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Class of 2017: Kosovich Helps Community College Students Get Motivated, Succeed

Published on 05/17/17 in News » Articles

After four years at UVA, Jeff Kosovich is wrapping up his time at the Curry School of Education, graduating this month with a Ph.D. in Education Psychology-Applied Developmental Science (EP-ADS).

As a student at the Curry School, Jeff was awarded a fellowship through the Carnegie Foundation to do research in community colleges and has been a guest author on the Curry Blog. He has also been a researcher at CASTL, and a VEST pre-doctoral fellow.

We asked Kosovich a few questions about his time at the Curry School and his plans for what comes next.

How did you end up at the Curry School of Education?

I grew up in Chicago, completed my undergrad at Northern Illinois University and started looking for grad programs relating to motivation research, which is what I was interested in. I ended up working on my master’s in psychological science and quantitative psychology with current advisor who at the time was at James Madison University. When he moved to UVA, I followed him into a Ph.D. program in EP-ADS.

I started in psychology but with the research that I’m in, it’s a lot of applied work in education. A big draw to the Curry School was the fact that I’d get more exposure to the context of all of these things that I’d been learning from undergrad through my Master’s program. In this program I get a view of development throughout the academic career, but also exposure to the policy side of things. For example, how psychological aspects interface with policy and how these things work in actual practice, which is not something I was ever exposed to or thought about with my research.

What type of work have you done at the Curry School?

I’ve been working on a research project that examines motivation interventions in community college classrooms, specifically with students who are in introductory math courses. There are usually really high failure rates in these classes—something like 85% of students never actually pass—and it’s a major barrier for students getting degrees and moving forward in careers.

Our intervention helps build their confidence and skill development. We also want to see impacts in the long-run potentially tracking students after they graduate. Through this work I have presented our finding at conference, and managed to go to an international conference in Greece this past summer to get feedback from an international community.

How has the Curry School influenced you?

Lots of ways! I think the biggest way is the exposure to first all the diverse research that goes on in Curry, but also the interdisciplinary work with other schools at UVA. It has given me a broader perspective on everything that is happening in education. It’s not just motivation happening in the classroom—it’s the classroom context, the social experiences. I think the diversity in perspectives here, from policy to youth development, has changed how I approach my research and the things I’m interested in.

What is next for you?

I’m on the job market now and looking at positions at big research centers, non-profits or think tanks. I’m interested in positions relating to the motivation process and how to facilitate motivation, as well as methods and measurement. I’m also very interested in interventions—so continuing to work on developing interventions, how to best do it, how to get them into different areas and things like that, and how to strengthen them to make them better.

Kosovich is a doctoral student in the EP-ADS program and a fellow in the Virginia Education Sciences Training (VEST), a pre-doctoral fellowship program funded by the U.S. Department of Education Institute of Education Sciences. He also is a researcher at the Center for the Advanced Study of Teaching and Learning (CASTL).

By: Leslie M. Booren

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