Brian G. Ogolsky and Jennifer L. Hardesty Appointed as 2026 NCFR Annual Conference Program Co-Chairs
SAINT PAUL, MINNESOTA — The National Council on Family Relations (NCFR) Board of Directors has appointed Brian G. Ogolsky, Ph.D., and Jennifer L. Hardesty, Ph.D., CFLE, to be conference program co-chairs for the 2026 NCFR Annual Conference, scheduled to be held in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Their primary duties include selecting the theme, identifying the plenary speakers, and preparing the call for abstracts for a particular year's conference.
As co-chairs, Dr. Ogolsky and Dr. Hardesty have proposed the 2026 conference theme: The Intended and Unintended Consequences of Legislating Relationships: Families at the Nexus of Law and Policy, intending to highlight the consequences, both intended and unintended, of legislating relationships, particularly as they pertain to families at the margins. Families, and the very individuals who make up those families, cannot be understood without the sociocultural context in which they exist. Within the sociocultural context are features such as race, culture, neighborhoods as well as legal and governmental policy systems that structure these contexts. The goal of their conference theme is to zero in on social context with a particular focus on law and policy as these contexts operate bidirectionally with families in a nearly continuous manner.
Dr. Ogolsky and Dr. Hardesty recognize the complex interplay between relationships, families, and law and policy. They endeavor to foster diverse, global, and critical perspectives on the processes and impacts of legislating relationships. Their ambition is to increase applications of Family Science and relationship science to law and policy arenas, which creates opportunity for engagement between researchers, practitioners, policymakers and lawmakers. The work that Dr. Ogolsky and Dr. Hardesty envision can benefit family policy for generations to come by enhancing the skills of students and new professionals as they too engage with the legislative process, as well as providing opportunities for learning about innovative research methods on law and policy. Additionally, they believe that “NCFR members and conference attendees will see new ways to bridge Family Science and law in their research, teaching, and activism toward the goal of improving the lives of diverse families.”
Dr. Ogolsky is a university scholar and professor in the department of human development and family studies at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. He is faculty affiliate with women and gender studies, family law and policy, and the center for behavioral and social science, as well as graduate adjunct with labor and employment relations. He graduated from Western Washington University with a bachelor’s degree in psychology and received both his master’s and doctorate in family studies and human development from the University of Arizona. He extended his training as a postdoctoral fellow in human development and Family Sciences at the University of Texas at Austin.
Dr. Ogolsky’s research examines romantic relationships across the life course, and how relationships and family life are influenced by law and policy. His work has potential to inform practitioners as well as advocate for and support family policy initiatives—enriching family dynamics.
Dr. Ogolsky’s NCFR membership includes several key leadership positions including serving as an elected member-at-large of the NCFR Board of Directors, Secretary/Treasurer of the Research and Theory section, and frequent presentations at annual conferences. He was also appointed a member of the editor search committee for the Journal of Family Theory and Review, and has served as a NCFR mentor. He is the current co-chair of the NCFR Fellows Committee and a member of the editorial boards of Journal of Family Theory and Review and Journal of Marriage and Family.
Dr. Hardesty is a professor in the department of human development and family studies at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. She is affiliate faculty with both family law and policy and the center for social and behavioral science. She graduated from Eastern Kentucky University with a bachelor's degree in sociology and received both her master’s and doctorate in human development and family studies from the University of Missouri. She extended her training as a postdoctoral fellow at Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing through a violence research training grant with the NIMH.
Dr. Hardesty’s research explores the intersections of intimate partner violence, relationship dissolution, and family courts/family law, with a particular focus on coercive control and the utility of distinguishing between types of violence. Her research can inform prevention and intervention efforts with abuse survivors navigating family courts and legal professionals working with families affected by violence.
Dr. Hardesty’s NCFR membership includes widespread leadership roles including serving as a member-at-large of the NCFR Board of Directors and frequent presentations at annual conferences. She has served as co-chair of the NCFR Fellows Committee, the editorial board for Family Relations and Journal of Family Theory and Review, and as an ad hoc reviewer for Policy Briefs and Journal of Marriage and Family. She was awarded NCFR Fellow Status in 2019
The National Council on Family Relations is the premier professional association for the multidisciplinary understanding of families. NCFR has a membership of nearly 3,000 family researchers, practitioners, and educators. For more information on the National Council on Family Relations or its scholarly publications, visit the NCFR website at ncfr.org.