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Celebrating Hamilton and McPheron as they retire

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This summer the BCTR celebrated the careers of Steve Hamilton and Mary Lu McPheron, who both retired this year.


Jutta Dotterweich, Jane Powers, Steve Hamilton, Kris Mesler, and John Eckenrode at Steve's retirement event

Steve Hamilton served as an associate director of the BCTR since its founding in 2011. He was also a professor of human development in the College of Human Ecology (CHE), where he had worked since 1974 when he started as an extension associate. Steve also worked in the CHE's Family Life Development Center (the FLDC merged with another center to form the BCTR), serving as co-director from 1999-2005.

His research on adolescent development and education emphasized the interaction of school, community, and work during the transition to adulthood, especially in the contexts of work experience, experiential learning, community service, and mentoring relationships.

Steve himself served as a mentor to numerous students in his nearly 40 years as a faculty member in the department of human development. Several former students attended an event this June celebrating Steve's years at Cornell and relayed stories of his impact on them in a panel discussion. In remarks at this event, the BCTR's Jane Powers (director, ACT for Youth) read from the acknowledgements section of her dissertation, "My chairman, Steve Hamilton, provided me with inspiration and encouragement throughout every stage of the thesis. His advice was critical, constructive, and above all, practical. I value Steve as a mentor, role model, and friend. “

Steve recently led efforts to ground New York State’s 4-H program more firmly in research, training 4-H educators to identify problems, review related research, and implement a plan of action. Another recent extension program Steve headed, undertaken on behalf of the New York State Education Department, led to changes in the Regents exams, newly allowing high school seniors the option of a Career and Technical Education (CTE) examination.

Steve moves on to become president and director of research at the High Tech High Graduate School of Education, part of an innovative charter school organization in San Diego that is committed to social integration and achievement for all students.

Founding BCTR director John Eckenrode on Steve's contributions:

Steve has been a great role model for a successful faculty career blending research and extension. He excelled at both. He had a major impact on a field of research now generally labelled positive youth development, while also connecting research to practice and policy. His work foreshadowed and laid some of the foundation for the increasing attention now being paid in policy circles to two issues around which he has made major contributions: mentoring and apprenticeships. We will miss having him as a colleague on campus but know that he will continue to do great things to benefit youth in his next job.


Mary Lu McPheron in the rocking chair, a gift from the BCTR, at her retirement party

Mary Lu McPheron in the rocking chair, a gift from the BCTR, at her retirement party

Mary Lu McPheron arrived at Cornell as a trainer for the Child Protective Services Training Institute in the Family Life Development Center (FLDC) in 1986, subsequently becoming the project's director and working there until 2002 when the program ended. She was able to continue on at the FLDC doing assigned projects until 2003 when she joined the Military Projects, where she worked until her retirement this summer.

In her 30-year career at Cornell, Mary Lu was a dedicated advocate for children and families. Brian Leidy (Military Projects director) and Marney Thomas (Military Projects co-director) said of Mary Lu,

Mary Lu has been an integral part of many projects at the center starting in 1986 with the Child Protective Services Training Institute (CPSTI) and NYS Risk Assessment and most recently as a valuable colleague for the last 12 years in the Military Projects that support Department of Defense Family Programs across the Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force. Her background in child maltreatment and family violence, her skill at curriculum development, literature review, and interviewing will be greatly missed. Above all we will miss her passion for advocating for children and families.

At her retirement party, the center presented Mary Lu with a rocking chair with the following inscription: "In recognition of your service to the Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research and Cornell University, and with great appreciation for your dedication and tireless efforts to improve the lives of children, youth and families."

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Linking research to the practice of youth development



Stephen Hamilton

A special issue of the journal Applied Developmental Science explores the application of a truly translational research process to "youth development." The issue is edited by Stephen Hamilton, BCTR associate director for youth development.

From the abstract for the issue:

The articles in this special issue address some of the challenges of strengthening the links between research and the practice of youth development and identify some approaches that have worked well. Youth development emerged from practice rather than from theory or research. Research that is most useful in the practice of youth development honors that primacy both by exploring questions that are important in practice and by engaging practitioners as partners, not merely as consumers.


A consistent theme of this issue is that the conventional portrayal of research-practice linkage as uni-directional is both inaccurate and inadequate. Different kinds of research inform different dimensions of practice; practice can and should guide research. Efforts to aid practitioners in accessing, understanding, and using research findings should be accompanied by efforts to aid researchers in posing questions about topics that matter to practitioners, conducting research that comprehends the complexity in which those topics are embedded, honoring practitioner wisdom, and enlarging the circle of those who conduct research.

