Profile: Cassandra Kirkland
While she has only been at MSU a year, family life specialist Cassandra Kirkland is already making an impact on the health of communities across the state.
An assistant Extension professor in MSU's School of Human Sciences, Kirkland works directly with Extension agents to provide programming to age groups from middle childhood through the elderly years.
"For me, the beauty of my job is that it enables me to share research-based content related to family functioning with the general public," she said.
Originally from the Atlanta metro area, she received her bachelor's degree in child and family development from the University of Georgia and her master's and doctoral degrees in human development and family studies from Auburn University. She also holds a Certified Family Life Educator credential from the National Council on Family Relations.
She currently is codirecting a project with Lori Elmore-Staton called SHAPE CARE, or Sleep Hygiene and Parental Engagement: Children's Academic Readiness Enhancement, which offers research-based strategies for promoting children's academic readiness and family harmony. One of those strategies is developing bedtime routines to ease kids into sleep.
Kirkland also is working with Extension agents with the 13-part Relationship Smarts: Love U 2 program, a comprehensive approach to teenage pregnancy prevention. Not just health-based, the program looks at self-image, setting boundaries and other relationships skills, as well as dating violence prevention.
"The program equips teenagers with knowledge and skills that will aid them in making wise decisions about relationships," Kirkland said. "I'm very excited about the potential of this program."
With so many examples of unhealthy relationships these days, Kirkland works to change the way people view relationships.
"It's important to get that message out to youth. We need to foster them along to healthier relationships, because our relationships with others have an impact on our community," she said.
Most of all, Kirkland emphasizes the need for a strong level of attachment and friendship in a relationship.
"I try to help people focus on the value of healthy relationships," she said. "There is something that only human connection can add to one's quality of life."Writer: Margaret Kovar | Photo: Megan Bean
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