ASU grad inspired by fatherhood to research child development


Cullin Howard

Photo courtesy of Cullin Howard

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Editor's note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable spring 2021 graduates.

When Cullin Howard decided to major in family and human development, it came at a time in his life when he was looking for a more meaningful career than the path he was on. Growing up in a home that provided foster care for infants and toddlers, he’d gained a lot of experience with children from adverse backgrounds. Then as a young father, he became fascinated with different child outcomes and how home environments and family influences impact their development. He knew then that he wanted to pursue a career that would contribute to the research in this area.

Howard received the Anna and Don Kirkman Family Scholarship and the Fitch-Craig Scholarship. During his time at ASU he has participated in several projects including the SIBS program with Kimberly Updegraff and the Arizona Twin Project in the psychology department with Kathryn Lemery-Chalfant.

He was also awarded the Children’s Equity Project Undergraduate Scholar Award and summer internship, where he worked with research professionals in children’s education on various projects, including early child care disciplinary regulations.

He is graduating this spring with a degree in family and human development. We asked him a few questions about his experience here at ASU.

Question: What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you or changed your perspective?

Answer: The most influential information I learned at ASU would come from learning statistical methods and applying it to research. I found that the more I came to understand various analyses, I started to look at research questions and even social issues differently. The world is incredibly complicated and I have found it valuable to be able to carry a more nuanced view of any given issue rather than an overly simplistic one. I largely attribute this outlook to my statistical training at ASU.

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: I chose ASU mainly out of convenience. I am born and raised in Arizona so I was happy to find a school that was local and was excellent in the field I was looking to go into. 

Q: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU?

A: Dr. Spinrad is certainly one of the most influential professors I worked with. Her entire course on child development was remarkable, but especially her insights on caregivers teaching young children were very enlightening. I feel like I grew a lot as a father, but it also shaped what I wanted to focus on in my research.

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?

A: “Pursue what is meaningful, not what is expedient.” – Dr.  Jordan Peterson, "12 Rules for Life" 

Q: What was your favorite spot on campus, whether for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life? 

A: My favorite spot would have to be the little pathway behind the Piper Writers house. It has some benches that are nice and can feel a little secluded from the busy walkways. 

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: In this upcoming year I will be starting a graduate program at the University of Georgia, pursuing a PhD in human development and family science. I will be engaging in research that looks at the social and emotional development of children who have experienced early life adversity. 

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?

A: With $40 million I would not be able to solve the entirety of one problem but I would want to contribute to alleviating infant/child malnutrition in developing countries.

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