Happy New Year from the Wellesley Centers for Women!
We’ve just wrapped up a decade of shaping a better world through research and action, and we’re about to start a new one. What a time to look back over the last 10 years and see the big picture.
Here are our top 10 highlights of the past decade:
1. Evaluating and growing an online depression prevention program.
At the beginning of the decade, our mental health researcher, Tracy Gladstone, got a $1 million federal grant to evaluate CATCH-IT, an internet-based depression prevention intervention for at-risk teens and their families. Today, Tracy and her collaborators have received a $7 million federal grant to scale this intervention nationally through primary care doctors who serve teens, and she is also working on a special version of this intervention to serve college women.
2. Expanding access to inclusive, social justice-oriented education.
At the beginning of the decade, the National SEED Project got a $3 million foundation grant to expand its New Leaders Week to include more teachers and a wider diversity of schools. Today, the National SEED Project has tripled the number of teachers and schools that it serves, meaning that more students around the country — and the world — are getting an inclusive, social justice-oriented education that takes the backgrounds and identities of everyone in the classroom into account at a time when intergroup understanding is needed more than ever.
3. Developing an effective strategy to reduce sexual violence in schools.
At the beginning of the decade, Nan Stein was asked to present her research findings on teen dating violence prevention before the Senate Judiciary Committee as they were considering reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act. Later in the decade, Shifting Boundaries, her team’s evidence-based intervention to reduce sexual harassment and teen dating violence in secondary schools, was cited by both the White House and the U.S. Department of Education as one of only two effective strategies for reducing sexual violence in middle schools in Dear Colleague letters shared with teachers and school administrators all across the nation.
4. Informing policymakers about the gender wage gap and immigrant entrepreneurship.
At the beginning of the decade, WCW’s economist, Sari Kerr, was a new research scientist, just getting her projects off the ground. Today, her research on the gender wage gap, the mommy track, family leave policy, and immigrant entrepreneurship is written up in such notable news outlets as The Boston Globe, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Wall Street Journal, and has been presented before Congress, reaching diverse and influential change-makers and thought leaders as well as the general public, moving the needle on issues that affect women’s lives every day.
5. Increasing global connections and partnerships.
At the beginning of the decade, our international work was largely centered at the U.N. Today, we have robust international partnerships with women and gender-focused research institutes in other countries, including the Center for Research and Training in Gender and Family (CIGEF) at the University of Cabo Verde and the Centre for Studies in Gender and Sexuality (CSGS) at Ashoka University in India. These partnerships produced a joint symposium on women’s empowerment (link in Portuguese) at the University of Cabo Verde and an international conference on sex and education in India. Furthermore, many of our researchers regularly collaborate with colleagues internationally. For example, Peggy McIntosh hosted Fulbright Scholar Makiko Deguchi, associate professor in the Faculty of Foreign Studies at Sophia University in Tokyo, who visited WCW to study privilege and racial identity as it relates to Japan, just last year.
6. Establishing key research areas centered around youth and families.
At the beginning of the decade, Linda Charmaraman was just starting out as a researcher. Today, she is funded by the first National Institutes of Health R15 grant in the social sciences to be awarded to Wellesley College, and her Youth, Media & Wellbeing Research Lab is doing pioneering work studying the effects of smartphones and social media on adolescents. Similarly, Jennifer Grossman has grown into an expert on family communication about sex and relationships, and Planned Parenthood asked her to evaluate its comprehensive middle school sex education program. Both of these lines of work have become key research areas for WCW.
7. Broadening our reach to influence new audiences.
At the beginning of the decade, the targets of our work were more narrow. Today, we are reaching new audiences and addressing new issues in groundbreaking ways. Linda Williams launched the Justice and Gender-Based Violence Research Initiative, whose work is more relevant than ever in the #MeToo era. Autumn Green joined WCW to study the issues and challenges facing student parents and has created the first comprehensive database of colleges and universities in the U.S. that offer on-campus housing and other services for families. And LaShawnda Lindsay-Dennis joined us to continue her work improving the wellbeing of Black girls globally, including through Black Girls Create, an informal, culturally relevant STEM learning program that integrates fashion design and digital fabrication techniques like 3-D printing.
8. Bringing social and emotional learning tools to more schools.
At the beginning of the decade, Partners HealthCare committed $1 million to the Boston Public Health Commission for a collaboration with Boston Public Schools (BPS) to integrate our Open Circle program into 23 schools. The Novo Foundation awarded Open Circle more than $500,000 to evaluate the BPS initiative and to scale up. Today, Open Circle is used in over 300 schools across the United States and is a leading provider of evidence-based curriculum and professional development for social and emotional learning in elementary schools, reaching more than two million children and 15,000 educators — and, based on the BPS learnings, is developing an SEL and equity lens.
9. Promoting research and development for the out-of-school time field.
At the beginning of the decade, the Robert Bowne Foundation awarded more than $2.1 million over five years to the National Institute on Out-of-School Time (NIOST) for the National Afterschool Matters Initiative to promote research and professional development for out-of-school time (OST) leaders. Today, NIOST is working at the forefront of OST research and evaluation, providing user-friendly evaluation support to OST programs and initiatives around the country, and their work is amplified by a host of OST leaders trained in its unique program.
10. Supporting working families with tangible results.
At the beginning of the decade, WCW’s Work, Families and Children program was bringing together research on employment, work and family issues, and child care. Today, these issues are part of the national conversation as never before, and the program is having a tangible impact on supporting working families. As just one example, the city of Boston recently committed $15 million to provide free, high-quality pre-K to all four-year-olds in the city, based on evidence developed by Nancy Marshall and Wendy Wagner Robeson.
These are only a few examples of WCW’s influence and impact across the decade, aided by your support. The bottom line is this: shaping a better world through research and action takes time, and sometimes it takes a decade to see results — but what a difference a decade makes. Thank you!
Now I’m looking forward to another decade of shaping a better world through research and action, and I hope you are, too.
Let’s go — together!
Layli Maparyan, Ph.D., is the Katherine Stone Kaufmann ’67 Executive Director of the Wellesley Centers for Women at Wellesley College.