Focus on Faculty
Jay Mancini, the Haltiwanger Distinguished Professor at UGA, and his students are conducting research that seeks solutions to the challenges that families face.
Where did you earn degrees and what are your current responsibilities at UGA?
I received a bachelor of arts degree from The King’s College in New York in 1971, a master of science degree from Kansas State University in 1974 and a Ph.D. in human development and family science from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro in 1977. I am the Haltiwanger Distinguished Professor at UGA and head of the department of human development and family science. I am also director of the UGA Family and Community Resilience Laboratory in the College of Family and Consumer Sciences.
When did you come to UGA and what brought you here?
I began my UGA appointment in December of 2009, after having been on the Virginia Tech faculty for 32 years. I came to UGA because of the stellar reputation of the university and of the College of Family and Consumer Sciences. I was recruited by Dean Laura Jolly, now UGA Vice President for Instruction.
What are your favorite courses and why?
I enjoy teaching courses on family theories and courses that show the intersections between vulnerabilities that families experience and the resilience that is found in families.
What interests you about your field?
The human development and family science field centers on issues that permeate all of our lives. It is a field that is rich in theory, uses cutting-edge methods of studying families and that strives to provide solutions to everyday life challenges that family members face. For example, the Family and Community Resilience Laboratory is studying military family systems, including parents and their adolescents. Supporting military members and their families is a critical issue in today’s world. But in addition, studying these families gives us insight into how to understand and support many other kinds of families, for example immigrant families. Much of our work examines the intersections of families and communities, and because of that we end up researching a host of significant issues, including health and well-being, community responses to natural and person-made disasters, and homelessness.
What are some highlights of your career at UGA?
I am pleased with the Family and Community Resilience Laboratory that we have established. It is well known at the federal level for conducting applied research that informs prevention and intervention programs. There are now 15 professionals associated with the lab, including seven doctoral students, two post-doctoral fellows, two research scientists and two research professionals.
How does your research or scholarship inspire your teaching, and vice versa?
Inquiry permeates my teaching world, as well as my research world.
What do you hope students gain from their classroom experience with you?
More than anything I hope they become more critical thinkers and better at integrating seemingly disparate pieces of information that form a coherent understanding of families, including the individuals that comprise them, and the communities that surround them.
Describe your ideal student.
A student that is open to learning, who comes to class prepared and who cares about making a difference for families.
Favorite place to be/thing to do on campus is…
My spouse, Deborah, and I really enjoy the gymnastics events, the Georgia Museum of Art and events at the UGA Performing Arts Center.
Beyond the UGA campus, I like to…
sample the many grand restaurants in Athens, as well as visit nearby towns such as Madison. I wish I could take advantage of more of the musical events in Athens, but it seems many of them start far too late for me.
Community/civic involvement includes….
We attend many university events, sometimes in the capacity of representing my department or my college, other times as donors to the university
Waking Ned Devine is a fantastic film set in Ireland. It is one of the few I have purchased and watch from time to time. I am an avid reader, often focused on Ben Franklin, Thomas Edison or Albert Einstein. I am also fascinated with books by Erik Larson (such as In the Garden of Beasts) and The immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot.
Proudest moment at UGA?
I really enjoy the many UGA traditions and the significance of the university in Georgia history. I am proud to be a member of the UGA and the Athens communities. I enjoy supporting the many smart and committed students we have at UGA; being a small part of their success is very rewarding.
What else can you tell us about yourself?
International travel is very important to me, as are the personal and professional relationships that have developed as a result. I have close colleagues in Italy, Ireland, England and Canada, and collaborate with them through research and other professional activities. My wife, Deborah, and I have three children, all with degrees from universities in Virginia. Nathan is with Marriott but his true love is the world of gourmet foods; David is studying at university of Freiburg, Germany; Suzanne is currently in San Francisco. Deborah is a research scientist at UGA’s Center for Family Research and also has externally funded projects on military personnel and families.