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Eight New Faculty in Fall 2023

This Fall, the Department of Human Development and Family Science (HDFS) welcomes eight new members to our team! It is an exciting time to join us at Mizzou and be a part of a growing department. Their research crosses the lifespan from early childhood education and youth development to relationships and developmental needs into older adulthood. Each faculty member will be recruiting graduate students for Fall of 2024 to work with them. Please join us in welcoming the new HDFS additions:

Aileen Garcia, MU College of Education & Human Development

Dr. Aileen Garcia 

Dr. Aileen Garcia is an Assistant Professor in HDFS and a State Specialist in Early Childhood Education for MU Extension. Dr. Garcia obtained her Ph.D. in Child, Youth and Family Studies from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 2018 and served as a faculty member at South Dakota State University before coming to Mizzou.

Her research interests include cultural influences on parenting and caregiving, early childhood education and care, and quality of life among ethnic minorities and immigrants in the United States. Dr. Garcia’s overarching research agenda is to extend current knowledge on supporting parents and early childhood professionals, especially those from underrepresented groups.

Thus far, she has published qualitative and quantitative studies on parental involvement in education and alleviating parenting stress among low-income families, best practices in childcare centers and family childcare homes in urban and rural areas, and childrearing practices of immigrants in the United States from different ethnic groups (e.g., Chinese, Filipino, Indian, Korean, and Mexican). Dr. Garcia also engages in multidisciplinary research projects, working with scholars and practitioners from the fields of human development, early childhood education, leisure science, nursing, and nutrition.

Dr. Megan Gilligan

Dr. Megan Gilligan is a Mizzou Forward Associate Professor in the Department of Human Development and Family Science. She received a dual-title Ph.D. in Sociology and Gerontology from Purdue University in 2013 and served as a faculty member at Iowa State University before coming to Mizzou. Dr. Gilligan is a Fellow of the Gerontological Society of America. 

Dr. Gilligan’s research focuses on family relationships and well-being, with particular interest in parent-child and sibling relationships in the middle and later adulthood years. Much of her recent work has focused on family caregiving. She is the Principal Investigator on a K01 award from the National Institute on Aging on the health impact of sibling relations on caregivers for parents with dementia.

Her work has been published in the Journal of Gerontology: Social Sciences, The Gerontologist, Journal of Marriage and Family, Journal of Family Theory and Review, and Research in Human Development. Findings from her research have been featured in the media more than 100 times, including in the New York Times, the Boston Globe, and the British Broadcasting Company.

Clay Hurdle, MU College of Education & Human Development

Dr. J. “Clay” Hurdle

Dr. Clay Hurdle is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Human Development and Family Science and State 4-H Specialist in Leadership and Civic Engagement for MU Extension. Dr. Hurdle earned his Ph.D. in Agricultural Education and Communication (Leadership Development) from the University of Florida. He also holds certifications in Leadership in Agriculture and Natural Resources, as well as Teaching and Learning in Agricultural and Life Sciences.

Dr. Hurdle’s research agenda has comprised the investigation of leadership theories and practices present in U.S. higher education administration, with emphasis on the leadership development of administrators at public, land-grant universities. His other scholastic interests include leadership pedagogy, intercollegiate athletic leadership, global leadership, team leadership/group development, youth leadership development, Extension administration and governance, and intercultural communication in the context of serving Extension clientele.

From a programmatic standpoint, Dr. Hurdle is interested in developing opportunities for 4-H youth and Extension volunteers to enhance their capacity for leadership both within their 4-H experiences, as well as within their communities. Additionally, he seeks to develop civic engagement curriculum predicated on positive youth development principles and experiential learning.

Dr. Shinyoung Jeon

Dr. Shinyoung Jeon is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Human Development and Family Science. Dr. Jeon received her Ph.D. in Human Development and Family Studies with a minor in Statistics from Iowa State University in 2017. After attaining her Ph.D., she worked as a senior research and policy associate at the Early Childhood Education Institute at the University of Oklahoma -Tulsa before joining MU. 

Dr. Jeon’s research foci include developmental contexts, family processes, and advanced methodological approaches to studying children and families. Her research interests include early care and education and child development, specifically longitudinal development of children from low-income families. Dr. Jeon’s work also includes methodological foci examining data integration and applied developmental analyses needed to address complex research questions over time in her content interests.

