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Introducing the first BCTR Fellows

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Casasola, Wildeman, and Seguin

Casasola, Wildeman, and Seguin

The BCTR is proud to introduce our first faculty Fellows, who will work closely with the center from 2015-2017. Acting director Elaine Wethington notes, “our aim is to embed the fellows and their students in BCTR activities and have them learn from others doing translational research.” The Fellows Program will help further the center's translational mission by bringing faculty members in the College of Human Ecology into the orbit of the BCTR, actively encouraging their engagement with the center and it's projects, and deepening their knowledge and use of translational research.

BCTR Fellows receive two years of support that includes:

  • An academic-year graduate research assistant (GRA)
  • Pilot study funding
  • Additional funding upon request for costs related to translational research activities (for example, developing relationships with community agencies or dissemination of research to practice audiences)
  • Access to proposal-writing support, including assistance with accessing community populations, working with agencies, IRB issues in translational research, consultation on proposals (including a “mock study section” review)
  • Space for fellows' GRAs in Beebe Hall

Our inaugural fellows are Marianella Casasola, associate professor of human development, Rebecca Seguin, assistant professor of nutritional sciences, and Christopher Wildeman, associate professor of policy analysis and management. A recent article in Human Ecology Magazine presents each fellow's plans for their time in the center:

Casasola plans to continue her research on how to most effectively engender spatial skills and language in children, including their comprehension of words such as ‘rectangle,’ ‘horizontal,’ and ‘corner,’ and their mental rotation abilities.


Seguin will continue her research on evaluation measures designed to support healthy living in rural areas, including an objective audit tool to assess environmental factors that make healthy eating and physical activity easier or more difficult for local residents.


Wildeman...will co-organize a BCTR conference on children of incarcerated parents, followed by an edited book on the topic. He plans to study whether teachers perceive children with incarcerated parents differently and is working on a proposal to renew the BCTR’s National Data Archive on Child Abuse and Neglect, a resource for researchers nationwide.

The new Fellows program is partially funded by a gift from Evalyn Edwards Milman ’60 and Stephen Milman ’58, MBA ’59.


Community Connections: Bronfenbrenner Center launches Faculty Fellows Program - Human Ecology Magazine

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Talks at Twelve: Marianella Casasola, Thursday, December 10, 2015

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Marianella Casasola, Professor in Human Development, portrait picture.

Spatial Language and Spatial Play in the Early Development of Spatial Skills
Marianella Casasola, Human Development

Thursday, December 10, 2015
Beebe Hall, 2nd floor conference room

This talk is open to all. Lunch will be served. Metered parking is available in the Plantations lot across the road from Beebe Hall. No registration or RSVP required except fo groups of 5 or more. We ask that larger groups email Patty at letting us know of your plans to attend so that we can order enough lunch.

Spatial skills contribute to a number of important abilities—navigation, building from instructions, or imagining an object’s appearance from a different angle. In a one-month study, Dr. Casasola found that providing spatial language as preschool children engaged in constructive play (e.g., building with blocks) yielded greater gains in their spatial skills than constructive play alone. In a Head Start training study, she found that constructive play provided a better context for acquiring spatial language than other play activities (e.g., arts and crafts, book reading). These findings point to a synergistic relation between spatial language and constructive play in the development of young children’s spatial skills and suggest an accessible, cost-effective approach to promoting spatial skills and spatial language in preschool children.

Marianella Casasola is an associate professor of human development in the College of Human Ecology. She received her Ph.D. (2000) and M.A. (1995) from the University of Texas at Austin, and her B.A. (1992) from the University of California at Berkeley. She has been associate editor of Developmental Psychology since 2012 and a board member of the Cognitive Development Society since 2013. Casasola’s talk reports on work done as a BCTR Pilot Study Grant recipient. She is also a current BCTR Fellow, one of three in the program’s inaugural year.

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