2022 NCFR Conference Plenaries

Meet Our Plenary Presenters

2022 Plenary Presenters

Read more below about each presentation.


Wednesday Plenary: Nov. 16


Sponsored by University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Department of Human Development and Family Studies

Kao Kalia Yang, M.F.A.
How Stories Build Lives

Kao Kalia Yang

Award-winning Hmong American author Kao Kalia Yang will reflect on the power of stories in her journey as a writer from a refugee community, the ways in which narratives have shaped her identity as a daughter, sister, wife, mother, and as artist, teacher, and public speaker. Ms. Yang's work builds on the legacy of memories, challenges us to reflect deeply on who owns a memory, who accesses them, and asks us how our most powerful memories can alter not only the shape of our lives but the ways in which we engage with a bigger world. In the words of her poet father, Ms. Yang belongs to a people whose gifts to the world consist of words and tears. It is through this lens that Yang will share her remarks.

Learning Objectives
Participants will be able to:

  1. engage with a Hmong American perspective on the meaning of story and its impacts on worldview;
  2. reckon with the fact that we live in a world that is constantly creating more refugees;
  3. tangle with notions of home and belonging; and
  4. reflect on one’s own personal stories as both inheritance and pathways to the future and others.

Kao Kalia Yang, M.F.A., is the Edelstein-Keller Writer in Residence at the University of Minnesota’s Master of Fine Arts program. She earned her master's in creative nonfiction writing from Columbia University's School of the Arts. She is the author of the memoirs The Latehomecomer: A Hmong Family Memoir, The Song Poet, and Somewhere in the Unknown World: A Collective Refugee Memoir. Ms. Yang is also the author of the children’s books A Map Into the World, The Shared Room, The Most Beautiful Thing, Yang Warriors, and From the Tops of the Trees. She co-edited the ground-breaking collection What God is Honored Here?: Writings on Miscarriage and Infant Loss By and For Native Women and Women of Color. Ms. Yang’s work has been recognized nationally by the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Chautauqua Prize, the PEN USA literary awards, and the American Library Association, among others. Learn more at kaokaliayang.com.


Thursday Plenary: Nov. 17

Yasser A. Payne, Ph.D.
Surviving "Murder Town USA": Coping With Homicide, Structural Violence, and Activism in a Small Urban Black City

Yasser Payne, Ph.D.

“Murder Town USA” highlights how a street participatory action research (Street PAR) program trained a set of street-identified Black men and women to examine and do activism on gun violence in Wilmington, Delaware. Over a 10-year period and four studies, this Street PAR program in Wilmington examined how race, ethnicity, gender, and the structural violence complex, has deeply informed a street identity and especially gun violence.

Drawing on large community samples of survey and interview data, we learned how street-identified Black men and women utilize personal resilience as well as family and community well-being to navigate the treacherous trappings of poverty, police and prison, poor schooling and housing conditions, and gun violence. This presentation addresses how and why aspirations of a family are pursued by men and women raised in communities rocked by dis-opportunity and gun violence.

The voices most likely to perpetuate and be victimized by gun violence is what’s missing most from discussions on gun violence. It is only through and with the streets that it is possible to stop the violence and improve family cohesion in poor neighborhoods. Implications on how Street PAR was used as an individual and structural intervention will also be discussed.

Learning Objectives
Participants will learn about:

  1. resilience in street-identified Black men and women;
  2. the reframing of homicide and structural violence; and
  3. the power or street participatory action research (Street PAR).

Yasser A. Payne, Ph.D., is a professor of sociology in the Department of Sociology and Criminal Justice and the Department of Africana Studies at the University of Delaware. Dr. Payne completed his doctoral work at the Graduate Center-City University of New York where he was trained as a social-personality psychologist. Also, he completed a NIDA/NIH funded post-doctoral fellowship in public health at Hunter College where he worked on re-entry project with male adolescents in Rikers Island. Dr. Payne’s street ethnographic research program examines notions of resilience, structural violence and gun violence with street-identified Black Americans by drawing on an unconventional methodological framework entitled: Street Participatory Action Research (Street PAR)—the process of doing research and activism with street identified populations. Presently, he leads two Street PAR projects on gun violence in the city of Wilmington, Delaware, and a national Street PAR project in the cities of Baltimore, Detroit, New Orleans, and Brooklyn. Learn more at thepeoplesreport.com.


