Faculty and Staff Features HDFS

HDFS professor tackles poverty and inequality

Associate Professor David Rothwell  is the new Barbara Emily Knudson Chair in Family Policy in Oregon State’s College of Public Health and Human Sciences.

David Rothwell talks outside the Benton County Courthouse on a bright, sunny day

By Kathryn Stroppel

Associate Professor David Rothwell, MSW, PhD,  is the new Barbara Emily Knudson Chair in Family Policy in Oregon State’s College of Public Health and Human Sciences

In 1991, a gift from Barbara Emily Knudson, ’39, made through the OSU Foundation, established the nation’s first endowed chair in family policy. Her philanthropy, combined with the completion of the Family Study Center, helped the college become a national leader in the study of family sciences.  

“I am honored to contribute to OSU’s long history of contributions to the field of family policy as the latest holder of Knudson Chair,” says David, who has more than 20 years of experience working on and researching how policies affect families. A former social worker who worked directly with families in hospital and community settings, David is “especially excited to examine how local, state and national policies can better support families in their caregiving and support functions with attention to reducing systematic inequalities.”    
As the Barbara Emily Knudson Chair, David serves as a resource in family policy issues to help prepare graduate students for service in a variety of social policy and community service capacities. He adds social policy analysis to the college’s strong family sciences undergraduate instruction, research and community services programs.  

“Families are the basis of our entire world …” 

Barbara Emily Knudson

As a human development and family sciences researcher, David investigates poverty, families and social policy, as well as the mechanisms driving social and economic inequalities. He will continue to provide leadership for the annual Oregon Family Impact Seminar, which provides policymakers with the opportunity to learn from the latest family science in a politically neutral setting. The goal is for policymakers to discuss issues and find common ground for policy development. 

“Holding this endowed chair will allow me to bring heightened visibility to the family policy research being conducted in the college and bring new opportunities to study some of society’s most pressing challenges such as work-family balance, family leave and child care,” he says.  

“In recent years we’ve expanded our curriculum to include undergraduate and graduate courses on family policy. We’ve also started new collaborations between faculty and students who conduct family policy research at the Hallie E. Ford Center, including graduate student training via the Lutz Family Policy fellowships. As the Knudson Chair, I hope to build on these initiatives and expand the university’s role in informing state and local policymaking.”  

Professor Rick Settersten held the Knudson Chair prior to David. Rick stepped down from this position in July 2021 to become Oregon State’s vice provost for faculty affairs. He will maintain his appointment in Human Development and Family Sciences during his tenure as vice provost. 

Learn more about David’s work and the Poverty and Inequality Research Group he leads with Leanne Giordono, PhD ’18. 

About Barbara Knudson 

Barbara Knudson continued the Oregon State tradition established by her father, Joel Emily, who played on the Oregon State Pacific Coast Championship football team in 1906. Following her graduation, she taught high school in Junction City for several years, eventually becoming dean of girls. She then married and moved to Portland where she was a substitute teacher. She was also active in the American Association of University Women and served on the board of the Christie School. She died in September 2009.  

In making her gift to establish the Knudson Chair, Barbara said, “Families are the basis of our entire world … I thought they needed more help and assistance.” 

Interested in studying family policy research? Learn more about human development and family sciences doctoral programs.