Stephan Wilson, associate dean for academic affairs in the College of Health and Human Sciences, received the Jan Trost Award of the National Council on Family Relations (NCFR) International Section for lifetime contributions to cross-cultural and cross-national family study. Wilson received his award in November at the NCFR annual meeting in Pittsburg.
"Receiving this award is very affirming," Wilson said. "I feel so good investing in people and the programmatic ways it comes to fruition in their lives. These individuals can now go forth and touch other people's lives. They may be the instigators of spreading the discipline of family studies in their countries of origin. This will have a significant impact on how the discipline plays out internationally."
His latest research program has focused on adolescent social competence across cultures. The work examines family and other influences on youth connectedness and separateness, as well as required adult social skills, self-esteem and achievement. He has also studied rural and Appalachian families, cross-cultural families and family social capital influences on developmental and status-attainment outcomes. Wilson is the author of many papers and books and has presented his findings to national and international conferences.
"This is a nominated award and many of the people nominating me were my former international students," Wilson said. "The letters that were submitted brought a tear to my eye. These students have truly enriched my life."
In 2000 he was a visiting Fulbright Scholar in Kenya. Additionally he worked from 1976 until 1978 as a member of the Peace Corps.
"I visited Kenya for the first time in 1976," Wilson said. "While there I met, courted and married my wife. We worked at a bush high school for two years. The Kenyan people will tell you if you are born, married or die in Kenya then you are Kenyan. It is a country that I love dearly."
Over the years Wilson has had the good fortune to maintain connections across many, many years. He has also done scholarly work in relation to Kenya.
"I received an invitation to return to Kenya and work at a new university called Kenyatta University in Nairobi, more than 25 years after my first visit," Wilson said. "Kenyatta had a new department called family consumer sciences that had parallel components to the college I was working at in Kentucky."
While at Kenyatta Wilson seized the opportunity to contribute to an indigenous family scholarship and collected data from the slopes of Mt. Kenya on adolescent social competence.
"Adolescent social competence is understanding what it takes to move from the second decade of life; the teen years, to the third decade of life; adulthood," Wilson said.
Adolescent social competence has three main components which include: achieving at a relatively high rate. This concept includes the skills needed to be a successful adult. The second component is related to having some kind of connection. For example, some cultures are very collectivist and some are more individualistic. The third component has to do with an individual's ability to socially place themselves.
"As individuals make this transition from the second decade to the third decade they are seen as more and more competent by their communities."
Wilson was recognized as a National Fellow at the 2006 NCFR. The National Fellow recognition is given for career achievement and service in the field of family studies, as well as, contributions to NCFR. The National Fellow award is given to less than one percent of the NCFR membership.
"This was an affirming award because it recognizes that I have made an impact on my field in terms of scholarship and service to the organization," Wilson said.
Wilson has served as chair of the National Council on Family Relations international section, its international program match and program planning committees, and as co-chair of the organization's rural families focus group.
He has served on the editorial board and as a guest editor for Marriage and Family Review and the editorial board for Family Relations.
Wilson is also the author of two books titled, "Parent and Child Relations in Cross-Cultural Perspective" and "Families in a Global Context: Cultural and International Perspectives."
Beyond the National Council on Family Relations, Wilson is a member of Phi Kappa Phi, the Society for Research on Adolescence, the International Society for the Study of Personal Relationships, the American Association for Family and Consumer Sciences, the American Association for the Advancement of Science and Omicron Nu.