The Kathleen Christensen Dissertation Award

This award recognizes a recent graduate of a doctoral program who has already made a significant contribution to the work and family knowledge base. The Kathleen Christensen Dissertation Award has been created to encourage doctoral candidates and early career scholars to reach for/achieve high and rigorous standards of research relevant to the work and family area of study. It provides financial support to help a promising work-family scholar to initiate post-dissertation research.  This award is co-sponsored and co-selected by the Work and Family Researchers Network and the Society for Human Resource Management. This award is made possible by generous support from the Northrop Grumman Corporation, the Families and Work Institute, the SHRM Foundation, SHRM’s National Study of the Changing Workforce, and the Work and Family Researchers Network members.

Honoring Kathleen Christensen   

Kathleen Christensen directs the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation’s Working Longer program. Dr. Christensen currently serves as co-President of WFRN. Previously, Christensen established and spearheaded the Sloan Foundation’s Workplace, Work Force and Working Families program. Under her leadership, the foundation has been credited as a driving force in creating the field of work-family research and with launching a national movement to make workplace flexibility a compelling national issue and the standard of the American workplace. Dr. Christensen planned and participated in the 2010 White House Forum on Workplace Flexibility, as well as the 2014 White House Summit on Working Families.

In 2010, Dr. Christensen was named by Working Mother magazine as one of the, “Seven Wonders of the Work-Life Field”. In 2004, she was awarded the inaugural Work-Life Legacy Award by the Families and Work Institute. She is the author or editor of seven books, including some of the earliest research on contingent work and work at home.

Christensen earned her Ph.D. from Pennsylvania State University. She began her professional career as a policy analyst at the Urban Institute in Washington, D.C., and later joined the faculty of the Graduate Center, City University of New York, where she was a Professor of Psychology.

2022 Award Recipient: Vanessa Conzon

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The award selection committee unanimously recommended that Vanessa Conzon receive the 2022 Kathleen Christensen Dissertation Award, recognizing the ambition of her dissertation work, its methodological strengths, as well as its contributions to theory and practice. Her studies draw on rich data from four ethnographies that she performed of four separate groups of professionals: STEM research consultants, IT professionals, drug development researchers, and STEM university professors. Collectively, her data reflects of over 1500 hours of observations and 259 interviews, with each ethnography lasting between 6 and 26 months.  Her dissertation examines three distinct questions.  First, what are the conditions under which key organizational stakeholders—specifically, managers— come to either support or limit workers’ temporal autonomy? In her second essay, she considers how workers— independent of managers—can collaborate to expand control over their work hours. In her third essay, she reveals how workers’ temporal autonomy is shaped by family responsibilities in deeply gendered ways that may limit women’s control over time.  Across all three essays, her dissertation highlights the importance of adopting a multi-actor perspective (e.g., considering managers, coworkers, children) when examining how temporal autonomy may be constrained or expanded. By focusing on the network of interactions and relations with these actors—in which workers are embedded, and both experience and (re)produce inequalities (e.g., between worker/manager and woman/man)— her studies show new ways to better understand employees’ experiences of temporal autonomy. Her studies also highlight important implications for related literatures – such as gender inequality, workplace relationships, and quantification. From a practitioner perspective, the findings of this research directly informed organizational changes (e.g., evaluation of a flexible work policy) at her field sites, leading to enhancements of individuals’ work-life experiences.

2022 Honorable Mention: Shelia Hyde

The award selection committee unanimously recommended that Shelia Hyde be distinguished with Honorable Mention for the 2022 Award, recognizing the ambition of her dissertation work, its methodological strengths, as well as its contributions to theory and practice.  Nominator Wendy Casper (and dissertation chair) writes in her nomination letter “Shelia’s dissertation work draws from the positive psychology literature to focus on the positive side of the work-family interface. She has written a series of three essays – the first which is already published. Her first essay is a conceptual paper in which she theorizes about how thriving in work and nonwork roles foster both bidirectional enrichment and conflict. As thriving involves both learning and vitality, she theorizes that it fosters both work-nonwork development and affective enrichment. However, given thriving is such a positive state, she suggests it can also create excessive role engagement, thereby fostering time-based conflict when the one role is neglected because role thriving in the other role makes it difficult to disengaged from that role. In her dissertation, Shelia creates the Cross-Domain Thriving (CDT) model in which she theorizes about how thriving from one role (work) crosses over to the other role (nonwork), simultaneously both creating (due to enrichment) and depleting (due to conflict) resources, thereby enhancing (when enrichment is high and conflict is low) or depleting (when conflict is high and enrichment low) resources in the receiving domain that, in turn, cross domains. Her theory proffers that it is the balance of enrichment and conflict that determines whether thriving crosses domains in a resource-enriching or resource-depleting way overall. To explain when the thriving creates (enrichment) versus depletes (conflict) resources, her model posits a variety of moderating factors, including boundary management behavior, the congruency (similarity) of work and nonwork roles, and the ease of transitioning between work and nonwork domains.”

Nomination and Selection Procedures

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Past Recipients