 2020 begins, this semester looks a lot different than the one I returned to last year. My hour-long commute has been reduced to seconds. I am working from a desk in the corner of my bedroom instead of one in the corner cubicle. I see my friends over Zoom instead of standing by the microwave in the Beehive. It is not what I want, but I know that it is going to be okay. The people that make up the Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences are incredible. We are resilient. We will continue to make the world a better place. And until we can do that from our classrooms and desks in McCarty Hall, we will do it from the desks in our bedrooms.

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With change comes excitement and are excited to look towards the future as we welcome our third cohort of the Youth Development and Family Sciences Doctoral Program.

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Chelsea DeMasters

While born in Virginia, Chelsea spent most of her life in Houston, Texas. She received her Bachelor of Science degree from Texas A&M University in 2016 and went on to become a paralegal for two years. Shen then shifted her career track from law to policy and moved to Washington, DC to pursue a Master’s in Public Policy at George Mason University. While in DC, Chelsea worked for various policy think-tanks and nonprofit organizations, ultimately finding an interest in family policy. This passion for families and vulnerable populations led her to UF to pursue her PhD in Youth Development and Family Sciences. Her specific research interests include the foster care system and couple/co-parent relationships.

Gaillot Andre

Gaillot is from Port-Au-Prince Haiti and graduated from the UF College of Liberal Arts and Sciences with a BS in Psychology. His honors undergraduate research focused on Morality in video games through the scope of developmental psychology. He seeks to empathize and educate, to engage children in productive activities, and aims to be working in the many fields of Family, Youth and Community Sciences.

Tyler Nesbit

Tyler is from Gainesville and graduated from the UF School of Natural Resources and Environment with a BS in Environmental Science. He then completed an MS in the Forestry. He started moving towards the social sciences through the lens of economics during that time. After pursuing further graduate studies at Boston University (MA) focusing on natural resource economics, mapping access to farmer's markets with geographic information systems (GIS), and social science research methods, Tyler took some time away from academics, although his interest in understanding people and culture continued to grow through his work with nonprofit organizations focused on sustainable agriculture and community development. In April 2017 he began working with Dr. Victor Harris and the SMART Couples program in FYCS. His current interests include participatory research methods, intergenerational community engagement, the efficacy of emotional processing in group settings, and emotional processing as a tool for addressing risky behavior.

Beatrice Fenelon Pierre

Beatrice Fenelon Pierre was born and raised in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. She earned her bachelor's degree in Business from Haiti State University after completing her Associates Degree in Agri-Business and Soil & Water Conservation from Ohio State University. She obtained her master’s degree in Family, Youth and Community Sciences with a concentration in family and youth with a graduate certificate in Sustainable Development at the University of Florida. Beatrice’s passion for Youth well-being through evidence-based programming and appropriate policies motivates her to pursue a PhD. in Youth Development and Family Science.

Beatrice decided to pursue her master’s degree after about 30 years of field experience in complex environments and particularly in development projects, including design, management, and implementation, with a strong focus on monitoring and evaluation. She worked for NGOs, nonprofit organizations, and the US Government. Her last assignment was with the US Government, where she spent ten years working with USAID-Haiti as the Senior Monitoring & Evaluation Officer. She also served for three months in the Program Planning and Learning office at USAID Washington, where she provided her field perspectives during the revision of the USAID monitoring, evaluation & learning (MEL) tools, in 2016.

Kimber Sarver

Kimber Sarver is married to her wonderful husband of 34 years and has two children in college. She has lived in both urban and rural areas of Florida and has experienced its diverse cultures. Kimber earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees at the University of Florida through the Family, Youth and Community Sciences Department. Her honors undergraduate research focused on youth in the dynamics of a group in the setting of the 4-H Youth Development Program. Similarly, her graduate research focused on adults in the role of volunteers in the 4-H Youth Development Program. Whether working solely with youth, solely with adults or the combination, Kimber is intrigued by the social aspects of community. She believes that families are the drivers of communities and thus, healthy families should result in healthy communities. Figuring out how to keep and/or make healthy families is the difficult part. It might be easier to answer the old joke of which came first – the chicken, or the egg? Obviously, the chicken because eggs need regular incubation for 3 weeks. (Kimber learned this while on her farm in Central Florida.)

Created By
Shannon Jackson
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