In each edition of Engaging U, we will feature a University of Minnesota engagement unit or center. If you have suggestions for upcoming profiles, please contact Amber Cameron (firstname.lastname@example.org).
For this edition of our Engaging U spotlight we meet Cathy Jordan and the Children Youth & Family Consortium. Jordan gives us an overview of her office's work in and around the Twin Cities community.
1) Describe the work of your office.
University of Minnesota Extension’s Children, Youth & Family Consortium (CYFC) is an all-University, community-engaged center that aims to educate professionals, translate research, and generate knowledge to enhance practice and inform policies that positively influence the education and health outcomes of children, youth and families. We approach our work through ecological and developmental lenses, and we value interdisciplinarity, reciprocity, and nonpartisanship.
2) What is a current engagement project your unit is working?
Over the last several years, CYFC has worked with the Center for Early Education and Development and the Science Museum of Minnesota on Wonder Years: The Science of Early Childhood. Wonder Years is an exhibition about how young children develop, how we know how they development, and why the public should care about their development. Wonder Years also includes Citizen Conferences and topical forums. CYFC is conducting research on how Minnesota policymakers might use this exhibition and related citizen dialogues to inform their thinking and decision-making about early childhood.
3) What impact is this project having/expect to have?
Nearly 800,000 visitors per year have the opportunity to experience the Wonder Years exhibition to learn about how young children develop and the importance of creating nurturing environments and relationships. In February 2012, the Minnesota Association for the Education of Young Children gave its Distinguished Service Award to the Science Museum of Minnesota for its contribution to early childhood development through the Wonder Years exhibit. To extend the reach of the exhibit as a forum for learning, CYFC is coordinating field experiences for graduate and professional courses at the University of Minnesota and eventually, other higher education institutions as well. Students in courses such as child development, psychiatric mental health nursing, social work and law have visited the exhibit and engaged in reflective dialogue facilitated by CYFC staff in order to enrich their learning and their future professional practice.