At first glance, Greg Duncan and P. Lindsay Chase-Lansdale seem an unlikely pair of professors to work closely together. The introspective Duncan is a trained economist; Chase-Lansdale, a developmental psychologist, is outgoing and animated.
Yet the two collaborate effectively as teachers and interdisciplinary scholars on the critical social policy questions on which the Human Development and Social Policy program is based.
Duncan’s scholarship focuses on low-income mothers and their children who have relocated from Chicago public housing. A faculty member of Northwestern’s Institute for Policy Research and director of the Northwestern University/University of Chicago Joint Center for Poverty Research, he and his graduate students have also done extensive analysis of Milwaukee’s New Hope Project, an antipoverty program.
Chase-Lansdale’s research looks at how social issues such as poverty, single parenthood, and mothers’ employment affect family functioning and the development of children and youth. Founding director the new center Cells to Society (C2S): The Center on Social Disparities and Health, she pays particular attention to positive health and well-being in the context of economic hardship. Her graduate students have been instrumental in her large-scale, multidiscplinary research project Welfare, Children and Families: A Three-City Study.
As collaborators, Duncan and Chase-Lansdale have received multiple grants to study welfare reform, co-editing For Better and for Worse: Welfare Reform and the Well-Being of Children and Families (Russell Sage Foundation, 2001). They are key figures in Northwestern’s Multidisciplinary Program in Educational Sciences, a three-year, $5 million interdisciplinary training program for doctoral students.
Elizabeth Votruba-Drzal (GSESP05), assistant professor of psychology at the University of Pittsburgh, had close contact with both professors as a graduate student. She says Duncan routinely answered student e-mails about econometrics at 4 a.m., while Chase-Lansdale provided intensive theoretical training as well as valuable advice on balancing a career with motherhood.
For their part, the professors say their students energize them.
“Human development and social policy graduate students are motivated and mature,” says Duncan. “I love the opportunity to teach, mentor and learn from them.” Adds Chase-Lansdale,
“The best part of being a professor at Northwestern is working with young people.” — J.K.L.