Post-Doc Alumna Reflects on Her Training at Curry, How It Advanced her Career

The Curry School of Education provides training to many different types of students, from undergraduates to graduate students. However, training is not limited to enrollment as a student, but can be extended into post-doctoral positions.

The Virginia Education Sciences Training (VEST) post-doctoral fellowship program has provided interdisciplinary training in educational science for over 10 years. This program provides substantive and methodological training so scientists are prepared to conduct rigorous research on critical problems facing educational policy-makers and practitioners.

To understand more about post-doc training, we sat down with Allison Atteberry, who completed her post-doc in 2013, to learn more about her experience at the Curry School of Education and her professional life beyond UVA.

Allison Atteberry, Ph.D., received her doctorate in 2011 from Stanford University. After completing this post-doc from 2011-2013, Dr. Atteberry was an assistant research professor at the Curry School of Education before joining the faculty at the University of Colorado-Boulder as a tenure-track assistant professor in 2014.

Question: Why did you choose a post-doc over other positions after receiving your Ph.D?

Atteberry: I knew that, ultimately, I wanted to go into academia but also was aware that I probably needed a little bit more experience before starting a tenure track position. I looked at a couple of different postdoc programs but was really impressed by the fit of the VEST post-doc with my interests. After visiting the Curry School and meeting the faculty at EdPolicyWorks [a research center supported by the Curry School and the Batten School of Public Policy and Leadership at UVA], I realized this program would really elevate my research and help me to conduct high level work on really neat, cutting-edge projects. Choosing among different post-doc positions was a difficult decision, but in the end, it was very clear to me that this was the best opportunity to deepen my training relating to my interests with teacher labor markets and econometric research methods.

Question: What type of work did you do in your post-doc?

Atteberry: While I was a post-doc, I worked with the faculty at EdPolicyWorks and was mentored primarily by Jim Wyckoff. I worked on a variety of research projects, including using New York City data to look at issues of early career teacher development, as well as the effect of teacher re-assignments on student achievement. I also worked on the Teacher Incentive Fund (TIF) initiatives in local Virginia school districts where I ran all analyses, worked with stakeholders in the school districts, gave regular research presentations, and ultimately was the first author on all reports of our findings. While at UVA, I also got the opportunity to teach some statistics workshops to the IES pre-doctoral fellows, and these workshops were on topics I'm now teaching as a professor at CU-Boulder.

Question: What aspects of the post-doc program were most beneficial for you and your future work?

Atteberry: Without a doubt, the hands-on mentorship by faculty, the networking opportunities, and close community at the Curry School was invaluable in my training. The on-the-ground research experiences also helped me to learn more about how to conduct work that's directly applicable and useful to stakeholders. As part of the post-doc, I was interacting with district personnel regularly, and it changed the way I talked about and presented my research. My post-doc experience allowed me to hit the ground running as a tenured faculty member with both experience in writing grants and some grants that I received during my time at UVA already. I think I also had a head start on knowing how to work with graduate students. The UVA post-doc program is unique because of the interplay with the IES pre-doc program. This allowed me to mentor doctoral students, which laid the groundwork for how I formally advise students now as a professor.

Question: What advice would you give to those considering a post-doc in educational science?

Atteberry: Do it! I came in to my assistant professor position at the same time as a lot of other people coming straight out of graduate school, and I feel like I was in a much better position. As a candidate for a tenure position, I had gotten my dissertation out for publication and had a lot more conference papers. I had more grant writing skills and was in a stronger, more competitive position on the academic market. This post-doc position also exposed me to a ton of networking opportunities that I would not have had otherwise, so I had strong colleagues and collaborations that were a springboard for my future work.

Atteberry is the first VEST post-doc alumni interviewed in this series. For more information about the VEST post-doc program, please visit our website or email the PI, Sara Rimm-Kaufman at [email protected]. This post-doc program is funded by the U.S. Department of Education Institute of Education Sciences.