From the Director: Welcome to Intersections

Frances Horowitz and Dick Schiefelbusch
Frances Horowitz and Richard "Dick" Schiefelbusch

The work we do at the Life Span Institute seeks to make a positive and meaningful impact on society by improving the well-being of its people.  One lesson I’ve learned serving as Director of this unit for the last decade has been that the execution of this mission comes down to the individuals (scientists, postdocs, students, and yes, even research administrators) who conduct this work.  In keeping with the theme of individuals making a difference, I will welcome you to our first edition of Intersections by highlighting the lives of two individuals who have made a tremendous difference and who are in large part responsible for the success of KU and the Life Span Institute that continues to this day.

Sixty years ago, Frances Degen Horowitz and Richard “Dick” Schiefelbusch arrived at a common vision in promoting research aimed directly at improving the well-being of vulnerable or at-risk populations in the US and around the world.

They conspired to embed this vision within the nascent Bureau of Child Research, and populated the Bureau with scientists who shared this goal.  This vision was radical and innovative, and it presaged the later emergence of concepts in the philosophy of science and education (e.g., translational research, use-inspired basic research, community-engaged research, service learning).  In so doing, they firmly rooted the Bureau, which evolved into the Life Span Institute, and the University of Kansas as a national hub for research on human development, language, learning, and intellectual and developmental disabilities.  

Over the past year, we lost both Frances and Dick, but their vision remains in the continued mission of the Life Span Institute.  As I reflect on their passing, I’m saddened that many of the scientists who now live and work at the Life Span Institute never got the chance to meet (much less work with) either of these individuals, and may not even be aware of their history and contribution.  

And so, I am taking the opportunity to introduce this first issue of Intersections by reminding everyone of the contribution of these two individuals; every day that we remain committed to this work, we honor the vision of Dick Schiefelbusch and Frances Horowitz.  Through Intersections, we hope to highlight the work of those individuals whose goal is to make lasting and positive differences in the lives of others.

John Colombo, PhD

Professor of Psychology

Director, Schiefelbusch Institute for Life Span Studies

Interim Dean, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences


More from this issue

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Community-KU Collaboration Aims to Reduce Youth Violence

It can be difficult for young people to navigate and receive support after a violent incident, and that can lead to further violence. A hospital-based intervention program provides support to young victims of violence in hopes of reducing the reverberating effects.
Stylized DNA strand

Grant Focuses on Identifying Genetic Pathways for Language Disorder

For some children, language development can be delayed, even when there is no clear evidence of neurological, sensory intellectual, or emotional problems. To study the genetics of specific language impairment, M. Hashim Raza has been awarded a three-year grant focused on extended families in Pakistan.
Just Ask: Be Different, Be Brave, Be You, a book in English and in Spanish

Serving the Needs of Bilingual Children

Xigrid Soto-Boykin of Juniper Gardens Children's Project merges bilingualism, early literacy, and language development to fuel research aimed at improving the educational outcomes for young bilingual children in the U.S.