Sylvia Asay gets lifetime achievement award for international research on families

Sylvia-Asay-WebBy SARA GIBONEY
UNK Communications

KEARNEY – University of Nebraska at Kearney family studies professor, Sylvia Asay, was recently recognized for her research on the strengths of families around the world.

Asay received the Jan Trost Award from the International Section of the National Council on Family Relations.

The award recognizes outstanding contributions in international family studies, and is given in honor of Jan Trost of Uppsala University in Sweden, one of the founding members of the International Section. The award honors an individual for her lifetime achievement in research, teaching and service to international families.

Asay began teaching at UNK full-time in 1991. When she was working on her Ph.D. at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in the late 1990s, Asay took a class on family strengths. She became interested in the topic, and began conducting research.

Her Ph.D. dissertation focused on family strengths in post-Communist countries. She completed fieldwork in Romania.

“A lot of the studies about the family center on what’s wrong with the family, and look at problems and challenges families have,” Asay said. “We need to look at that, but family strengths focuses on what’s going right with families. It’s the idea that you can use a strong family as a model for other families.

“Every family has one or more strengths. When you can let them see that they have strengths, they realize that their challenges can be overcome.”

Asay has traveled to nearly 30 countries. She spent that last three summers in Paris conducting research on families. She plans to spend one more summer in Paris, and then hopes to begin doing research in Qatar as a consultant.

In the past few years, Asay has worked with a team of 50 researchers across the world writing books on family strengths and family violence in over 20 countries.

Asay was recognized for her international research in November in Vancouver, B.C. with a commemorative plaque and $500.

“Any time you receive a lifetime achievement award, it’s a big award,” she said. “They’re looking at a whole lifetime of your research and work in a certain area. I remember sitting in that room watching someone else get that award, and I didn’t think it was possible.

“For all the young researchers out there thinking that same thing – it’s possible. It takes a lot of hard work and requires taking opportunities when they’re there. You don’t have to be perfect and you don’t have to know everything, you just have to be willing to learn and be willing to learn from your mistakes.”

Asay is a certified premarital counselor, has consulted for universities and government agencies across the world and contributed to numerous publications.


Source: Sylvia Asay, 308.865.8231,
Writer: Sara Giboney, 308.865.8529,

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