The issue includes the following articles (BCTR staff in bold):

Stephen F. Hamilton (2015) Linking Research to the Practice of Youth Development, Applied Developmental Science, 19:2, 57-59, DOI: 10.1080/10888691.2015.1030016

Stephen F. Hamilton (2015) Translational Research and Youth Development, Applied Developmental Science, 19:2, 60-73, DOI: 10.1080/10888691.2014.968279

Reed W. Larson, Kathrin C. Walker, Natalie Rusk & Lisa B. Diaz (2015) Understanding Youth Development from the Practitioner's Point of View: A Call for Research on Effective Practice, Applied Developmental Science, 19:2, 74-86, DOI: 10.1080/10888691.2014.972558

Mary Agnes Hamilton & Stephen F. Hamilton (2015) Seeking Social Inventions to Improve the Transition to Adulthood, Applied Developmental Science, 19:2, 87-107, DOI: 10.1080/10888691.2014.975227

Jane Powers, Mary Maley, Amanda Purington, Karen Schantz & Jutta Dotterweich (2015) Implementing Evidence-Based Programs: Lessons Learned From the Field, Applied Developmental Science, 19:2, 108-116, DOI: 10.1080/10888691.2015.1020155

Nicole Yohalem & Vivian Tseng (2015) Commentary: Moving From Practice to Research, and Back, Applied Developmental Science, 19:2, 117-120, DOI: 10.1080/10888691.2014.983033


Linking research to the practice of youth development - Applied Developmental Science

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Youth research updates on gossip, children of prisoners, and minority participation in STEM


Group discussion at the 2015 YDRU

Group discussion at the 2015 YDRU

The BCTR's annual Youth Development Research Update (YDRU) brings together 4-H educators, Cornell Cooperative Extension county leaders, and others in New York State affiliated with youth programs with Cornell researchers. At this year's YDRU, held in early June,  researchers presented on gossip and aggression, the effects of parental incarceration on children, racial and ethnic minority youth engagement in STEM, and the influence of class on cohabitation choices. Jutta Dotterweich (director of training and technical assistance, ACT for Youth Project) and Stephen Hamilton organized the event.

In a Cornell Chronicle article, Jacqueline Davis-Manigaulte ’72, a Cornell Cooperative Extension-New York City senior extension associate, describes the importance of the YDRU,

This event allows us to hear about the latest Cornell faculty research on youth development. But what I really enjoy is the powerful connections we make with faculty members who see the value in working with us on projects. It gives us a direct line to potential partners.

In addition to talks by researchers, the YDRU features group discussions and unstructured time for participants to talk. Giving these generally institutionally separated groups access to each other allows for discussions leading to stronger, more relevant research and more effective, evidence-based programming for youth.

This year's presentations were:

  • Steven E. Alvarado (Sociology): Racial and Ethnic Minorities in STEM: Challenges and Opportunities for Advancement
  • Anna R. Haskins (Sociology): Paternal Incarceration and Children's Early Educational Outcomes
  • Sharon Sassler (Policy Analysis and Management): Social Class Differences in Relationship Processes and the Entry into Cohabitation
  • Dawn E. Schrader (Communication): Everybody Talks: Forms and Functions of Gossip and Talk in Adolescent Female Social Aggression


Talks connect faculty, youth-focused extension partners - Cornell Chronicle

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Talks at Twelve: Stephen Hamilton and Mara Jacobs, Thursday, February 12, 2015

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Translational Research Goes to School: Action Research at High Tech High
Stephen Hamilton and Mara Jacobs, Human Development, Cornell University

Thursday, February 12, 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.

In this talk Stephen Hamilton will introduce High Tech High and the Graduate School of Education, describe research that has been done and is currently underway, and invite discussion of possible future translational research. Mara Jacobs will share her experiences as a graduate of High Tech High (HTH) and her efforts to integrate the HTH philosophy into other educational settings.

High Tech High is a charter school organization with 12 schools, elementary through high school, in San Diego County, California. Students are admitted by lottery, stratified by zip code to represent the populations of County districts. Nearly all graduate from high school and about 90% have graduated or are still enrolled in college six years later. The HTH Graduate School of Education confers master’s degrees on teachers and principals, who conduct action research on their practice, and disseminate HTH practices and principles locally, nationally, and internationally, promoting practice-based research and creating opportunities for research on dissemination.

Stephen Hamilton is Professor of Human Development and Associate Director of the Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research. He has been a high school teacher and Cornell’s Associate Provost for Outreach. He edited a special issue of Applied Developmental Science now in press that includes his essay on “Translational Research and Youth Development” and an article on “Social Inventions to Improve the Transition to Adulthood” (Mary Agnes Hamilton, first author). After retiring from Cornell in June 2015, he will become President of the High Tech High Graduate School of Education.

Mara Jacobs (HD ’17) is a 2013 graduate of High Tech High and currently a sophomore in Human Development with a minor in Education. As part of her Senior Project at High Tech High International, Mara traveled throughout Canada to help integrate the High Tech High philosophy into private schools in the Ontario Province. Currently she is working on developing an inclusive hands-on learning school in Haiti. Partnering with the High Tech High system, the curriculum group is responsible for teacher training, school organizational structure, and curriculum development. Mara is involved with rugby, theater, and education at Cornell.

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Positive youth development in the global recession

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Patricio Cumsille, Bernadine Brady, Mary Agnes Hamilton, Stephen Hamilton, Loreto Martínez, and Susana Núñez Rodríguez.

Stephen Hamilton (BCTR associate director for youth development) organized and chaired a symposium on Youth-Adult Relationships as Assets for Positive Youth Development: Similarities and Variations in Different Countries for the Society for Research in Child Development (SRCD) Special Topic Meeting on Positive Youth Development in the Context of the Global Recession in Prague. Mary Agnes Hamilton delivered a paper by Stephen Hamilton, David L. DuBois, and Deborah E. Sellers, Functional Roles & Social Contexts of Important Adults Identified by Youth in the US. The other included papers were:

  • How Do Mentors Support Young People? Qualitative Evidence from an Irish Study by Patrick Dolan and Bernadine Brady (presenter), National University of Ireland, Galway
  • Quality of Youth-Adult Relationships and Sociopolitical Control: Mediating Role of Identity by M. Loreto Martínez (presenter), Patricio Cumsille, Ignacio Loyola Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, Santiago, and Cristina Valenzuela Universidad Autónoma de Chile, Santiago
  • Differences in Youth Perceived Autonomy According to Socio-economic Characteristics in the Brazilian Context by Susana Núñez Rodríguez (presenter), and Silvia Koller, Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil

Youth have been particularly hard hit by the global economic recession. Many young people are trapped in endless cycles of unemployment, underemployment and being forced back to education due to a lack of work. Skilled young graduates often decide to migrate to wealthier countries for a better future. However, the economic crisis may also have long-lasting and pervasive consequences on youth’s adaptation and development. It thwarts the aspirations and goals for the future of young people, and presents serious obstacles in their professional and personal adaptation. This conference examined

  • the effects of the economic downturn for youth’s adaptation and development;
  • what makes a difference for those who are able to more successfully navigate through this situation;
  • how to support youth to become the engines of hope and change in their countries;
  • and what scientists from different countries can learn from each other.

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CCE Summer Interns present their research findings

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Katrina Simon next to her poster on improving 4-H

Katrina Simon next to her poster on her research with 4-H

This year's Cornell Cooperative Extension Summer Interns presented on their summer research on October 7th. Included in the group were four students who worked with BCTR researchers (listed below). This year each student gave a condensed one-minute presentation on their work. Presentations were followed by a poster session/reception where students could talk to attendees about their research.

Each year the Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE) Summer Internship Program connects undergraduates with faculty research projects, helping Cornell fulfill its land grant mission by engaging students in outreach. From research to education and program development, interns are involved in a wide spectrum of activities which they document by blogging.

This year's BCTR-connected projects, which collectively reached eight counties:

Building a Community Legacy Together Program Evaluation
Faculty: Karl Pillemer
Location: CCE Orange County and CCE Genesee County
Student blog by Masrai Williams

Parent Education in New York City: The Parenting A Second Time Around (PASTA) Project
Faculty: Rachel Dunifon
Location: CCE New York City
Student blog by Paisley Marie Terenzi

Refugee Family Child Care Provider Project
Faculty: John Eckenrode with Lisa McCabe
Location: CCE Madison-Oneida County
Student blog by Emily Nina Satinsky

Research for the Continuous Improvement of 4-H
Faculty: Stephen Hamilton
Location: Erie (base), Genesee, Orleans, Wyoming Counties
Student blog by Katrina Simon


