Deacon Spotlight: Parissa Jahromi Ballard

Parissa Jahromi Ballard (BA 2006 in Psychology, MA 2008 in Psychology)

Research Scientist at University of California in Berkeley, CA

Parissa Jahromi Ballard headshot

Parissa Jahromi Ballard (’06)

Describe your current job role.

I am a research scientist in the School of Public Health at UC Berkeley. I get to spend my time thinking about how to promote youth and community development, designing studies to test my ideas, and sharing what I learn. The skills I use every day to do this are reading, writing, and performing statistics. I love my job!

How did Wake Forest prepare you for the world of work?

In my time at Wake, I learned how to think. I was exposed to classes, which I never thought I would enjoy (Who knew how much I would love learning about demography? Where else can you take a semester long seminar about understanding manhood in America?). Furthermore, I got to participate in meaningful assignments and small group discussions as well as form relationships with professors who are skilled at connecting with students. I learned to follow my curiosity and to think critically. Through leadership roles and interacting with the community inside and outside of Wake, I learned how to conduct myself professionally.

What advice would you give to current Wake Forest students and/or young alumni who are about to start their first professional full-time job?

The other day I saw this scribbled on a friend’s mirror: “How you do anything is how you do everything.” I think that is good advice for young professionals. Do everything, even the small things, with excellence. Also, whatever your job, pay close attention to the things that truly excite you. These are the clues to translating your particular interests and skills into a meaningful career.

Describe an interesting project that you’ve worked on recently. What did it involve and what was the impact?

One project I am working on right now is evaluating the impact of a school program called Generation Citizen. This program works with middle and high schools to get young people involved in solving problems in their communities. I am partnering with Generation Citizen to understand how we can inspire adolescents to channel their skills and energy into constructive community work. It’s very exciting to see the brilliant ways that young people come up with to better their communities.

Have you been mentored by anyone in your professional field since entering the workforce? If so, what impact has that had on you?

Good mentorship has been critical to me at every stage of my career. It is invaluable to get advice from people who have been in your situation before, and it is so worthwhile to build and keep relationships with good mentors. Good mentorship has impacted every career decision that I have made and has made it a top priority to mentor students in the same way.

List any additional work experiences you’ve had since graduating from Wake Forest, in addition to your current employment.

After I finished my BA at Wake, I stayed around to complete an MA in Psychology with Dr. Christy Buchanan. I went to the Netherlands for one year on a Fulbright Fellowship with the joint goals of traveling the world and working with a group of researchers who specialize in understanding adolescent identity development. After my year abroad, I moved to California to complete my PhD in child and adolescent development at Stanford University. I recently completed a two year post-doctoral program as a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health and Society Scholar at UC Berkeley and UCSF and stayed on in my current role as a Research Scientist.