2021 NCFR Conference Program Highlights

Presenters at Plenaries and Special Sessions

Watch this page for more information about featured conference sessions.

2021 Plenary Presenters

Special Session

Read more below about each presentation.


Andrea Hunter

Opening Plenary: Wednesday, Nov. 3

Andrea G. Hunter

The Shadow of Suns: Paradigmatic Rifts and the Theoretical Legacies of the Black Struggle in Family Science 

In John Gwaltney’s Drylongso: A Self Portrait of Black America (1980), Ruth Shays, an elderly woman, begins her narrative “I think there is more talking around what Black people are than there is talking about what we are.” For more than a century, African American developmental and family scholars have sought to juxtapose black life against its representations in the American public imagination. These scholars, by necessity, also exposed the interconnections between knowledge, power, and ideas, and the racial politics of epistemology. To reveal the humanity of a people for whom it was denied, would require new and re-fashioned theoretical and interpretive tools, and the paradigmatic rifts that resulted would be transformative. This plenary address highlights these paradigmatic rifts and their theoretical legacies in Family Science, as well as what the pain, joy, struggle, and faith of Black folk reveal.

Andrea G. Hunter, Ph.D., is a professor in the Department of Human Development and Family Studies and a Chancellor’s Fellow for Campus Climate at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro. She received her doctorate from Cornell University in human development and family studies. Dr. Hunter’s research focuses on African American families and tackles questions central to public debates about the functioning of these families. These include the study of gender constructions and relations, family structure, social capital/networks, extended families, and family history.


Thursday Plenary: Nov. 4

Patricia Matthews-Juarez

Patricia Matthews-Juarez

Emerging Shapes of Families: The Challenge Toward Family and Social Equity

From a social behavioral perspective, this plenary session will focus on the transformation of the traditional Black family structure as impacted by homelessness and inclusion of fluid gender identity. It will explore how the new emerging structure is changing the ways in which we, as a society must think, act, and plan about marriage and relationships. Using the family system theory, the session will offer a systematic perspective for fluidity of the Black family structure. In conclusion, the session will posit contributions to the common good through contextual influences, social equity, and social justice. The session will use the “traditional” Black family structure as the metaphor for why the new emerging family structure will endure.

Patricia Matthews-Juarez, Ph.D., is the senior vice president for strategic initiatives and innovation and professor in the Department of Family and Community Medicine at Meharry Medical College. She is also the director of the Research Training Core for the Health Disparities Research Center of Excellence at Meharry. Dr. Matthews-Juarez participates with transdisciplinary and translational teams of scientists interested in exploring the role of epigenetics in chronic diseases and health disparities. Additionally, she works with community organizations and agencies to bring about social equity around social determinants of health. Recently, her research work has been focused on the inclusion of vulnerable populations (LBGTQ, persons experiencing homelessness, and migrant farm workers) in the training of medical students.


Closing Plenary: Friday, Nov. 5

Camara Jones

Health Disparities, COVID-19, and Advocacy

Camara Jones

Dr. Camara Jones, M.D., M.P.H., Ph.D., is the research director on social determinants of health and equity in the Division of Adult and Community Health, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. She also is a senior fellow at the Satcher Health Leadership Institute and the Cardiovascular Research Institute in the Morehouse School of Medicine and past president of the American Public Health Association. As a family physician and epidemiologist, her contribution to the conference aligns with the sustainable conference goal of highlighting innovative, culturally variant, and strength-based research that promotes hope, happiness, agency, and resilience in the face of health disparities.


Special Session: Thursday, Nov. 4

Andrea G. Hunter
Patricia Matthews-Juarez
Camara Jones

Suzanne Randolph Cunningham

Suzanne Randolph Cunningham

Suzanne Randolph Cunningham, Ph.D., is chief science officer, senior research scientist, and director of continuing education of MayaTech. She is associate professor emerita of Family Science at the University of Maryland School of Public Health. Dr. Randolph Cunningham has over 35 years of methodological expertise in survey, experimental, and evaluation research designs applied to the study of social and human services, and public health programs and policies.