Jo DiGennaro smiles at camera. Her photo is put on top of an illustration of a courtyard with an archway.

Alumni Spotlight: Jo DiGennaro, Educational Psychology: Applied Developmental Science M.Ed.

After teaching in both Colorado and Kenya, Jo DiGennaro came to UVA to earn her M.Ed. in educational psychology: applied developmental science. This fall, she will begin a doctoral program at the Stanford Graduate School of Education.

Audrey Breen

Illustration by Julia Parlette-Carino.

Q: What first made you interested in pursuing graduate studies in educational psychology?

Prior to attending graduate school at UVA, I taught high school science in Boulder, CO. Before that, I taught 2nd-8th grade science and theater in Tigoni, Kenya. In both of these contexts, I recognized the challenges and rewards associated with educating a diverse student body.

Comparing these experiences to my rural public-school education, I became increasingly interested in learning environments as social situations, which both interact with and become students' lived experiences. In an effort to learn more about that exchange, I applied to educational psychology programs.

Q: Why did you choose to enroll at UVA for your M.Ed.?

I was first introduced to the Educational Psychology program at UVA when I looked into Dr. Sara Rimm-Kaufman. I had read her book, SEL from the Start, and knew she was someone I was excited to work with.

The ED-APS program at UVA intentionally focuses on teaching and researching development in context, meaning understanding one's environment is crucial to understanding their development. This approach is most in line with my lived experience, so I knew I’d be motivated by it. 

Q: If you had to choose one thing that was a particularly impactful part of your degree program, what would that be and why?

Overall, I had an excellent experience in the Ed Psych department. If hard pressed, I think the mentorship was particularly impactful for me. Dr. Natalia Palacios and Dr. Sara Rimm-Kaufman were instrumental in helping me identify and name my research interests.

Q: You recently got accepted to a doctoral program at Stanford University. What will you be studying there and how is that connected to your master's studies?

I recently got accepted to the Developmental and Psychological Sciences program in the Stanford Graduate School of Education! In conjunction with this, I am pursuing a specialization in race, inequality, and language in education. 
While I anticipate my interests will change with time, experience, and knowledge gained, I currently aim to examine the role of art and blurring disciplinary lines in facilitating equitable and authentic youth development.

Q: What advice would you give to someone considering graduate school in educational psychology?

My advice is to have experience in education, beyond having been a student, before attending graduate school in educational psychology. At least for me, this context was important for making the leap from theory to practice, for thinking about research critically, and for identifying my own research interests. 


Learn more about UVA's master of education in educational psychology: applied developmental science.

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  • Education Leadership, Foundations & Public Policy