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Empowering Families and Communities Through Family Science

Sudha Sankar started her career as a researcher and practitioner, positioning herself at the forefront of initiatives aimed at combating intimate partner violence and sexual assault. Her commitment to enhancing services for victims led her to delve into program development and evaluation with organizations dedicated to supporting those affected by relationship violence. It wasn’t until she took a post-doctoral position at Michigan State University, working on evaluation and program development with organizations providing services to victims of relationship violence including advocacy, housing, and sexual assault response that she realized that she could still make an impact within the higher education field.

As her expertise grew, Sankar expanded her horizons to embrace a wide range of human services, including transitional housing, elder care, higher education, and intergenerational programs. Prior to joining NC State University, she served as a valued program development and evaluation consultant, collaborating with non-profit organizations to optimize and enrich their services. Sankar’s decision to join the Department of Agricultural and Human Sciences (AHS) as assistant professor and extension specialist was driven by her strong alignment with the department’s values. The AHS graduate programs have a distinguished reputation for promoting interdisciplinarity and prioritizing student success and happiness. Sankar found her calling in a department that fostered a culture of support and investment in the growth of students.

As a leading expert in relational and family-based interventions, Sankar harnesses the profound knowledge of family science and family therapy models to craft community-based interventions for various health and mental health challenges. Her research is centered around two pivotal areas:

  • Promoting Healthy Families and Parenting Resources: Sankar actively works on projects that strive to heighten communities’ awareness of and access to resources that strengthen families, relationships, and parenting.
  • Intergenerational Strategies and Community Programs: Emphasizing the significance of family-centered and intergenerational approaches, Sankar explores their integration into community programs for enhanced impact.

With a keen focus on addressing systemic disparities in service provision, she places emphasis on recognizing the assets and mechanisms of resilience within minority communities. This thoughtful approach fosters the creation of authentic and sustainable programming that yields positive outcomes for vulnerable populations.

As a mentor and guide, Sankar encourages students in the human sciences to broaden their perspectives when seeking employment opportunities. She advises them to explore functions, industries, and work settings that align with their passions and interests, transcending the confines of their major. The human sciences field offers a diverse array of career pathways, ranging from education and non-profit organizations to for-profit industries, where human sciences and technology converge to meet emerging community needs. To prepare for their future roles, Sankar advises students to actively seek practical project experiences during their academic journey, such as research, program development, and human service program evaluation. These hands-on experiences enable students to apply their knowledge in real-world settings and develop essential skills for their future careers.

At present, Sankar’s team is dedicated to a critical study focusing on out-of-school time (OST) programs for school-age youth in Wake County. This important research aims to assess the availability and accessibility of OST programs while also exploring the barriers faced by parents in accessing these services. The study’s findings will contribute to the creation of a resource map of OST programs in Wake County, providing valuable information to families and parents seeking such support.

Sankar epitomizes the transformative power of family science in building resilient communities. Her unwavering commitment to interdisciplinary collaboration and innovative research will make a lasting impact on various services. In her capacity as an assistant professor and extension specialist, she continues to shape the landscape of family-based interventions, bringing about positive change in the lives of individuals and families. With a strong focus on equity and community engagement, Sankar stands as an inspiring role model for students and colleagues alike, fostering a brighter future for all.