News

JCFI: Collaborating to serve military, veteran families

The Military Family Research Institute (MFRI) and is committed to working with other organizations to better serve military members, veterans and their families. One of these partnerships is Joining Community Forces Indiana (JCFI).

JCFI is a collaboration among MFRI, the Indiana National Guard, and the national and state Departments of Veterans Affairs. JCFI educates nongovernmental organizations, departments of state government, corporations, policy makers, and local leaders, and works to build and maintain robust working relationships among Indiana communities.

For example, JCFI works with the Indiana judiciary, prosecutors, public defenders and communities to support veterans treatment courts (VTCs). VTCs are problem-solving courts that aim to help veterans with mental health or substance abuse issues and who face nonviolent criminal charges. There are more than 300 VTCs nationwide. The goal is to keep veterans with mental health or substance abuse issues out of the traditional justice system. The courts give these veterans treatment and tools for coping with their problems, and delay sentencing based on their success in treatment. Those who choose to participate receive mentoring and access to a wide variety of resources, including health and legal services.

Each VTC is part of its community’s justice system and often partners with local VAs and veterans’ organizations. That’s why JCFI is involved. JCFI helps support VTCs by educating community organizations and statewide leaders about the importance of the program.

 

 

Visualizing data and Measuring Communities

Measuring Communities is a social indicators initiative designed to help shape community efforts to support military and veteran families. This web-based tool assembles, makes available and visually represents data about the state of these families, which communities can use to identify and address gaps in services to better serve them. MFRI created this landmark initiative in partnership with the Purdue Center for Regional Development.

Student engagement at MFRI

MFRI’s internship opportunities offer Purdue University students the chance to earn course credits, build their resumes and enhance their knowledge. Interns and student workers participate on all MFRI teams as they learn about military members, veterans and their families. MFRI is proud to work in collaboration with Purdue departments to educate future leaders.

MFRI’s Focus Forward Fellowship serves women student veterans

MFRI’s 2018 Focus Forward Fellowship designed to build skills, leadership and a sense of community among women student veterans, will take place at Purdue University. The Fellowship takes place July 25–28, with Fellows traveling home on July 29th.

In 2017 two cohorts totaling 28 participants completed the Fellowship. One national cohort was open to women student veterans across the country, while a Colorado University-specific cohort took place in Fort Collins, Colorado. The 2017 program focused on refining the learning objectives from the 2016 pilot year. These objectives include building a community support network with peers in the Fellowship program, increased network-building, recognition and application of personal strengths and the integration of their veteran identity with other identities in their personal life.

Collectively among all the cohorts, the program has influences 41 women representing all five branches of service, 35 higher education institutions and 21 states. The fellows have an average GPA of 3.39 with the 2017 cohort being 19% STEM focused.

A 2017 Fellow said, “When this opportunity was presented, I felt like it was fate. Who better to progress women veterans than fellow women veterans?”

The 2018 Fellowship applications open in February.

MFRI research focuses on couple communication during deployment

Communication is key to relationship success, especially for intimate partners. To learn more about how deployments impact couples’ communication, MFRI researchers recruited 87 partners of deployed service members to complete daily diaries about their communication.

The research was conducted as part of MFRI’s Family Journeys study, designed to understand how families negotiate and manage changing family roles before, during and after deployment.

“Given developments in new media and social media, deployed service members and their at-home partners were often able to communicate regularly via phone and video calls during the Iran and Afghanistan conflicts,” said Steve Wilson, Purdue University professor of communication and MFRI faculty partner. “Our findings suggest that the key issue is not how often couples talk during deployment, but rather what they are saying and doing during their communication.”

Every evening for seven consecutive days, at-home partners described all of the day’s communication with their service member. They also described the level of connection they felt during the interaction. The MFRI team analyzed these reports and found indications that partners felt more connected to their service member when:

  • the service member provided them with higher levels of support; and
  • the couple made decisions together.

Couples also reported greater feeling of connection on specific days when partners and service members provided each other with more support than usual during phone or video calls.

According to Wilson, the research suggested several ways couples experiencing deployment could communicate effectively.

“Couples can help maintain their relationship by consistently offering each other support. At home partners can also involve the service member in key decisions without overburdening them,” he said. “Couples also need to recognize that they are going to have good and bad days. When their spouse or partner offers them less support than usual on a specific day, this probably reflects daily challenges and not a long-term change in their spouse.”

On the flip side, Wilson said, when at-home partners can offer meaningful support to their service member on a day when it is really needed, they feel especially connected. This is also true when their service member does the same for them.

During deployments, communication can fluctuate for a variety of reasons beyond a couples’ control (e.g. time zones, blackouts, lack of privacy).  The team says future research should explore how these fluctuations affect couples’ connection and strategies they might use to maintain their relationship during and after deployment.

MFRI is grateful to the couples who took part in this important research project. To learn more about its findings, read “Communication and connection during deployment: A daily-diary study from the perspective of at-home partners,” published in the Journal of Family Psychology.

Reference: Wilson, S. R., Marini, C. M., Franks, M. M., Whiteman, S. D., Topp, D., & Wadsworth, S. M. (2017). Communication and connection during deployment: A daily-diary study from the perspective of at-home partners. Journal of Family Psychology. Advance online publishing. doi: 10.1037/fam0000333

Student opportunities grow experience, knowledge

Are you thinking about a unique, challenging internship experience that offers an array of hands-on opportunities, college credit and a rewarding experience? MFRI is accepting interns for the upcoming spring semester within the External Relations, Family Support and Research teams. Internships are open to qualified Purdue students, especially those who are interested in serving military-connected families.

