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manda Sheffield Morris believes the entire family system should be understood in order to affect the success of children from the early years through their young adult lives. She has had an interest in emotional development and the factors that affect adjustment and resilience since her undergraduate studies. As the Bryan Close Endowed Chair in Early Childhood Development in the College of Human Sciences, Morris focuses her research on disadvantaged, high-risk families and children during important transitions in their lives. While much attention has been placed on early education and its role in school readiness, Morris believes young children’s social-emotional development is the key to success and that requires supportive environments in families. That passion has led Morris to be the principal investigator on six current projects studying the wellbeing of children, youth and their families primarily in the Tulsa area.
Research at Oklahoma State University • www.vpr.okstate.edu
Morris and her team are evaluating and providing program development expertise for the Community Action Project’s Head Start and Early Head Start Centers, and Tulsa Educare. She is currently studying the effectiveness of dual-generation education programs directed by Tulsa County’s Community Action Project. CAP’s CareerAdvance® program supports the career development of low-income parents while their preschool children are enrolled in Early Head Start and Head Start centers. The program is the subject of the Family Life Study, which includes implementation, outcomes and impacts. Led by researchers at the Institute for Policy Research at Northwestern University, the Ray Marshall Center at the University of Texas at Austin, Columbia University and New York University, the study is funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration for Children and Families.
Morris is the principal investigator leading data collection, interviews and focus groups to evaluate the effects of the workforce development program. “The Family Advancement Study is exciting to me as a researcher because it is a randomized control trial,” Morris says. “It’s a longitudinal study with multiple waves of data collection. We are following families and a comparison group to provide more accurate information on the success of the program. “We have been able to study the impact of dual-generation parents’ perceptions of their involvement and evaluate the effect of the program on children’s development in such areas as school readiness and socio-emotional development.” Morris points out the benefits the research projects have for OSU and its faculty. “OSU has received more than $1.5 million in grants for these projects,” she says. “Research projects