About the Center for Families

Founded in 1994, the Center for Families at Purdue University is a concrete reminder that families, in all their diverse forms, are the foundation of society.​

CFF serves as a catalyst to integrate outreach, teaching, and research activities that support families. This is accomplished through increased and enhanced collaborations among academic disciplines, professionals, policymakers, corporations and community organizations.

Established within the Department of Child Development and Family Studies in the School of Consumer and Family Sciences (now the Department of Human Development and Family Studies in the College of Health and Human Sciences) at Purdue University, its mission is to work to improve the quality of life for families.

CFF provides a way for faculty, staff, students, alumni, and friends to bring about change focused on families, an issue about which they are deeply passionate, and a change that is even more lasting than bricks and mortar. These caring partners have both extended and focused the efforts of the school and created possibilities for collaborations seldom imagined in the past.

Our Community


Shelley MacDermid Wadsworth , Director

A member of the Purdue University faculty since 1989, Shelley holds an MBA and doctorate from Pennsylvania State University. She has strong interests in the links between work conditions and family life, and in the evaluation of community needs and program outcomes. MacDermid Wadsworth became director of the Center for Families in 1996. In this role, she oversees all of the center’s work and takes a leadership role in activities.

Melissa Franks, Associate Director for Research and Partnerships

A member of the Purdue University faculty since 2007, Melissa is a social psychologist. She received her doctoral degree from Kent State University. She has strong interests aging families, marriage and health, health behaviors and chronic illness management. As the associate director for research and partnerships she provides strategic leadership of the center’s funding program and work with faculty partners.

Rob Duncan, Associate Director for Policy

A member of the Purdue University faculty since 2017, Rob received his doctorate in Human Development and Family Studies and a Masters of Public Health in Biostatistics from Oregon State University. His research is broadly focused on understanding the connections between children’s early environments and their development of school readiness skills (e.g., language abilities, self-regulation, executive function, academic achievement). Duncan is currently teaching the Child and Family Health Policy course at Purdue. He is responsible for leading the center’s policy-related efforts.

Kate Kester, Operations Manager

Advisory Council

  • JoAnna Brown, PhD, Senior Research Fellow, Housing & Community Development, Sagamore Institute
  • Lorene McCormick Burkhart, Founding Donor, CFF; Burkhart Network
  • Deborah Myers Cook, Founding Advocate, CFF; Retired, Certified Financial Planner
  • Elizabeth Day, PhD, Associate Director for Policy and Training Initiatives, Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research; Engaged Learning Associate, Cornell Institute for Public Affairs Postdoctoral Fellow, Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research, Cornell University
  • Travis Dorsch, PhD, Assistant Professor, Founding Director of the Families in Sport Lab, Human Development and Family Studies, Kinesiology and Health & Science, Utah State University
  • Nana Gletsu Miller, PhD, Associate Professor, Department of Applied Health Science, School of Public Health, Indiana University Bloomington
  • Jane Horner, Health and Human Science Extension Educator, Purdue Extension
  • Sheila Klinker, Indiana House of Representatives
  • Betty Levien Krejci, Advocate, CFF; Former CFF Staff, Retired Fundraising Professional
  • Candice Lange, Retired, Work-life and Diversity; Former Director of the Jane Brock-Wilson Women in Management Center in the Krannert School
  • Bob Miles, Advocate, CFF; Bob Miles & Associates
  • Joyce Miles, Advocate, CFF; Joyce B. Miles & Associates
  • Jeremy Reynolds, PhD, Professor, Sociology, Purdue University
  • David Siler, LCSW, Executive Director, National Youth Advocate Program, Indiana
  • Oliver Wendt, PhD, Assistant Professor, Research Lab on Augmentative and Alternative Communication in Autism Spectrum Disorder and Developmental Disability, University of Central Florida

Ex Officio Advisory Council Members

It started by answering a question.

In 1994, Purdue alumna Lorene Burkhart and a group of advocates worked to bring about change at Purdue – an interdisciplinary approach to research about families. Not just a department, but a community. Their actions ensured has ensured the center’s longevity for future generations. We are able to pursue projects when grants aren’t possible. The Center for Families still creates a patchwork of projects that serve to improve the quality of life for families in all their diverse forms.