Students majoring in communication, human development and family studies and hospitality and tourism management majors are strongly encouraged to apply. An internship in External Relations internship provides a part-time, for-credit opportunity for undergraduate or graduate students in the Brian Lamb School of Communication, offering tailored communication experiences. Students will gain experience on social media and video production, web and print content creation, event management and copyediting. It is an excellent stepping stone for those seeking a career in public relations, event management, marketing or communications. For more information, contact Linda Hughes-Kirchubel.

If you’re seeking research-focused experience, consider applying for an internship assisting with the Family Journeys Study through HDFS 390/590. This course provides an opportunity for students to code tasks performed by the family members during interviews. Email Keisha Bailey or Christine McCall for more information.

The Family Support Team will be offering one full-time, 12-credit undergraduate internship through the Human Development and Family Studies program. The intern in this position will work with the Measuring Communities project and help collect important data to distribute to communities. While this internship is already filled for the spring semester, contact Kathy Broniarczyk for more information if interested in this opportunity for future semesters.

MFRI director receives Leadership in Action award

Shelley MacDermid Wadsworth, professor of human development and family studies and director of MFRI, was honored to receive Purdue’s Susan Bulkeley Butler Center Leadership in Action Award on Dec. 5.

The Leadership in Action Award recognizes Purdue faculty, staff, and students who have shown exemplary leadership within their areas of expertise.
Recipients must demonstrate:

  • Overarching commitment to launching tomorrow’s leaders by showing ongoing dedication to mentoring students, colleagues and/or peers to pursue excellence and fostering an atmosphere of cooperation and creativity that contributes to the efficiency and effectiveness of their peers.
  • Favorable representation of their department and the University, both on and off campus.
  • Skillful motivation, organization, dedication and/or influence within their area of research, discipline or other work.
  • Ongoing commitment to engagement at the local, state, national and/or global level.
  •  Active service to the campus community as well as national service to academic and/or professional organizations.

Three other Leadership in Action award honorees were recognized: Pamela Morris, Chanel Beebe and Michelle Ashcraft.

An analysis of National Guard post-deployment relationships

Individuals differ in the ways they typically cope with stressful life circumstances. Authors Christina M. Marini and Shelley MacDermid Wadsworth, who work at MFRI, and Sharon L. Christ, and Melissa M. Franks evaluated military couples and their coping strategies in relation to their psychological health during reintegration after deployment.

The article, published in the “Journal of Social and Personal Relationships” evaluated 175 National Guard couples who recently experienced deployment and addressed two main topics: (1) whether there were interactive associations among partners’ coping strategies and (2) whether service members’ level of combat exposure moderated any of these associations. The research showed that psychological health was positively associated with one’s own emotion expression and negatively associated with one’s own avoidance.

There was also a significant association between service members’ psychological health and their significant others’ emotion expression but only in the context of high combat exposure. The article is available through the publisher’s website.

Deadline extended for Focus Forward Fellowship

Military-connected women will travel to Indianapolis from throughout the nation to take part in the Focus Forward Fellowship program, a new initiative designed by the Military Family Research Institute at Purdue University to serve rising military-connected sophomores and juniors who are enrolled in four-year colleges and universities.

The deadline to apply for this program has been extended until Friday, June 24 at noon.

The program will be held Aug. 11-14 with an in-person workshop, followed by additional web-based activities scheduled throughout the 2016-2017 academic year.

During the free, weekend-long program, fellows will work together to increase personal effectiveness, building a potentially transformative community experience. The goal is for lessons learned with hands on training to translate to fellows’ home campuses and continue to impact them throughout their academic and professional careers.

“Eighty-two percent of post-9/11 female veterans joined the military to receive education benefits,” said Lauren Runco, MFRI’s director of education and employment. “We are committed to helping them build existing skills and transition to the next phase of their lives. I am so excited to see what our Fellows accomplish!”

Sponsorship opportunities for this fellowship are also available. To learn more, contact Jennifer Shirley at JTShirley@prf.org. For more information about the program, contact Runco at lrunco@purdue.edu or call 765-496-3403. Connect with MFRI on Twitter at @MFRIPurdue and use #FWDFellows to join the conversation.

Stand Down provides thanks, support for veterans

The Military Family Research Institute at Purdue University is pleased to announce the awarding of 11 community mobilization grants to organizations and family support groups across Indiana.

Organizations will use the grants to target issues such as homelessness, financial readiness and career support.

“Our goal is that these grants will help improve the quality of life and community supports for service members, veterans and their families,” said Martina Sternberg, director of community outreach at MFRI. “Applicants submitted impressive, quality proposals, which judges then scored. Our recipients received up to $2,500 each, but the amount varied.”

In 2015, MFRI awarded 25 grants ranging from $500-$2,500. These funds served more than 2,500 military-affiliated families in Indiana. Some of the proposals funded:

  • programming about financial literacy;
  • leadership training;
  • employment readiness; and
  • homeless and at-risk families.

Below is the award list of organizations and family support groups across Indiana.