Majors: Psychology & Biology
Year of Graduation: 2012
Graduate School/Location: Ph.D, Institute of Child Development, University of Minnesota, Twin Cities
Current Position/Location: Research Associate at the Center for Early Education and Development, University of Minnesota, Twin Cities
Please give a brief description of your current position.
My current position involves planning, executing, analyzing, and communicating research and evaluation projects. These projects support people and organizations who work with young children in Minnesota and beyond. I also do some designing and teaching of online professional development courses to help get research findings to those who can use them.
What path did you follow to get to your current position?
After graduating from St. Ben’s, I began my doctoral program at the University of Minnesota. My research there focused on how parents can support the development of self-regulation in their preschool children. I intentionally sought out opportunities for experiences in evaluation and research that was connected to the community. I began my current position shortly after finishing my Ph.D.
What advice/suggestions would you have for students who might be interested in your career?
If you are looking for a career connected to academia, your biggest resource is your current professors! Because CSB/SJU doesn’t have graduate students, as an undergraduate you have the opportunity to become very involved in professors’ research projects in a way that undergraduates at larger institutions do not. Talk to your professors outside of class, form relationships with those who are doing work that interests you, and get involved in research as early and as much as possible.
What skills are important in your field?
Research methods and statistics are specialized skills that I use daily in my work. The ability to translate scientific writing in order to communicate with a diverse lay audience is also important. In both graduate school and my current position, one key to success is being self-directed and self-organized, as every individual determines their own path and timeline.
What is the most satisfying/rewarding part of your position?
I love that I get to do research that has direct implications for people working in the infant/early childhood field. For me, strictly academic research felt distant from the real people dealing with real problems, so this job is a wonderful hybrid of research that is both academically rigorous, but also done in an applied setting that is in touch with those using the information.
The most challenging part of my job is the need to fund our own projects. Large grants continue to become more and more competitive, and because we are neither strictly academic nor a non-profit, our work doesn’t always fit into traditional funding streams. The pressure to find money is one of the most difficult parts of this type of work.
What activities/experiences were helpful at CSB/SJU (and elsewhere) in preparation for this career?
I can think of three experiences that have directly helped me in my career path.
I participated in summer undergraduate research with Dr. Wielkiewicz for multiple years. I learned so much about reading scientific writing, analyzing research data, and the process of writing and publishing articles.
I was a TA for Dr. Stelzner’s developmental psychology class, which allowed me to both dive more deeply into the topic of developmental psychology, as well as learn a lot about teaching.
I conducted my own undergraduate honors thesis, which was important because it was the first time I designed, conducted, analyzed, and wrote up a study from start to finish, which is what I now do in my job!