Lindsay Chase-Lansdale: ‘A Builder, Connector, Mentor’

Lindsay Chase-Lansdale: ‘A Builder, Connector, Mentor’

chase-lansdale.pngNorthwestern University’s Lindsay Chase-Lansdale has profoundly shaped the field of developmental psychology and the people working in it, a panel of top scholars said during a recent celebration of her scholarship at Annenberg Hall.

An expert on research and social policy related to children and families, Chase-Lansdale’s stellar career was celebrated by colleagues, family, friends, mentees, and collaborators from her four-decade-long career.

Speakers included Northwestern’s Sandy Waxman, the Louis W. Menk Professor of Psychology; Jeanne Brooks Gunn, the Virginia and Leonard Marks Professor of Child Development at Columbia University's Teachers College; Linda Burton, Eugene and Rose Kleiner Chair for the Study of Processes, Practices and Policies in Aging and dean of the School of Social Welfare at the University of California, Berkeley; Lauren Wakschlag, director of the Institute for Innovations in Developmental Sciences (Dev-Sci) and Vice Chair, Department of Medical Social Sciences at Northwestern; and Natalia Palacios, associate professor in the School of Education and Human Development at the University of Virginia.

“Lindsay is an anchor, a shining light, a touchstone, a champion, a cheerleader, a scientist, a scholar, and a strategic guide,” said Wakschlag, who co-founded the Dev-Sci Institute with Chase-Lansdale, Waxman and others. “She innovates and inspires. Her network and heart are so big; we all feel lucky to be a part of it. She never lets us stop dreaming. And somehow when we're done, those dreams come true.”

Chase-Lansdale, professor emerita at the School of Education and Social Policy and the Frances Willard Professor of Human Development and Social Policy, came to Northwestern in 1999 from the University of Chicago where she had been a tenured associate professor at the Harris School of Public Policy. She effectively worked to redefine the field in a staggering number of ways, mentoring others, and bringing together previously disconnected disciplines of research.

A specialist on societal issues that affect families and children from less advantaged backgrounds, Chase-Lansdale has published widely on child and adolescent development; family studies; two-generation education programs and policy; poverty and social inequality; mothers’ employment; immigration; and the resilience of children and parents facing economic hardship.

She has been particularly interested in the mentoring of students of color, first-generation and low-income students, and fostering the careers of Northwestern’s faculty, especially female faculty, faculty of color, and LGBTQ faculty.

David Figlio, former dean of the School of Education and Social Policy, credited Chase-Lansdale with changing his research trajectory. “Lindsay is a visionary and a true builder of institutions and humans,” said Figlio, now provost at the University of Rochester. “She connects new units and groups of people who hadn’t previously been talking, and her ability to execute a vision has built a generation of scholars.”

One of the first to train across disciplines, Chase-Lansdale infused policy into the Society for Research and Child Development and graduate and postdoctoral programs. She developed a coding system to look at parenting and grandparenting in young Black multigenerational families with Wakschlag and Brooks-Gunn, and she helped incorporate nationally representative longitudinal datasets into the field of developmental psychology also with Brooks-Gunn.

She also fiercely rallied for inclusiveness in the NIMH Family Research Consortium and for bringing in more postdoctoral students of color, Burton said. “She was always professional, but she didn't mince words when it came to focusing on integration of the consortium,” Burton said. “It was a game changer for scientists of color at the time.”

Her visionary initiatives and institutes include:

  • The Institute for Innovations in Developmental Sciences (Dev-Sci): Established in 2016, the Dev-Sci Institute examines psychological and physical health–from the prenatal period to the end of life­­–by combing insights from biomedical and social developmental sciences communities. Chase-Lansdale and Waxman are leaders and strategic advisors for the Institute, directed by Wakschlag. Today it has nearly 300 faculty across Northwestern’s schools as well as students from multiple training programs sharing research and building bridges to Lurie Children's Hospital and other services, where the research is put into practice. "She taught me how to take big ideas at the intersection of policy and development and put them into action with rigor, said Wakschlag, who was Chase-Lansdale’s first PhD student at the University of Chicago. “Then she'd go really into the weeds. How do you carry it out? She taught me–and so many of us–how to do rigorous science without compromising the highest standards.”
  •  Northwestern’s Two-Generation Research Initiative (NU2GEN): Chase-Lansdale was one of the first to define and research two-generation education programs for low-income families, which combine education for children and youth with workforce training for their parents at the same time. “Her team’s findings demonstrated these programs can expand opportunities and culminated in a whole new field,” Waxman said. Northwestern’s Two-Generation Initiative is co-led by Chase-Lansdale and research associate professor Teresa Eckrich Sommer. “Back in the 1990s, when no one was thinking about this, she believed that mothers’ education and economic opportunities are linked to how her child learns and grows,” Wakschlag said. “At the time there were chasms between the disciplines. But Lindsay had the vision to bring them together.”
  • Cells to Society (C2S): the Center on Social Disparities and Health: Chase-Lansdale was founding director of C2S at the Institute for Policy Research, where she is a faculty fellow emerita. Cells to Society brought together experts in the biomedical, life, and social sciences to examine the causes and consequences of how everyday experiences “get under the skin” to affect health.

In 2013, Chase-Lansdale became associate provost for faculty and later began serving as Northwestern’s first-ever vice provost for academics. There, she focused on faculty development, leadership, and well-being in addition to faculty diversity and inclusion, multidisciplinary research initiatives, and helping students from all backgrounds succeed. In appreciation for her service as associate provost for faculty and vice provost for academics from 2013-2020, the Provost established in 2020 the P. Lindsay Chase-Lansdale Undergraduate Summer Research Grant in Social Policy for Children and Families.

A fellow of the National Academy of Education, the American Psychological Association, and the Association for Psychological Science, as well as Ascend at the Aspen Institute, she has been recognized by the Society for Research on Adolescence’s Social Policy Award and the Society for Research in Child Development’s Award for Distinguished Contributions to Public Policy for Children.

“The School of Education and Social Policy was lifechanging,” Chase-Lansdale said. “I have been part of a scholarship community with psychologists, economists, experts in education, sociologists, political scientists, where I had the opportunity to teach, advise, and learn. In addition, I feel fortunate to have been part of a wonderful University where everyone works to make it a stronger institution.”

Natalia Palacios (PhD09), a first-generation scholar who met Chase-Lansdale in 2003 while applying for graduate school, calls her a “lifelong mentor.”  In addition to one-on-one meetings and careful attention to writing and editing, Chase-Lansdale has included junior scholars in her vast networks that stretched around the world.

“Lindsay made it clear that she valued our ideas,” Palacios said. “But what I learned from Lindsay is that being a mentor means being generous and collaborative, supporting those coming behind you, and encouraging them to be brave and dream big.”

By Julie Deardorff
Last Modified: 8/27/22