Clancy Blair, PhD, MPH
Professor of Population Health
Department of Population Health NYU School of Medicine
Professor of Cognitive Psychology
Department of Applied Psychology NYU Steinhardt
Translational Research Bldg, New York, USA
Dr. Blair has been awarded the 2022 Rovee-Collier Mentor Award in recognition of the compassionate and committed nature of Clancy’s mentorship throughout his career. Clancy Blair’s profound impact on numerous rising scholars has enriched the future of Developmental Psychobiology.
Clancy has devoted his career to exceptional mentorship. Several themes are evident in the letters of support from Clancy’s mentees. First, Clancy is a fierce advocate of students’ research endeavors and professional goals. Clancy is tactfully able to make himself available to his students while supporting their journey to independence by equipping his students with the necessary tools to meet their goals. As a part of his mentorship, Clancy generously supports his students to attend numerous conferences, workshops, bootcamps, and summits. Through these experiences, Clancy’s mentees have been
able to learn from colleagues across disciplines and expand our wheelhouse of knowledge beyond NYU’s campus.
Second, Clancy encourages and believes in his students’ abilities. Each of his mentees
would agree that Clancy treats his students and post-docs with patience, kindness, and a desire to help them succeed. Clancy has the utmost confidence in each of his mentees. Through his confidence, it becomes easy to learn how to advocate for oneself in a field that is fraught with imposter syndrome. For example, by helping his trainees cultivate their own sense of confidence and competence, they have gone on to start their own nonprofits, transition into roles in government, or negotiate multiple academic job offers. Clancy allows his mentees the freedom to think beyond what can be traditionally accomplished with a PhD. Clancy also recognizes that his mentees are individuals outside of the lab. He has supported his students through various life transitions such as moving to a new location, transitioning to parenthood, and was a reliable source of support during the emotional turmoil of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Third, Clancy is an advocate of team science, and actively makes connections for his
mentees. A notable pattern that emerged from his mentees letters is Clancy’s commitment to collaborations for his students’ benefit. Whether to complete research projects that are aligned with his mentees goals or to write stellar publications, Clancy is proactive in connecting his students with his expert colleagues. In addition to connecting his students to colleagues outside of his lab, Clancy has a unique ability to create community within his lab. Relationships between lab membership, including students, post-docs, and staff run far beyond the walls of the lab. Many members of Clancy’s lab are lifelong friends and professional colleagues. This is a rare and highly admirable quality of an academic lab that can be attributed to Clancy’s dedication to a
“lab family”. Through this, much of Clancy’s mentees’ success can be attributed to the
collaborative and well-organized structure of mentorship within the lab.
Finally, Clancy has been committed to social justice throughout his career. Whether
participating in social justice public panels or disseminating his research to external outlets, Clancy proactively uses science as a force of good. Further, Clancy’s research pursuits are guided by a goal of making a difference in people’s lives, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds. This is evidenced throughout his long career of bringing science to the people – engaging with families in their homes, schools, and communities. This embodiment of science has trickled down to the members of his lab and will continue to live on through each of his mentees.
Professor Blair’s research primarily focuses on the development of self-regulation in young children with a specific focus on the development of executive functions. This research has demonstrated that executive functions are central to school readiness and school achievement, are substantially influenced by experience and the characteristics of the family and home environment, and highly interrelated with the regulation of the physiological response to stress. An important focus of this research is on the ways in which experience ‘gets under the skin’ to influence the development of executive functions through effects on stress physiology. This mechanism is one that appears to be particularly relevant to the effect of poverty on child development and may be one primary route through which childhood poverty exerts long-term effects on cognitive and social-emotional development throughout childhood.
Another focus of his research has been the conduct of randomized controlled trials of innovative programs designed to promote self-regulation in early childhood. Tests of the efficacy of these programs indicates that it is possible to enhance the development of self-regulation in early childhood and doing so can benefit children’s academic achievement and social-emotional development, particularly for children from low-income homes.
Carolyn Rovee-Collier (April 7, 1942 – October 2, 2014) was a Professor of Psychology at Rutgers University. She was a pioneer and an internationally renowned expert in cognitive development. Over the course of her distinguished career, Carolyn received numerous honors and awards including the Senior Scientist Lifetime Contribution Award from the International Society for Developmental Psychobiology. She was elected to The Society of Experimental Psychologists in 1999 and received that society’s prestigious Howard Crosby Warren Medal in 2003. Carolyn received a James McKeen Cattell Fellowship, a Medal for Distinguished Achievement from the Brown University Graduate School, and the biannual Award for Distinguished Scientific Contributions to Child Development from the Society for Research in Child Development. Her oral history has been recorded and placed in the public archive of The Society for Research in Child Development’s Oral History Project. Carolyn’s research on infant learning and memory received continuous NIH funding for over 35 years, including an NIMH MERIT Award and two successive NIMH Research Scientist Awards. She served for 18 years as Editor of Infant Behavior & Development in addition to serving as co-editor (with Lipsitt) of Advances in Infancy Research (Vols. 3–12), President of the International Society for Developmental Psychobiology, the International Congress of Infant Studies and the Eastern Psychological Association.
Carolyn was also a firm believer in serendipity. Her hallmark task, the mobile conjugate reinforcement paradigm, was developed as a means to settle her own fussy infant. While trying to write her dissertation, Carolyn used a hair ribbon to connect her son’s ankle to his overhead mobile. She stood by her son’s crib and watched as he quickly learned to control both the rate and vigor of the mobile’s movements by altering his foot kicks. Her first publication (Rovee & Rovee, 1969) set the stage for the uphill scientific battle that would dominate her career. Her demonstration of operant conditioning by very young human infants flew in the face of traditional Piagetian theory. Despite her rigorous experimental methods, it took years to get that paper published. Her subsequent work on infant long-term memory (Rovee & Fagen, 1976; Rovee-Collier, Sullivan, Enright, Lucas, & Fagen, 1980) was similarly controversial because it was inconsistent with the prevailing view that infant memory was poor. Her theoretical work presents a direct challenge to current neural models of memory development (Rovee-Collier & Giles, 2010; Rovee-Collier, Hayne, & Colombo, 2001).
Above all else, Carolyn was highly committed to training graduate students and other emerging researchers. Over the course of her career, she mentored dozens of PhD, master’s, and undergraduate research students. She taught them everything that they needed to know to succeed in their careers — for example, that spelling counts, and that just because a reviewer (or an editor) says something doesn’t make it so. Most importantly, she taught them that some battles are definitely worth fighting. Like any great coach, Carolyn pushed people to their limits, but she never asked more from others than she was willing to do herself. She was always the first person in the lab in the morning and the last one to leave. Working with Carolyn was a cross between boot camp and a luxurious bed and breakfast: She might keep you up working for 2 to 3 nights in a row, but during that time, she generously provided ample amounts of home cooking and southern hospitality. For those of us who had the privilege of working with her, Carolyn Rovee-Collier was always our staunchest critic and our fiercest ally. Speaking on behalf of her students, her postdocs, her colleagues, and her friends, it is safe to say that we all drew an immeasurable degree of personal and professional strength knowing that Carolyn was in our corner. The Carolyn Rovee-Collier mentorship ISDP Award celebrates this level of support in other exceptional ISDP mentors.
Rovee-Collier Mentor Award Winners: