Networking Alliance Recap March 2018

The Networking Alliance meeting on March 16, 2018 was packed full of great information sharing. New staff were introduced and those present screened the Center’s newest video, discussed the Center’s review and approval for continuation, joined table topic discussions, found out more about the new principal investigator of the Family-Centered Practice Project, and were excited to recognize all the great work Dr. Joan Pennell has done as the Center’s founding director.

New staff were welcomed with open arms at the Networking Alliance meeting. Felicia Crawford, Cindy Wooden, and Alicia Light have now joined the forces of the Center staff to advance safe, healthy and productive families and communities. Felicia serves as the Project Coordinator, Cindy serves as the Project Assistance, and Alicia serves as the Instructional Design Technologist.

Alicia Light and graduate assistant, Kayla Pack Watson debuted the Center’s newest video to members of the Networking Alliance. This video is intended to help students, faculty, and community partners understand the work that the Center does and how partnership is key to keeping families at the center of all conversations. The video will be available to the public soon.

Dr. Joan Pennell discussed the official center review that took place in fall 2017. The review occurred one year early because of Dr. Pennell’s retirement taking place at the end of June 2018. The discussion provided an opportunity for not only Dr. Pennell, but staff, community and faculty partners, and students to look at how far the Center has come. It also gave everyone a chance to look to the future as the Center brings on a new principal investigator for its long-standing Family-Centered Practice Project, a contract with NC Division of Social Services. Dr. Pennell shared the strengths that were found during the Center review: family and youth leadership, community-engaged research, responsible management, inclusive culture, and non-duplication of other UNC system centers. “We do these things well,” said Dr. Pennell. There is no doubt that the Center will continue to do these things well once the shift in directors takes place. The new director is expected to be named in the next four to six weeks and to commence July 1, 2018. Dr. Pennell also shared the opportunities that were found: expansion of funding sources, increase in faculty and student participation, and evaluation of the impact of work. Each opportunity for growth supports the others. The Center has begun targeting ways these areas can be improved.

As the Center prepares for Dr. Pennell’s retirement, Dr. Sarah Desmarais was introduced as the new principal investigator for the Family-Center Practice Project. Dr. Desmarais, Associate Professor in Psychology and co-director of the NC State Social and Behavioral Health Research Group, has been a faculty member at NC State University since 2012 and is trained as a forensic psychologist and in public health. Having over 100 publications on topics such as behavioral health issues, domestic violence, and evidence-based practices she is a great fit for the Center’s Family-Center Practice Project principal investigator.

Members met in small groups for over half an hour to continue pushing conversations forward about family leadership, community engagement, court engagement, video/marketing, alternative approaches and domestic violence, and fatherhood. Center staff and faculty facilitated discussions about critical conversations, natural partners, and opportunities within each topic. Each table conducted a gallery walk and viewed other group ideas and suggestions in regards to tackling the six topics. Center staff and faculty conducted a debrief within each table. The topics picked are integral to the Center’s mission on advancing safe, healthy, and productive families and communities.

Finally, members of the Networking Alliance paid tribute to Dr. Pennell. Chaney Stokes of Strong Able Youth Speaking Out (SaySo) shared a letter from Nancy Carter of Independent Living Resources (ILR) and paid her own tribute as well. Joanne Scaturro of The North Carolina State Collaborative for Children, Youth, and Families and Gail Cormier of NC Families United each spoke on the difference Dr. Pennell has made in not only their lives, but in the lives of families and young people across the state. Chaney, Joanne, and Gail presented Dr. Pennell with a scrapbook full of well wishes from  people who have been Networking Alliance participants and members over the years, community partners from across North Carolina, and colleagues at NC State University and from all over the globe. While Joan may be retiring as the Center director, she can entrust everyone who works with the Center to continue to carry out her mission to advance safe, healthy, and productive families and communities.

Stay tuned for the announcement of our new Center director.

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