Cooperative Extension interns report on statewide research - Cornell Chronicle

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The Legacy of Urie Bronfenbrenner



Evans, Sternberg, Wethington, Ceci, Hamilton, and Eckenrode

The BCTR is named in honor of Urie Bronfenbrenner, the renowned developmental psychologist who taught at Cornell for over fifty years. This September 18th a panel of Cornell faculty reflected on Urie's enduring legacy in the field. In his introduction, BCTR director John Eckenrode expressed the hope that the panel discussion would rectify a knowledge gap among newer members of the College of Human Ecology (CHE) and the university about Urie and his importance to human development and the college as a whole.  The panel was moderated by BCTR associate director Stephen Hamilton.

The panelists were all professors of human development who were influenced by Urie's work. All but Sternberg were also colleagues of Urie's in the CHE department of human development. Elaine Wethington, center associate director, was co-author with Bronfenbrenner, Stephen Ceci, and others on The State of Americans: This Generation and The Next. Stephen Ceci worked on Urie's research projects in the 1980s. Gary Evans  took a class with Urie as a faculty member and went on to  co-teach with Urie. Robert Sternberg was acquainted with Urie and feels the impact of Urie's research in his own work.

Gary Evans

Gary Evans

Gary Evans noted that, while the impact of Urie's research is profound, he was also an engaged and influential teacher. Evans quotes Urie himself on teaching:

As a teacher, I have seen as my main goal enabling students to experience the adventure, and hard-won harvest, of disciplined, creative thought that goes beyond any one discipline. To be sure transmitting knowledge is also important, but today’s knowledge is sure to be surpassed by tomorrow’s. Thus, the greatest gift one can give to the young is to enable them to deal critically and creatively with new answers, and the new questions, that the future brings.

In the event video, Evans refers to this quote and to figures in a handout, which can be seen here.

Stephen Hamilton relayed a story of Urie testifying before a senate committee and being asked what it takes to produce a well-functioning human being. Urie replied, simply, "Somebody's gotta be crazy about the kid."

For an anecdote about the strange, interesting story about Urie and the naming of the College of Human Ecology, see minute 15:40 of the event video.


Panelists recall legacy of Urie Bronfenbrenner - Cornell Chronicle

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The Legacy of Urie Bronfenbrenner


September 18, 2014

Welcome by John Eckenrode, director, BCTR
Stephen Ceci, Helen L. Carr Professor of Developmental Psychology
Gary Evans, Elizabeth Lee Vincent Professor of Human Ecology
Robert Sternberg, Professor of Human Development
Elaine Wethington, Professor of Human Development; associate director, BCTR
Moderated by Stephen Hamilton, Professor of Human Development; associate director, BCTR

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Strengthening 4-H by analyzing enrollment data

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Stephen Hamilton

The June issue of the Journal of Extension includes an article co-authored by Stephen Hamilton (BCTR Associate Director for Youth Development) with Angela Northern (4-H Research Specialist, Erie County) and Robbie Neff (student). Strengthening 4-H by analyzing enrollment data examines findings with the aim of understanding trends in enrollment and dropout rates. Beginning during a summer internship Neff developed and refined a process using Excel to analyze 4-H enrollment data, then progressively simplified the process and built a graphic interface that enables county staff with no statistical expertise to query the data and present findings. Neff has been working with Minnesota 4-H to adapt his tool to their system and has received inquires from other states. Work will continue this coming year to get this process into use and adapt it to the new 4-H data collection system.

The study reported here used data from the ACCESS 4-H Enrollment System to gain insight into strengthening New York State's 4-H programming. Member enrollment lists from 2009 to 2012 were analyzed using Microsoft Excel to determine trends and dropout rates. The descriptive data indicate declining 4-H enrollment in recent years and peak enrollment at grade 5. New members are more likely to drop out than members who have been involved for more than a year. New members who are high school students drop out at the highest rate. Returning members who are high school students drop out at the lowest rate.


Strengthening 4-H by analyzing enrollment data

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The Legacy of Urie Bronfenbrenner, Thursday, September 18, 2014

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The Legacy of Urie Bronfenbrenner
Stephen Ceci, Gary Evans, Robert Sternberg, Elaine Wethington

Thursday, September 18, 2014
Ten-Eyck Room, Nevin Welcome Center The Plantations

This event will feature leading faculty in the College of Human Ecology reflecting about Urie Bronfenbrenner’s impact on current research and practice and on their own work. The format will be an interactive, informal conversation.

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