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Helping Students, Helping Families: A Conversation with Annie Hardison-Moody

Annie Hardison-Moody is an associate professor and extension specialist in the Agricultural and Human Sciences (AHS) Department, as well as director of graduate programs for Youth, Family, and Community Sciences (YFCS). We chatted with Hardison-Moody about her research, extension, and academic leadership in the world of health, religion, and family science.

Annie Hardison-Moody

Describe your career path. What did the journey to your current position look like?

Before I came to NC State, I was finishing my PhD at Emory University, where I focused on the intersections of religion and public health. And before that, I spent two years working for the North Carolina Division of Public Health, where we developed the Faithful Families Thriving Communities program

I started out my career at NC State as a project manager, working for a grant that Sarah Bowen had in partnership with some folks in our department. Through that grant, we were able to expand the Faithful Families program and my position and funding, until I was full-time. I started to teach in the YFCS program when our former director of graduate programs, Kim Allen, realized that I had a certificate in women’s, gender, and sexuality studies. So I started out teaching our Human Sexuality course. That was back in 2012-2014. Eventually, the department decided to hire a faculty member who could specialize in work in religion and health, and I applied and joined the tenure track faculty officially in 2016. 

Tell us about your research and areas of expertise. How does your academic research inform your work as an extension specialist? 

My research is broadly in the arena of religion and health. I’m really interested in how people make meaning of health and healing, and how that is shaped by the broader systems and structures in which they live. The question that compels all of my work is how do people encounter and survive – and in some cases thrive – while experiencing suffering, trauma, and hardship. For the past few years, I’ve been looking at these big picture questions a couple of ways. The first is through several qualitative studies of food insecurity and the family food environment. I’ve continued to work with Sarah Bowen and other colleagues here in the AHS department to talk with people – all over the country at this point – about what a struggle it is for so many people in our country to get food on the table. Through this work, we’ve seen first hand how many parents – and particularly mothers – are sacrificing so much of themselves, to make sure that their children are healthy and able to have what they need (particularly during the pandemic).

These qualitative studies shape the extension work that I do, in the areas of faith-based health promotion and systems change. I love that my work is inherently practical, and praxis-oriented in that way. Everything that I learn and hear helps to shape the work that I get to do with extension agents and community partners – whether that’s developing new Faithful Families programming to support self-care and mental health, or partnering with parks and recreation departments and coalitions to ensure that everyone in a community has a place to play – the voices of the mothers and families in our studies profoundly influence how I see the world and my place in it. 

What current or upcoming projects and initiatives are particularly exciting for you?

I’m very excited about the racial justice work that our department is doing, and I’m glad to be a part of that. In the fall, we’re bringing Anneliese Singh to campus for a university-wide lecture and department workshop. We are working to integrate diversity, equity, and inclusion into our department values and practices, and I’m excited for our students to be a part of that planning process. I’m also looking forward to some new research coming out of a five-state qualitative study I’ve been helping to lead, Food Insecurity: Responses, Solutions, and Transformations during COVID-19 (FIRST). We are holding some upcoming writing workshops and hope to be able to share very soon what we’ve learned about food insecurity during COVID. And finally, I’m really excited that our Faithful Families Thriving Communities Program is partnering so closely with our Steps to Health team, to deliver Faithful Families across the U.S. It’s been an incredible honor to continue to watch this program grow, and I’m excited to see what we will do next with Steps to Health!

How has your work as director of graduate programs for YFCS impacted you? 

As the director of our graduate program, I now get to see the program in a more holistic way than I did before, and it’s made me even more proud of the work that our students and faculty do. The grace and kindness that we have shown each other over the past two years has meant so much to me personally. These are the kinds of successes that I hope our students will remember as they leave the program. They are certainly the things that stick with me. 

What advice do you have for YFCS students and graduates? 

Our students inspire me every day. I tell people often that my biggest struggle with our students is helping them to see that they are already experts in their field – they are doing the work, on the ground, every day, even in the toughest situations. Our program provides them with the theories and concepts – a lens if you will – to understand the families they work with a bit better, to provide them better support. I would encourage students to hone those theoretical skills, and to continue to reflect on the work that they do through the lens of what they’ve learned with us. Keep reading in the field, keep learning, stay in touch with us.

I want our students to keep having those “lightbulb” moments that we see in class, where they are able to see an experience they’ve had in a whole new way, because they understand why things happen the way the do, how systems shape families and their behaviors, and what we can do as professionals to empower them to not only survive, but to thrive. 

Courses Taught:

  • AEHS 510: Supervised Professional Experience (Rotation)
  • AEHS 525: Family Relationships Across the Lifecourse
  • AEHS 535: Human Sexuality

Find three of Hardison-Moody’s recent publications below: