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News & Events

In the news: Human ecologists share insights to improve public understanding of key issues

At the core of Human Ecology’s work is improving the quality of life of all people. In 2023, faculty and graduate students published research findings that are enhancing our understanding of key societal issues, from fatherhood to financial decision-making.

In addition to education and research, human ecologists also prioritize outreach, with the goal of sharing knowledge and insights with as many people who can benefit as possible. Some of this outreach takes the shape of interviews with news media or authored commentary pieces. The majority of our faculty (39) were quoted or mentioned in a news media story in 2023, in addition to teaching faculty, staff and graduate students. This media participation culminated in more than 1,100 mentions in news outlets this year.

Two people, turned toward one another, engage in a conversation while others mill about in the background.
Ben Fisher and Linnea Hjelm talk with one another during a graduate student research poster session in Nancy Nicholas Hall on March 3, 2023. Photo by Sarah Maughan

Here are some quotes from Human Ecology faculty featured in several of 2023’s broadest-reaching media stories:

Eight subtle ways parents create anxiety without realizing it, HuffPost

“It is OK, for instance, to say to your child that dad is feeling a little sad or a little frustrated. It expands the child’s emotional vocabulary, teaches them to talk through their emotions, and models for them how to do this. Then you could go on to give age-appropriate reasoning. Dad is feeling frustrated because dad was really hoping for something, but it did not happen.” — Alvin Thomas, assistant professor of Human Development & Family Studies and Phyllis Northway Faculty Fellow

Overcoming the clutter: Understanding accumulation and organization, WMTV Madison

“So much of our sense of identity is caught up in the stuff that we could afford to buy. When we talk about buying happiness and buying things, what we’re really talking about is how we create that story, that narrative of who we are.” — Christine Whelan, Consumer Science teaching faculty and director of the MORE (Money + Relationships + Equality) Initiative

Why your grandparents might move to your college campus, The Daily Beast

“Intergenerational housing was the mode of human living until a couple of centuries ago. I just find it puzzling to see it become a popular trend (as Americans learn about it for the first time).” — Jung-hye Shin, department chair and professor of Design Studies, faculty director of the Design Thinking Program, Interior Architecture program coordinator

More school districts are bringing back or adding police. Experts say it may not help, USA Today

“The best evidence that we have to date shows no deterrent effect of where gun violence happens in schools or where weapons are brought to schools. … Similarly, when a shooting does happen in a school, those shootings, actually, on average have been more deadly in schools with police.” — Ben Fisher, associate professor of Civil Society & Community Studies

Human ecologists also committed a significant amount of time and effort to pen commentary pieces on their areas of expertise, which were then published in prominent media outlets. These columns call attention to aspects of society that are often overlooked:

American Indians need equal access to homeownership, written by Kasey Keeler, assistant professor of Civil Society & Community Studies, and published by Bloomberg

“A long history of discriminatory programs — hinging on citizenship and later race — have kept American Indians from enjoying the level of homeownership opportunities that White Americans have long benefited from. … By design, homeownership on reservations remains a complex arena. Tribal citizens were never envisioned as potential participants of this slice of the American dream.”

Young people deserve a seat at the table, written by PhD Human Ecology: Civil Society & Community Research student Linnea Hjelm and published by The Progressive Magazine

“To welcome teens to the table, adults have to reduce barriers to their participation: offer lunch, bus passes or to host meetings at safe and easily accessed locations. Compensate youth for their time and labor. And most importantly, when young people voice their ideas, concerns or questions, listen and respond with action, not defensiveness. Start today by challenging your assumptions about what young people know and what they can contribute.”

It’s time to talk unapologetically about fathers and their needs, co-written by Thomas and published by The Hill

“It’s crucial to talk directly and unapologetically about fathers and their needs. Fathers — particularly low-income, non-resident, and racially marginalized fathers — face unique barriers and damaging false narratives about their importance in their children’s lives. The systems of care that serve children and families frequently do not recognize or engage fathers as important and valued caregivers.”

We look forward to learning even more from the inspiring individuals who make up our school in 2024!