'Ann Masten views the world from a child's needs'

Patrick O'Leary

Professor Ann Masten of the University of Minnesota will receive an honorary doctorate for her research on resilience in young people and families. The presentation will take place during Erasmus University Rotterdam's 109th Dies Natalis with the theme: 'Resilient cities and societies for future generations'.

'Not investing in the next generation is immoral', is a quote by Ann Masten that has stuck with honorary promotor Loes Keijsers of Erasmus School of Social and Behavioural Sciences and sums up the scientist's motivations well. "By this she means that as adults today, we are responsible for providing young people with an environment in which they can grow up well," says the Clinical Child and Family Studies professor. "She views the world from the needs of a child. I am very inspired by that in my work and with me many others."

Ann Masten is a professor at the Institute of Child Development at the University of Minnesota. She also completed her PhD in clinical psychology at that university in 1981. Masten received the American Psychological Association Urie Bronfenbrenner award in 2014. She also holds the title of Regents Professor, a very prestigious recognition in the United States.

Lots of optimism

According to Keijsers, you cannot ignore Ann Masten's work when talking about resilience in young people. In her key work 'Ordinary Magic: Resilience Processes in Development' (cited 11604 times since 2001), there is a lot of optimism. Masten argues that resilience is present in all children, and that all children need encouragement and opportunities to succeed during their development. "A child who experiences something traumatic at home for example, is not immediately ruined, but can come back stronger. She has taught us to look at resilience differently and be more aware of the patterns behind that resilience."

During the corona pandemic, for instance, she conducted research to better understand resilience in families. "In doing so, she has an eye for the interplay of complex processes taking place at many levels." With those complex dynamics in mind, she also wants to look for solutions that can form the basis for policy. Keijsers: "What makes Masten's work so good is her thorough theoretical foundation. Other researchers can build on that and her work challenges them to steal other questions."

Serving the world

What Keijsers appreciates most in the honorary doctor is her serving role to the world. Masten is now 71 but is far from stopping, she knows. "Masten is one of the very biggest names in our field, but she is always approachable. When I told her about her honorary doctorate she immediately said: 'when I come to Rotterdam, I think it would be very nice to be able to talk to young researchers as well'. Someone who is so on a pedestal and yet remains so approachable is really a rare combination."

More information

Professor Ann Masten will receive her honorary doctorate on Tuesday 8 November during Erasmus University Rotterdam's 109th dies natalis with the theme: 'Resilient cities and societies for future generations'. Register for the ceremony

On Monday 7 November, Ann Masten is hosting a masterclass organised by the Erasmus Initiative Vital Cities and Citizens. This meeting on campus is open to all, but registration is required.

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The birthday, of Erasmus University Rotterdam on 8 November 2022 has as theme: 'Building Resilient and Inclusive Cities and Societies'.
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