The Curry School of Education continues to support the Virginia Education Sciences Training (VEST) pre-doctoral fellowship program, funded by the U.S. Department of Education Institute of Education Sciences. This interdisciplinary program has been supporting Ph.D students at UVA for over 11 years!
With more than 80 alumni across education, economics, sociology, and psychology departments at UVA, VEST has produced highly trained professionals who hold positions from postdoctoral scientists to education statisticians to assistant professors. The VEST program applies rigorous research methods and analytical techniques in the social sciences field to study school and classroom effects.
The Curry School of Education continues a Question and Answer series with VEST alumni. We sat down with Anne Cash, a 2010 graduate the Educational Psychology-Applied Developmental Science (EP-ADS) program, to learn more about her experience at the Curry School of Education and her professional life beyond UVA.
Anne Cash, Ph.D. is currently an assistant professor at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. After graduation, she was a post-doc in the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University and then transitioned into a position as an assistant professor in the School of Education at Hopkins.
Question: How did the Curry School of Education prepare you for the work you are doing now?
Cash: My work has always centered around teacher training and providing effective supports for teachers. I've consistently thought about teacher-student interactions across the entire age range. While at Curry, I was thinking carefully about preschool classrooms, but then in my post-doc, I had an opportunity to create an observational system where we worked in high school settings. Throughout my training and past work, I've had opportunities to observe a wide variety of classroom environments, and to think about what aspects of teaching are valuable, irrespective of the specific characteristics of context, and what types of interactions all kids can benefit from.
Question: How have your research interests advanced since your time at the Curry School of Education?
Cash: I've extended to thinking not just about what teachers are doing in the field now, but to also think about how we can train teachers before they enter the workforce. I am beginning some lines of research around supporting pre-service teachers. How can we assess their knowledge and skills in ways that will predict their capacity for effective interactions once they enter the workforce? I have also come to value conducting this work within a College of Education. There is so much we can learn as we continuously seek to improve traditional training programs. I enjoy being part of that work not only as a researcher, but also as a faculty member.
Question: How did you benefit from the VEST program?
Cash: I really valued many of the research meetings that I attended as part of my program, when students, post-docs and faculty would gather to talk about their work in informal and formal ways. I also appreciated the opportunity to meet informally with speakers who came to campus.
My participation in the VEST program gave me some credibility when I attended professional conferences—I was able to network and interact with a wide variety of faculty and research scientists. This helped me practice for those professional experiences which have been so important in securing a job.
The program requirements provided the baby steps I needed to take control of my own professional career.
Question: How did the VEST program prepare you for your career?
Cash: The VEST program had great opportunities that drew on multiple disciplines to improve schools, which was foundational to the work I'm doing now. For a long time, students have been trained in discipline-specific ways, but I think there has been a societal shift such that we can benefit from addressing problems and using tools from whatever discipline is available to us. Having an interdisciplinary background can lead to more rigorous work and can help tackle really complicated problems within education.
Cash is the ninth VEST fellow alumni interviewed in this series. Read the other Q & A articles with Wei-Bing Chen, Erin Dunlap, Jennifer LoCasale-Crouch, Terri Sabol, Laura Brock, Myles Durkee, Maria Fitzpatrick, and Eva Galdo.