Student Spotlight: Katherine Ross Creates a Social Emotional and Mindfulness Research Agenda


Katherine Ross
3rd year Ph.D student in the Education Psychology-Applied Developmental Science (EP-ADS) program at the Curry School of Education, a researcher at Youth-Nex, and a VEST pre-doctoral fellow.
Hometown: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Question: Why did you decide on graduate school at the Curry School of Education?

Ross: After finishing my bachelors in Psychology with a neuroscience focus at Penn State University and working for a couple years at a non-profit, I was looking for a place where I could collaborate with a lot of different types of researchers and not be limited to exploring one area of the education field. When I visited the Curry School of Education, I realized that there were many opportunities like that! Here, there is an expert in almost everything, all “under one roof” and so it’s an incredible opportunity to be able to take advantage of. Plus, it’s an added bonus that I absolutely fell in love with Charlottesville!
Katherine Ross
Question: What are you working on and who are you working with?

Ross: I work on a few different projects that focus on social and emotional development. For example, one project is an evaluation of an after school collaboration and another is developing a social and emotional learning curriculum for elementary students that also integrates nutrition, mindfulness, and movement activities derived from yoga. I’m hopeful that my research of social and emotional development can inform and be applied to education settings, particularly for adolescents who face a growing number of stressors and potential influences on learning—mindfulness seems to be a really great tool for both children and adults to use to mitigate stress and distractions, to be in a better position to learn, thrive, and develop socially and emotionally. My primary faculty mentor is Patrick Tolan and he is my go-to person for everything, from research mentorship to career development. I also collaborate with Tish Jennings on the mindfulness work and she is invaluable with her expertise in the field and perspective as a female in the world of academia. I have incredible support and guidance between the two of them.

Question: What has been most rewarding for you at the Curry School of Education?

Ross: In the Educational Psychology-Applied Developmental Science (EP-ADS) and VEST programs, we’re encouraged to take a wide variety of coursework and explore different topic areas that may not be your primary area of focus. All of our professors are truly interested in helping you pursue your own goals—it’s not like I came in here and another agenda was pushed onto me. The most rewarding part is that this program is really about what it is you want to do with your career and how they can help you get there. This program is very supportive and has forced me to be a well-rounded researcher!

Question: What is next for you?

Ross: I believe that I am headed towards the academic/University route. I really enjoy the collaborative atmosphere that exists in an academic setting, and I also love teaching and mentoring. I anticipate doing a post-doc after obtaining my degree so that I can continue to develop my research portfolio. I look forward to joining the IES pre-doc and VEST program network that includes friends and colleagues I have collaborated with and see regularly at professional conferences. The Curry network is an invaluable asset!

Ross is also 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.