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Two HDFS Professors Receive Endowed Professorships

Dr. Francisco Palermo has been awarded the Millsap Endowed Professorship in Human Development and Family Science. This endowment supports research focused on empowering families who are underrepresented in research and supporting individuals living in adverse and stressful situations, such as poverty. Dr. Palermo said, “The endowment will allow me to further my work and impact to identify the family mechanisms, individual characteristics, and cultural values that are sources of strength for Latino families living in stressful situations to support their children’s resilience and healthy development. I am interested in identifying and building on the strengths of Latino families and children, including the cultural strengths that guide parents’ socialization of children and the individual traits and abilities that foster children’s resilience and positive development – namely, their socioemotional health and academic well-being.”

This research is essential because the Latino population is quickly growing in the U.S., and they experience disproportional rates of poverty and poverty-related adversity. Many Latino children, often Spanish speakers, face academic challenges as they enter school, which can affect their long-term performance. With this Endowed Professorship, Dr. Palermo will investigate factors that boost school readiness by exploring environmental influences like home and early educational experiences and individual characteristics such as cognitive and language skills. Additionally, he will study the social and linguistic experiences that foster Spanish and English development in young Latino children, including the acquisition of English as a second language.

The Millsap Professorship in Human Development and Family Science was funded in 1997 by Marvin and Rose Millsap through the Missouri Endowed Chair and Professorship Program.

Dr. Rachel Thibodeau-Nielsen was awarded the Isabelle Wade Lyda and Paul C. Lyda Professorship, a two-year enhancement award to promote a faculty member’s research plan. “The Endowment will allow me to invest in current partnerships and forge new relationships within the community to enhance children’s education, learning, and development through play,” Dr. Thibodeau-Nielsen said.

Across the next two years, Dr. Thibodeau-Nielsen’s research will examine cost-effective ways to promote children’s development through playful learning practices in school, community, and home settings. Mounting evidence from her lab and others suggests play is fundamental to the development of skills that children need to succeed in a 21st century world like collaboration, perseverance, problem solving, and resiliency. In addition to studying how play is tied to these skills as well as school readiness, Dr. Thibodeau-Nielsen will be working with children’s museums, preschools, and libraries to identify methods for better translating the science of play into children and families’ daily lives. 

Isabelle Wade completed three degrees from MU, including a Bachelor of Science in Education in 1921 and a Master of Arts in Education in 1935. Paul and Isabelle Wade Lyda established the Isabelle Wade Lyda and Paul C. Lyda Professorship Fund to “attract distinguished professors to the University of Missouri at Columbia in the fields of Education or Law.