Post-Doc Alumna Reflects on the Mentoring 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 Alison Baroody, Ph.D., 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.

Alison Baroody received her doctorate in 2011 from Purdue University. After completing this post-doc, Dr. Baroody took a tenure-track assistant professor position at San Francisco State University.

Question: How did this post-doc at the Curry School impact your research?

Baroody: The training I received at UVA helped me deepen and expand my research by looking at children across the span of time from preschool into upper elementary grades. I learned firsthand about different methodologies that measure engagement with preschool age and upper elementary children. This experience really helped me bridge that gap between what is happening in the preschool world and what is happening in the elementary school world, as well as how they are connected. The methodological training in this post-doc was very appealing to me, and that was something I was very interested in to expand my statistical skill sets.

Question: How did the mentoring you received from Curry faculty help your research?

Baroody: I think it helped a lot with building and strengthening skill sets, especially around methodology, writing, and grant writing, but also asking questions and putting results in context. One of the things my mentor, Professor [Sara] Rimm-Kaufman, would talk about was communicating results in a way that puts them in context — thinking about what results would look like in a fifth grade classroom, for example, and what would they look like for a teacher said — so they can be visualized and applied.

Question: How did this post-doc prepare you for your next steps and future career?

Baroody: My current job is a tenure track position, so my responsibilities are to teach, conduct research, and provide service. The post-doc helped prepare me most for the research aspect of the position. While I was at CASTL and Curry, I wrote a grant, which was awarded my first year in my assistant professorship and funded two course releases. This grant allowed me time to work on research, submit a conference presentation, and write a manuscript (currently under review). While in the post-doc I had time to start work on writing a number of articles, which has been really beneficial in the tenure process since many of them were finished and published during the first couple years I was at San Francisco State. I learned a lot about statistical programs at Curry, and I've been using STATA and Mplus a lot in my current position. Having these types of skills have been a springboard for my career.

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

Baroody: When I was finishing my doctoral program, I wasn't sure if I wanted to do a post-doc or go straight into a professorship position. Based on my experience, for those who are interested in going into something like a tenure track position, I would strongly encourage them to consider a post-doc. My post-doc was really valuable and helped me build skill sets that I would not necessarily have been able to develop as an assistant professor due to different time constraints of the position. I also think a post-doc helps in forming professional networks and creates a network of more people you know in the field. It has been really beneficial for me to have a community of people that I can go to for advice, suggestions and feedback and collaborate with.

Baroody is the second VEST post-doc alumni interviewed in this series. See more on former post-doc Allison Atteberry. For more information about the post-doc program, visit the VEST website or email the Principal Investigator, Sara Rimm-Kaufman. This post-doc program is funded by the U.S. Department of Education Institute of Education Sciences.