Friday Plenary: Nov. 18

Texas Tech HDFS 2020
University of Georgia

Sponsored by

Texas Tech University Department of Human Development and Family Sciences

Department of Human Development and Family Science at the University of Georgia

Deadric T. Williams, Ph.D.
Bringing Racism out of the Shadows in Family Science

Deadric Williams, Ph.D.

Critical and comprehensive theoretical frameworks connecting racism, race, and racial inequality are absent in family research. For instance, conventional research on racial variations in family formations and family processes is often reduced to simple average differences without contextualizing racialized groups as political, social, and historical categories. Even more, the term "family" in family scholarship appears to be shorthand for "White families" whereas the use of "race" is shorthanded for "minority families." The purpose of this presentation is twofold: (1) to critique the conventional use of race in family scholarship and (2) to present a path forward by centering how, and in what ways, racism maintains racial inequality in family life.

Learning Objectives
Participants will be able to:

  1. differentiate between racial essentialism and the social construction of race;
  2. understand the importance of historical context and adaptive strategies in response to omnipresent systems of oppression, exclusion, and domination; and
  3. feel motivated and inspired to execute novel research on persistent racial inequality among families.

Deadric T. Williams, Ph.D., is an assistant professor in the department of sociology at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. He received his Doctorate of Sociology from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL). During his time at UNL, he received the American Sociological Association’s minority fellowship. Dr. Williams’ research agenda covers two general themes: (1) stress and health among couple dyads, (2) racism and families. His current research on racism and families uses critical race theory as a theoretical perspective to challenge conventional sociological research on racial economic inequality among families. His second line of research examines stress and health as a longitudinal and dyadic process among couples. Dr. Williams’ research has been published in Social Problems, Population Research and Policy Review, Issues in Race & Society, Journal of African American Studies, Personal Relationships, Society & Mental Health, and American Journal of Human Biology, among others. Learn more at deadricwilliams.wordpress.com.


Saturday Plenary: Nov. 19

Utah State

Sponsored by Utah State University

Derek Peterson, M.Ed.
Playing With Light: Making the Invisible Visible

Derek Peterson, M.Ed.

Great art, we are told, is in the eyes of the beholder. By the same measure, we are all beholden to our own worldview. The way we understand ourselves, our work, our families, and our relationships, is through a personal canvas we have painted over the course of our lives. These worldviews are difficult to alter, and it may feel like we must paint over our canvas to understand another person’s perspective. In this plenary, Derek Peterson will use his innovative and individualized teaching methods to open attendees’ eyes to other worldviews and help us paint a better canvas in their lives. This integrative approach will help attendees in their work to understand youth development through an artistic lens and, in turn, strengthen families. It is only once we can see the full palette of colors available to us, and have mastery of the ways to paint, that we can truly make the invisible visible when it comes to families.

Learning Objectives
Participants will be able to:

  1. experience a unifying story to see complex human systems;
  2. Write their full color narrative from their own personal experience;
  3. measure parts of their full color narrative through the Support Card™; and
  4. teach others to see through a full color human development lens.

Derek Peterson, M.Ed., is the founder and Principal Director of the Institute for Community and Adolescent Resilience – Unifying Solutions (ICAR-US), the home of the Student Support Card™, a comprehensive program that measures the “other side of the report card.” Mr. Peterson works with local, state, national, and international governing boards, policymakers, and program leaders to measure the impact of their efforts upon the developmental ecology of youth. Peterson was named Alaska Educator of the Year in 2001 and Alaska’s Prevention Professional of the Year in 2002 for his work with children, youth, and families and seeing kids in full color. Harvard's Education Review highlighted Mr. Peterson as one of America's Champions for students. He has numerous books that are individualized for the communities with whom he works, including his most recent books Building Webs of Support—The PHlight Club Way and Web Weavers Louisville. He holds a master’s degree in education from Northern Arizona University. Learn more at ICAR-US.com.