When you were a child, what was your response to this question: “What do you want to be when you grow up?”
Describe your research in five words.
“How do children perceive themselves?”
I wanted to be a princess. As I got older, my answer changed to wanting to be a psychiatrist. I knew I wanted to be a doctor, but I could not handle blood!
Share the pivotal moment in your life that helped you choose research as a career path.
I spent a summer as a pre-college mentor with the Upward Bound program. We took our students on a tour of UNC- Chapel Hill and, as we did with all of our college tours, asked our scholars what they thought afterward. Some of the kids said they would love to come here, but they never thought they would be accepted to UNC — or be successful here — simply because they were African American. Coming from a group of highly qualified students, these statements puzzled me, and I knew that I wanted to study this for the rest of my life: self-concept and how that affects the educational outcomes of African-American students. I figured that if I could unlock why so many students had these thoughts, then maybe my research could turn into productive interventions to improve their outlooks and overall trajectories.
What’s an interesting thing that’s happened during your research?
Over the summer, I compiled my data and ran the analyses. At the end of it all, I found my initial results were not statistically significant. It was a blow to my soul. While I know this is a common occurrence, it was an important reminder that research is not always predictable. In fact, my results opened up new questions for me that I had not considered. I learned how important it is to be flexible in research.
What advice would you give to up-and-coming female researchers in your field?
Dream big. Don’t limit the reach of your ideas or be scared to push the envelope because you are a woman — and there aren’t too many of us here. If no one challenges what has always been said or done, we aren’t doing our jobs. You belong in this field so do not take “no” for an answer. I’m rooting for you!