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UL Lafayette’s Picard Center gains new executive director

Rachel Gordon.jpg
Posted at 11:02 AM, Sep 30, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-30 12:02:14-04

A scholar whose work has shaped and influenced childhood education policy for 25 years is the new executive director of the Cecil J. Picard Center for Child Development and Lifelong Learning at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.

Dr. Rachel Gordon joined UL Lafayette this semester. She is also the University’s Loyd J. Rockhold Endowed Chair in Child Development, and a professor of sociology in the College of Liberal Arts.

The Picard Center is located in UL Lafayette’s Research Park. It is a leading university-level research center that produces rigorous, innovative, and actionable knowledge in order to ensure that all children get a strong start and continuous support for excelling in school and life.

“The center’s current research portfolio emphasizes two broad substantive areas – early childhood education and healthy lifespan development – including supporting Louisiana state agencies by collecting thousands of classroom observations and the Caring Communities Youth Survey in schools statewide,” Gordon explained.

It also serves as a research incubator for faculty members and students in those two substantive focal areas and related social/behavioral, educational and health sciences topics, she added.

“The Picard Center is an invaluable resource for the University, region and state. I look forward to building on the phenomenal foundation that’s been established. I also see enormous opportunity for fostering new relationships on campus and beyond. I anticipate creating partnerships that bring together people with different perspectives and building collaborations with a wide range of organizations and entities,” Gordon said.

She is well suited for the role. Gordon is a public policy scholar who draws on multiple disciplines including economics, sociology, political science and psychology. She has an extensive background in connecting research to outreach, engagement, practice and policy.

Before joining UL Lafayette, Gordon spent more than two decades at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Most recently, she was a tenured professor in UIC’s Department of Sociology and the chair of Social Science Research in its College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Gordon was also associate director for the Social Sciences for UIC’s Institute for Health Research and Policy.

Gordon also served as a professor and senior scholar for the University of Illinois System’s Institute of Government and Public Affairs, where she chaired the system-wide working group on Education and Learning.

Gordon spent a decade directing the institute’s Illinois Family Impact Seminars. The seminars were part of a national network that contributed knowledge-based dialogue around family policy issues. They also provided evidence-based knowledge that informed and guided educators, policymakers, practitioners and the public.

She was founding director of NEW Leadership Illinois. The program engages college students in order to increase women’s representation in all elements of public life, including elected office.

Gordon researches contextual, social and policy factors that support or hinder children’s development. Among her interests and areas of expertise are early child care and education, parental employment, multigenerational families, neighborhood dynamics, youth peer groups, and appearance-related identity cues.

She has led research teams on projects that resulted in the development of new assessments for early childhood classroom quality; another team of researchers Gordon led examined ways adolescents’ and young adults’ identities are affected by how others perceive their physical features.

Gordon’s leading-edge statistical methods have been included in two statistics textbooks she has authored for graduate students. She also co-authored the Careers in Child and Family Policy guidebooks and websites that supported developmental scientists pursuing policy training and positions.

Her research and engagement efforts have been supported by a range of federal agencies, including the U.S. Department of Education, National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Labor.

Learn more about the Picard Center for Child Development and Lifelong Learning.

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