Kaeley Benson, Ph.D. joined CFRP in 2013 as a Postdoctoral Fellow with a focus on early childhood program evaluation. She is now CFRP's Research Director and oversees all the family strengthening, early childhood, and fatherhood projects, research staff, and support team.
Kaeley earned her Ph.D. in Human Development and Family Sciences at The University of Texas at Austin and Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from the Sewanee: The University of the South.
Pictured: Kaeley and her husband, Josh.
Where and when did you grow up?
I grew up in Charlotte, North Carolina, where my parents still live. After graduating high school in Charlotte, I bounced around a bit before finally landing in Austin, where I have now lived for 10 years. I went to college in Tennessee at the University of the South (Sewanee) and did a brief stint as a research assistant at the Yale Child Study Center in Connecticut before moving to Austin to start my doctoral program at The University of Texas at Austin.
What or who influenced you to choose your career path?
My time at the Yale Child Study Center, right after graduating from Sewanee, really set the course for where I am now. I was working on two studies examining young children’s development in at-risk families, which helped me understand the lasting impact of children’s early experiences on their later development and wellbeing. That understanding led me to graduate school at The University of Texas at Austin in Human Development and Family Sciences where I worked with an advisor who spent her career studying policy and program interventions for low-income families. This ultimately led me to CFRP at the LBJ School of Public Affairs to work at this intersection of research and policy that I continue to find so meaningful and impactful.
Tell us about your role with the Ronald McDonald House.
I am on the Leadership Council for Friends of the House, which is the young professional networking group that supports the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Texas (RMHC-CTX), based right here in Austin by Dell Children’s Hospital. RMHC-CTX provides resources and support for families who have children in the hospital. We get young professionals in the Central Texas community together to fundraise, network, and support the RMHC-CTX including hosting events, like meal preparation at the House for families who are staying there, Quiz for a Cause happy hours, and decorating the House for the holidays. Friends of the House is very close to my heart, and I am going to be President this coming year, which I'm very excited about. (Photo by RMHC-CTX: CFRP's Anna Sucsy, Bethany McKee, McKenna LeClear, Kaeley Benson, Abby Lane, and Kiira Bivens at a recent event.)
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
In 10 years, I hope to still be working in a space that has an impact on children and families. Personally, I hope I’m still running – maybe even qualifying for Boston (it gets easier to qualify the older you are!). Additionally, my husband and I are expecting our first child next year, so I see us raising our family, which is sure to be our greatest adventure yet.
What are you happiest doing, when you’re not working?
Outside of work, I’m happiest on a Saturday that starts off with a long run or a spin class and ends with a date night, dinner, and a really good glass of wine at a favorite Austin restaurant with my husband.
What’s your favorite taco in Austin?
I cannot possibly choose one. I have a dream of doing a taco crawl (probably after a VERY long run) and it would include the Democrat from Torchy’s (no onions), the Heather from Taco Deli, and the fish tacos from Food Heads (random, but I swear they are life-changing).