Her peer-reviewed publications have been accepted by top-tier journals including Child Development, Early Childhood Research Quarterly, Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, and Journal of Family Psychology.  

Dr. Steven Krauss
Dr. Steven Krauss (starting December 1) is an Associate Professor in the Department of Human Development and Family Science and a State 4-H Specialist in Volunteerism and Youth-Adult Partnerships for MU Extension. He obtained his Ph.D. in Youth Studies from Universiti Putra Malaysia in 2005 and held a faculty position at the same university for 17 years prior to joining Mizzou.

Drawing on a developmental systems perspective, Dr. Krauss’ research centers on understanding the processes that contribute to positive youth development and thriving across various practice settings. Particularly, he examines how developmental relationships with adults promote empowerment, connection, and purpose among young people from diverse backgrounds. Dr. Krauss has led several studies investigating the practice of youth-adult partnership within youth associations, schools, and community-based youth development programs in both Malaysian and international contexts.

He currently serves as an Associate Editor for the Journal of Adolescent Research and Frontiers in Psychology. His research has been published in Journal of Youth and Adolescence, Youth & Society, Journal of Adolescent Research, and Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology.

Dr. Naomi Meinertz  

Dr. Naomi Meinertz is an Assistant Professor in Human Development and Family Science and a State Specialist in Aging for MU Extension. Dr. Meinertz completed her doctorate in Human Development and Family Studies with minors in Gerontology and Political Science from Iowa State University in 2022.

Dr. Meinertz aims to expand current knowledge about the family care process by considering the possibility of multiple care partners and multiple older adult care recipients within the same family. In her ongoing family care work, Dr. Meinertz uses qualitative methodologies to explore the lived experiences of under-researched individuals and family structures, including fathers, racial and ethnic groups, and blended families on topics of family care decision-making processes, the role of gender in family care, and perceptions of family care.

Dr. Meinertz’s professional experiences of working directly with older adults and their families as a resident care assistant in a dementia home and within Wisconsin’s Aging and Disability Resource Center emphasize her ability to work with aging populations and inform her desire to understand and improve the care process for families. Dr. Meinertz’s work in family care processes will inform relevant future family care research and educational offerings through the University of Missouri Extension.   

Dr. So Young Park

Dr. So Young Park is a Preparing Future Faculty – Faculty Diversity (PFFFD) Postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Human Development and Family Science. Dr. Park received her Juris Doctor (JD) in 2021 and her Ph.D. in the Department of Human Development and Family Studies at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign in 2023. She obtained her Master’s degree at the Harris School of Public Policy, University of Chicago, where she realized that good policy could change lives.

Her program of research examines the impact of family law and policy on diverse families, particularly during critical transitions (e.g., divorce, childbirth, economic recession) from intersectional and ecological systems perspectives. Her research has centered on families in the justice system who have experienced domestic violence and how race and gender influence judicial decisions. Her experience working for judges in court and representing clients in legal proceedings as a student attorney provides inspirational ideas for research. Her research addresses areas the court system could improve in providing vulnerable populations increased access to justice and problems that require attention for better familial outcomes.

Dr. Eunjin Tracy

Dr. Eunjin Tracy is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Human Development and Family Science. Dr. Tracy earned her Ph.D. in Human Development and Family Studies at the University of Wisconsin – Madison in 2016 and completed postdoctoral trainings in Health and Developmental Psychology at the University of Utah and in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh.

Dr. Tracy’s overarching research and theoretical interests take a life-course perspective on the ways in which health-related stress, sleep, and circadian rhythms, in the context of couple and family relationships, shape trajectories of healthy aging and disease. Dr. Tracy’s scientific work to date has focused on two distinct areas: (1) the roles of health-related stress and coping processes on psychological, relational, and health outcomes in the context of couple/family relationships; and (2) the roles of sleep and waking health behaviors on psychological, relational, and health outcomes.

Combining the strengths of both her graduate school training and postdoctoral training, Dr. Tracy’s long-term career goal is to apply a family systems perspective to public health research by focusing on the role of sleep and circadian rhythms, thereby improving health, as well as the functioning of couple and family relationships.