Hometown: Houston, Texas
Graduating class of: I received my Masters in Summer, 2015 but continued doctoral work until December, 2017
Favorite UT activity:
Although I only attended two games during my time as a student and sometimes our losses were heartbreaking, I have to say that nothing beats a Saturday watching UT football. Whether it was watching at home or being a part of the crowd at Neyland Stadium, that was one of my favorite activities!
“Have Courage and Be Kind” (Cinderella) and “You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, smarter than you think, and loved more than you’ll ever know” (Winnie the Pooh) 🙂
How does a Child and Family Studies graduate degree fit into your life’s plans?
Originally I wanted to work in an academic setting with an emphasis on teaching undergraduate HDFS/CFS courses and conducting practice-based research with an emphasis on program evaluation for families with obese and overweight children. However, after participating in the Tennessee Dad project (Home Visiting Curriculum overlay for fathers) as a doctoral graduate assistant, I realized that my interests were working in an applied setting with families and that a Masters was sufficient for that line of work.
What have you learned from other students?
I think my favorite thing that I have learned from other students is the vast amount of different interest/research areas of family studies and human development. We have students that come from so many different backgrounds (i.e., Psychology, Marriage and Family Therapy, CFS) and they all bring a different lens to viewing how families function and I love seeing all the different perspectives.
Who is your favorite professor or staff member at UTK and why?
Oh, this is a hard one because SO many of the faculty at UT have shaped who I am today. If I have to answer though, there are two professors that stick out to me: Dr. Mary Jane Moran and Dr. Heidi Stolz. Dr. Stolz was vital in helping me get to where I am today by providing me with the opportunity to work on the Tennessee Dad Project (where I “got my feet wet” in applied work), by helping me to realize that I had an interest in working in an applied setting (when I was not aware of this passion yet myself), and by connecting me with her network of colleagues and her expertise in navigating the applied field. Dr. Moran was also crucial to my success as a graduate student. She served as a mentor to me academically and personally and helped me to successfully navigate the hardships of graduate school and my transition into my job at Helen Ross McNabb, or as I like to call it “the real world.” I am so grateful to these two professors, in addition to ALL of the staff and faculty in CFS who helped to shape me into the person and professional I am today.
What has been your greatest challenge?
My greatest challenge was learning to listen to myself. I went to graduate school straight out of undergrad, and I had a dream of being in academia and conducting research, and I held on very tightly to that idea. It took a lot for me to let go of the vision I had for myself and realize that sometimes passions, dreams, and life change. What I learned is that we have to be able to adapt to those changes. Realizing that it was okay to choose a different career path after beginning doctoral work was something I struggled with, but with guidance and patience it worked out in the end.
What is your greatest accomplishment?
Getting my Master’s Degree!! That is a HUGE accomplishment, and I am so proud of the hard work it took to achieve it.
What have you learned that’s made a difference to you?
One of the biggest things I have learned in CFS is how to approach human development and family functioning from a strength-based approach. Courses in CFS teach students about the mechanisms and factors that foster optimum development and family functioning, but that these factors vary for different family structures and cultural backgrounds. This culturally sensitive strength-based approach helps prepare students for jobs in academic research-based settings, as well as applied settings.
What are you most thankful for from your time as a CFS graduate student?
I am very thankful for the multitude of leadership and hands-on experiences I was offered as a graduate student. These experiences allowed me to refine and grow my professional, research, and interpersonal skills, as well as providing me with the opportunity to network and learn about organizations that work with children and families in the Knoxville area.
Can you tell us a little bit about your new job at Helen Ross McNabb?
I am the Early Childhood Intervention and Prevention (EIP) Program Coordinator at Helen Ross McNabb. I oversee three programs: (1) Therapeutic Preschool, which is an intensive outpatient program for children who have experienced a traumatic event, (2) Regional Intervention Program, which is a behavior modification program for children and parents, and (3) Health Link Care Coordination, which is a voluntary partnership between children, their guardians, and our Care Coordinators designed to use a holistic approach to enhance the child’s social, educational, emotional, and behavioral situations.
What advice do you have for incoming graduate students?
One piece of advice I have for incoming graduate students is to be open. Be open to new experiences that might be out of your comfort zone, opportunities to learn new things, be open to establishing networks of students, faculty, and people from the community, and lastly but most importantly, be open to change. I know many students who changed their research interest after their first semester of grad school (including me) whether it’s because you read an interesting article in class, get involved in an on-campus organization you never thought about joining before, or because you were included on a project with another faculty member. Be open and get involved- you never know what you might find! Lastly, and most importantly, have courage and be kind. Grad school is tough, but try to have courage and know that you can get through it and be kind to yourself and others.