New and Noteworthy

Several changes have happened recently in the Department of Human Development and Family Sciences (HDFS). 

The research group studying adolescents, ethnicity and parenting got richer with the addition of Assistant Professor Fatima Varner in January. Varner, who received her doctorate from Northwestern University, is especially interested in how racial discrimination influences parenting and adolescents’ academic achievement in African-American families. 

“We are very lucky to have Dr. Varner, one of the leading new researchers studying African-American families and teens,” says Professor Stephen Russell. “Fatima’s work is such an important addition to our department’s focus on diverse families and their health and well-being.”

Russell, an expert in adolescent development and marginalized youth, joined the department last fall and this fall became HDFS department chair. Russell brings renewed energy to the role, including by fostering new cross-campus relations. For example, he, Varner and other HDFS faculty lead a research group on discrimination in health care which was picked by the University as one of the first new “Pop-Up Institutes,” a campus-wide research initiative designed to promote research exchange across disciplines.

A beloved associate professor enters a new chapter, as Karrol Kitt retired after 38 years on campus. For many of those years, Kitt fought for and won improvements in transparency and regulation, while acting as a funded consumer representative with the National Association of Insurance Commissioners. She spent equally long stretches on governing bodies across the UT Austin campus, including six terms on the Faculty Council. A legendary and award-winning teacher, Kitt taught an estimated 20,000 undergraduates about personal finance. 

Read more online about Karrol Kitt’s legacy on campus:

“Dr. Kitt had a unique way of stripping complex intellectual ideas down to a set of teachings that everyone in the class could relate to,” recalls Richard Hinojosa, a former student. 

Finally, at the Priscilla Pond Flawn Child and Family Laboratory, Dr. Amy Bryan, the Little Walnut classroom teacher for almost a decade, took the helm as the new director. Bryan’s primary interests are in understanding and strengthening parent-child relationships. She has both a doctorate in human development and a master’s degree in clinical social work. 

“Dr. Bryan was an ideal choice,” says Deborah Jacobvitz, who became director of the School of Human Ecology last November. “She received her doctorate in our department, and her history and expertise in early child development will allow us to sustain the legacy of the Priscilla Pond Flawn Child and Family Laboratory.”