Stakeholder Spotlight: Denise & Bethany

The “Stakeholder Spotlight” is an occasional series of posts highlighting people who are helping to advance Learning Life’s work.  Our latest post in this series features Denise Bodman and Bethany Bustamante Van Vleet, a mother and daughter who graciously help Learning Life’s family diplomacy trainees learn about global family trends, patterns and issues.  For ways you can support Learning Life, click here

What are your current occupations?

We are both Teaching Professors at Arizona State University in the School of Social and Family Dynamics.  Bethany is also Director of ASU’s online Master’s in Family and Human Development.

Can you share something interesting about your family?

We get to be both family and colleagues!  Being a mother and daughter who work together in the same field and program allows us to easily collaborate on projects that are meaningful to us and we have had a lifetime to learn how we most effectively work together. This has allowed us to study and present together on topics such as kindness, hope, and family narratives as well as write a book together on family processes: Introduction to Family Processes: Diverse Families, Common Ties.  

We have also had the joy of bringing children, and grandchildren, into our family through birth, adoption, and foster care, which has given us unique up-close insights into how families function, grow, and change. The children in our families also have diverse needs and abilities, which has required learning how to best advocate for not only our children, but for other children in the community and schools who may need additional support and resources. 

Why are you passionate about families?

Because, as George Santayana has said, “the family is one of nature’s masterpieces”! Most people start life in a family.  Family is where we first encounter the world and where we are first taught how to function in the world.  Additionally, as our book subtitle suggests (“diverse families, common ties”), families can look and function in incredibly different ways, and yet families around the world tend to share common goals!  

Why do you support Learning Life?  

We have been incredibly lucky to work with Learning Life by leading family diplomacy trainings related to family (defining family, demography and globalization, rituals, traditions, and routines, family storytelling). We have enjoyed working with Learning Life because, given the power of the family unit, it only makes sense to help equip families with knowledge and skills that will help them advocate for not only themselves, but for their communities as a whole.  Additionally, it is amazing to see families brought together from around the world – connecting over family ties, family voice, and social change.