Shannons fund faculty chair on healthy minds, children and families

July 18, 2013

by Doris Green

UW-Madison alumni Mary Sue and Mike Shannon are providing a gift to fund an endowed faculty chair focusing on mind, body and family well-being through collaborations among the School of Human Ecology, the School of Medicine and Public Health, the Waisman Center, and the Global Health Institute.

The Mary Sue and Mike Shannon Chair for Healthy Minds, Children and Families will serve as an interdisciplinary champion of a broad range of healthy mind, body and behavior programs.

The new faculty position will be associated with the School of Human Ecology's Human Development and Family Studies department and Center for Child and Family Well-Being (CCFW). The CCFW is collaborating with the Center for Investigating Healthy Minds (CIHM) at the Waisman Center on a Mind-Body Relationships and Family Well-Being initiative.

“The new position will allow us to take a leap forward in our mission to improve the lives of children and families ...”

Julie Poehlmann

"We are thrilled about the collaborative possibilities that this gift brings to the CCFW and other units on campus," says Julie Poehlmann, director of the Center for Child and Family Well-Being. "The new position will allow us to take a leap forward in our mission to improve the lives of children and families through cultivating empathy and compassion and a range of self-regulation skills in multiple developmental contexts."

"This gift will facilitate the collaboration among several different units on our campus and the research that will flow from this collaborative work will benefit the children and families of Wisconsin, the nation and the globe," says Richard Davidson, founder of the Center for Investigating Healthy Minds. "It will also help to establish the University of Wisconsin-Madison as the epicenter of scholarly work on the application of secular contemplative practices to human development and family studies."

"After meeting Richie and Julie, and seeing the excitement around these issues within the School of Human Ecology, it just felt right to bring together every opportunity," says Mary Sue Shannon, a 1981 alumnae of the school. Healthy mind, body, and behavior programs particularly make sense for children, she says. "These programs provide a foundation that will help them navigate through this hectic world."

The initiative will enable the Center for Child and Family Well-being and the Center for Investigating Healthy Minds to work together on a variety of research, outreach, and teaching efforts on the application of non-religious meditation-based practices to promote positive, constructive psychological processes.

The first set of collaborations involves implementing a new curriculum for children (the Kindness Curriculum, developed by the CIHM) in low-income preschools, developing and testing a mindful parenting intervention with parents in the School of Human Ecology Preschool Lab, and hosting a national conference on Contemplative Practices to Promote Child and Family Well-Being in October 2013.