Julia M. Braungart-Rieker
My journey at Notre Dame began when I interviewed here in November of 1991. Although the weather was formidable that day (snow already covered the ground and the Midwest winds gave a whole new meaning of the word “ blustering ” for me!), my overall impression of Notre Dame was one of warmth and hospitality. The many people whom I encountered that day—students, staff, faculty, and administrators—made me feel absolutely welcome, as if I already belonged here.
Feelings of such support have continued from that day forward. As an assistant professor for six years, I genuinely felt that I was provided with the opportunities needed to succeed in my research and teaching. Notre Dame protects assistant professors from having to engage in a lot of committee work so I felt like I had the needed space and time to move my program of research forward and to develop my teaching skills in this early phase of my career.
As a developmental psychologist, I was also able to work with some amazingly bright and dedicated undergraduate and graduate students who helped me launch my first longitudinal project—a study that provided my students and me with rich and interesting data for several years to come. In my lab, we focus on questions about why some infants develop more effective ways to handle their emotions than others. We rely on careful observational techniques to gain a better understanding of the ways infants and young children respond to emotionally-laden situations, and how both mothers and fathers respond to their infants when they are expressing emotions. Without my students’ assistance and insights, I might still be reviewing those videotapes to this day!
Over that same time period, my personal life was rapidly evolving. My husband Joe and I had our first child, Ryan, in 1995, and our second child, Megan, in 1997. Balancing work and family life has not always been easy; it is surely a process that most working parents find to be challenging. But Notre Dame provides the type of atmosphere that is conducive for those striving to find a healthy balance between professional and personal life.
After having received tenure and promotion to associate professor in 1998, I felt that it was my turn to start providing the same type of support and assistance to others that I had received. I began getting more involved with committees and truly appreciated, perhaps for the first time, that there is a good deal of work—planning, discussion, and action—that goes into making Notre Dame so special.
What is so exciting about Notre Dame is that it continues to find ways to stretch and improve. I found that being directly involved with providing input into how we as a university, college, or department might grow was quite rewarding. In 2003, I had the opportunity to become even more directly involved with providing service to the university by serving as an associate dean in the College of Arts and Letters. My titles and responsibilities changed during the four-year period, seemingly on an annual basis, which made for some challenging but exciting moments! But I truly enjoyed getting to know my colleagues across the 20 or so disciplines in Arts and Letters and being able to work with them to help find effective ways to achieve their own professional goals or those of a program that they were directing. I also enjoyed meeting job candidates across the various fields, who much like myself a dozen years earlier, were experiencing Notre Dame (and sometimes its “interesting” weather patterns!) for the first time.
I currently hold a different administrative position as the Director of the Center for Children and Families, which is a relatively new but very exciting interdisciplinary research center whose faculty investigate issues that are relevant to the well-being of children and families. We have faculty studying the effects of poverty on children’s health and well-being, how interventions can help couples who struggle with marital conflict or parents who are at risk for neglecting their young children, why some people age more successfully than others, and many more exciting and important topics. I find that my own research and teaching interests are enriched as I learn more about the great work already underway or soon to be underway at the Center for Children and Families, here at Notre Dame.
Julia Braungart-Rieker is a developmental psychologist whose research focuses on social and emotional development during infancy and early childhood. In particular, she is interested in the development of children’s abilities to regulate and manage emotions. Using longitudinal designs, she examines the extent to which children’s characteristics (e.g., temperament), parenting practices, the spousal relationship, and the fathers’ role in the family relate to outcomes such as children’s ability to manage distress, parent-child attachment security, and children’s social competence. One of her current research projects, funded by the National Institutes of Health, is a longitudinal study that focuses on tracking individual changes in infants’ abilities to regulate their emotions and the factors that help explain why some children have a harder time managing their emotions than others. Her publications have appeared in Child Development, Developmental Psychology, Family Psychology, Applied Developmental Psychology, Infancy, and other scholarly outlets. Braungart-Rieker is also the Director of the Center for Children & Families.