Barbara Hanna Wasik Distinguished Lecture to Encourage Collaboration and New Ideas
Early in her career as a clinical psychologist, Barbara Wasik, PhD, noticed how engaging with other professionals opened her mind to new and different ideas. These opportunities inspired a lifetime of learning that she continues to pay forward for others.
"I personally benefited from meeting professionals who motivated and challenged me to expand my work," says Wasik, a longtime researcher with the UNC Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute and William R. Kenan, Jr. Distinguished Professor emerita at the UNC School of Education.
"Knowing the positive influence these occasions had for me has led me to make similar opportunities available for others at FPG and on UNC's campus."
With a generous gift to FPG, Wasik has established the Barbara Hanna Wasik Distinguished Lecture. Through this lecture, FPG will invite a professional in the field to stimulate discussion on topics focused on assessment and intervention procedures for children and families. Wasik's vision for this lecture is to bring together faculty, students, and researchers from across Carolina's campus and encourage interdisciplinary collaborations that will generate new ideas for exploration.
This lecture will serve as the capstone event of the FPG Distinguished Lecture Series, which the Institute launched in 2018-19. As part of this series, lecturers spend the entire day at UNC, engaging in small group meetings with faculty and investigators, participating in a luncheon discussion, and providing a lecture followed by open discussion.
"Inviting someone to campus means we take the time to engage with them. These discussions can challenge us and lead us to consider different research topics and theoretical approaches," she says.
The invited lecturer also benefits from increased opportunities for creating new collaborations. For this reason, Wasik says this lectureship "is intentionally focused on early and mid-career professionals who have fewer opportunities for these kinds of experiences".
The inaugural lecture will be given by Anna C. J. Long, PhD, a graduate of UNC's School Psychology Program and a former doctoral student of Wasik, on March 25, 2020. (Please note the March 25 lecture has been postponed.) Long published with several FPG researchers while at UNC and is now an associate professor at Louisiana State University.
Wasik has been a leader in how we study children and families since FPG's earliest days. As a psychologist working in the field, she recognized that addressing social, emotional, and learning challenges of children in clinical settings might not be as productive as providing interventions in their classrooms and home settings where they live and learn.
This belief led her to develop observation codes and intervention procedures for children, parents, and teachers. Wasik saw how adults could be empowered to make changes in the ways they interacted with children, and these changes could lead to improved outcomes for all.
"Today, it is relatively common to study children through observation in classrooms, but this approach was new to the field. To positively influence children's behaviors, we learned we needed to also study how teachers and parents interacted with them, and to develop tools to help them modify their own behaviors in ways that positively influence children."
Wasik is also a pioneer in home visiting with families. From 1977 to 1982, she helped lead FPG's Project CARE (Carolina Approach to Responsive Education), developing home-based interventions to help parents learn coping, decision-making, and problem-solving skills that would translate to positive environments for children. She was one of the first researchers in this field to recognize the importance of providing the necessary training home visitors would need to establish relationships with families and implement interventions.
"I met with professionals from different disciplines on UNC's campus—from social work and nursing to medicine, education, and public health—and I learned there was little organized training for home visitors. Developing the procedures necessary to train home visitors became an important part of my research and my career."
Her resulting book, "Home Visiting: Procedures for Helping Families," co-edited with FPG's Donna Bryant, PhD, is the leading reference on home visiting in the field. When a colleague came to FPG to help with training home visitors from eight states, he'd encouraged Wasik to write such a book.
"This book is a great example of the influence of bringing other professionals to UNC," says Wasik.
Though Wasik officially retired in 2015, her impact on FPG continues through her charitable giving and collaborations.
In 2019, she and Sam Odom, PhD, published "Celebrating 50 Years of Child Development Research," to commemorate FPG's 50th anniversary. In editing this landmark book, Wasik found that reliving the milestones of FPG not only brought back memories but also sparked new ideas.
Though, Wasik says, it is encouraging to think of the many advancements made when it comes to access to quality education and health care for children in the past 50 years, there is much more to do.
"Efforts to improve education and services for children from diverse backgrounds and languages need our continuing attention. Bringing together researchers, policy makers, practitioners, and parents can help expand knowledge about how to facilitate optimal child development."