Human Development and Family Science Junior Sara Cohen
I had a wonderful and enlightening experience with the Intellectual Entrepreneurship Program. Amy Bryan, a graduate student in the Department of Human Ecology, was my mentor for the semester. My internship experience primarily consisted of three components. First, I worked with Amy in the editing phase of a research paper that had been submitted to the journal, Social Development, and returned for revisions. Second, I investigated the life of a graduate student by asking pertinent questions to my mentor and other graduate students. Last, I attended faculty seminars in the Department of Human Ecology.
In regard to the paper that I helped Amy edit, I was involved in collecting literature and running analyses for revisions. Before I discuss these duties, I will explain the subject of the paper. The paper examines associations between children's temperaments and mothers' emotions and behaviors that are related to supportive parenting. My mentor and her advisor proposed and tested several parts of a model for understanding how and why temperament and parenting might be related. I was not part of the data collection aspect of this project, since it took place prior to this semester. However, I did collect literature and references that were needed to further support their findings. Amy and I searched for reliable journal articles that supported her research findings. We specifically looked at articles discussing a child's temperament related to gender. Once we decided on the books and journal articles that we needed, we wrote down their call numbers. The next step was for me to pick up the books and Xerox the journal articles from the Perry-Castaeda Library using the call numbers. As simple as this step may sound, let me express that it was the exact opposite! The PCL is an enormous library with millions of books. It took me over an hour to find the first few books. After the first hour, I finally found a librarian to assist me. She was very helpful and comforted me by explaining that many people have a difficult time understanding the PCL call number organization style. She taught me the "art of PCL call numbers" and I can now walk into the PCL without feeling overwhelmed. The other task I did for the paper revision process was assisting Amy in re- running analyses. There were many complicated numbers involved and I became familiar with the Stata program, used by many graduate students in the Department of Human Ecology. The main thing I learned from this experience was just how detail oriented you must be in data analysis.
Another large component of my internship was my effort to understand and prepare for graduate school. I did not go through the application process; instead, I spent time talking researching the "grad student life" by talking to graduate students about their experiences. Not only did I ask Amy my questions, but I also had the chance to speak with other graduate students in the Department of Human Ecology. I learned that although GRE score are very important, there are ways to compensate for average scores. I asked one student what to do if my GRE scores were not that impressive. She gave me a great suggestion, which was to include information in my personal statement as to why my scores do not reflect my abilities. I also learned that in many research-based graduate programs, the coursework ends after about the first three years. The last few years of earning a Ph.D consists of working on research projects and publications with your advisor.
The final component of my internship was attending the Human Ecology faculty seminars. I was honored to sit among UT professors and graduate students, while listening to professors present their research. Dr. Pennebaker, a professor in the Department of Psychology at UT, spoke about how our words reflect who we are. Dr. Pennebaker is the author of several books, including "Opening Up" and "Writing to Heal." He is a pioneer in the study of using expressive writing as a route to healing. His research has shown that short-term focused writing can have a beneficial effect on everyone from those dealing with a terminal illness to victims of violent crime to college students facing first-year transitions. At his lecture, I remember learning that 20% of five-year-olds vocabulary is "I" while only 9% of a college students vocabulary consists of the word "I." Also, I learned that it is more common for women, than men to use social language. Another interesting lecture that I attended was on the topic of "Why Some Marriages Succeed and Others Fail" by Dr. Huston. From his lecture I learned about the PAIR Project, which was a longitudinal study with data collected from 168 newlyweds on their courtship, marriage, and divorce. Dr. Huston presented how the partners' backgrounds and personal qualities came to be reflected in how their courtship unfolded.
When I combine the answers I received from my graduate school questions with the hands on experience from this internship, I feel satisfied with my new understanding of graduate school. The overall revelation I reached this semester regarding graduate school is that I would like to have real world work experience before going to graduate school. I am now more interested in pursuing graduate school than I was prior to this internship; however, I think I will be a better applicant if I can take more time to understand my own interests after college. I learned a lot about myself throughout this semester, most importantly that my interests span across many fields. This program allowed me to further explore my intellectual curiosity in the field of human development. I hope that after a few years in the working world, I will develop an even deeper understanding of what type of graduate degree would be the best fit for me. I had an extremely positive experience with the Intellectual Entrepreneurship Program, and I would recommend it to any student interested in attending graduate school.