Jane Lanigan had an immersive education in public policy during her professional leave.
An associate professor of human development and extension specialist, she was a visiting scholar at the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Washington, D.C., where she met with many government and nonprofit entities involved with the issue she studies: childhood obesity.
The experience provided valuable information she is now sharing with human development students. “I learned a lot about the policy side,” Lanigan said. “I saw the political nature of how things work at the national level while moving policy forward, and saw how challenging that environment is.”
Last fall she sat on a review panel for grants in her field. She is now collaborating with another panel member, Samantha Ramsay of the University of Idaho.
They are applying to the National Institutes of Health for a grant to develop obesity prevention messaging for young children.
In the spring, Lanigan returned to Washington, D.C., for several national meetings with Head Start and other childcare programs. She made a presentation to Food and Nutrition Services and was asked to join its national technical advisory board.
Most fruitful, she said, were the connections she made through the Child Adult Care Food Program to disseminate her research results about healthy eating. CACFP is a USDA program that provides aid to childcare centers and family childcare homes to serve nutritious food.
As co-leader for the eXtension for Better Child Care, a national organization with several large military grants, Lanigan also traveled to Georgia on research for the U.S. Department of Defense. The Alliance is creating projects to support providers who care for the children of military members.
In addition, Lanigan was invited to visit the Children’s Health Research Center in Champaign-Urbana, Ill., and was invited to serve on an advisory board to help parents understand the effects of environmental pollution and toxins on young children.
Finally, Lanigan continued her ongoing research to develop curriculum around healthy feeding practices for parents and children. The curriculum is in efficacy trials in Tacoma and Yakima, Wash., and Houston.
She feels reinvigorated and is glad to be back in the classroom. In the day-to-day routine, she said, “it’s hard to engage in that more visionary thinking, and that’s what professional leave allows you to do.”