Rebecca Dore (BA 2010 in Psychology)
Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Delaware in Newark, DE
Describe your current job role.
I am currently a postdoctoral researcher studying developmental psychology and education. I design and carry out studies to investigate how children learn from media and fiction. A lot of my time is spent reading about new research in my area and writing up the results of my own studies for publication in academic journals. I have to be able to synthesize findings from diverse areas to inform my work, as well as use communication skills to relay my findings and idea to others. I also have to work well with a larger team: research is rarely a solo venture. For example, I am currently working with a team of people across three universities on a study investigating children’s learning of new vocabulary from storybooks and play.
List any additional work experiences you’ve had since graduating from Wake Forest, in addition to your current employment.
After graduating, I went to graduate school and got my PhD in Developmental Psychology from the University of Virginia. While at UVA, I conducted research and taught courses on child development, research methods, and interacting with fictional worlds.
How did Wake Forest prepare you for the world of work?
It’s hard to believe it’s been almost 10 years since I attended a Psychology Department open house during the first week of my freshman year at Wake Forest. I knew I wanted to be a psychology major after taking AP psychology in high school, but when I signed up for classes there was no space left in the higher-level courses – a sure sign of a popular department! When I expressed my disappointed to Dr. Christy Buchanan, however, she opened up a spot for me in her parent-child relations class. Although at first I was intimidated to be in a class with so many older students, my interest in the material and the welcoming atmosphere Dr. Buchanan created allowed me to participate and succeed in the course.
At the end of the semester, Dr. Buchanan encouraged me to join her lab group for independent research credit. I was immediately enamored with seeing the research process in real time: I loved asking research questions, designing surveys, and feeling the excitement of seeing results for the first time. After I had been involved with Dr. Buchanan’s lab for several semesters, she offered me the opportunity to take the lead on a new research collaboration with Dr. Eric Stone. With their guidance, I conducted a thorough literature review, helped shape the research questions, designed and carried out the study, and analyzed the results. When I began the Psychology Honors Program during my senior year, I was able to conduct a second study following up on our findings. We later turned my paper into a peer-reviewed journal article, on which I was lead author.
In addition to my involvement in research, I continued to take as many psychology courses as possible. All of the professors I had were enthusiastic to share the course material with students and made our classes interactive and engaging. I also had the opportunity get involved in the department in other ways, including being on the Psychology Undergraduate Studies Committee, which contributed to decisions about academic issues in the department, and Psi Chi, the National Psychology Honors Society, which held panels and events related to psychology topics and professional development.
As I neared graduation, I knew that I wanted to continue research in Psychology. The department had an excellent process for guiding students in the process of applying to graduate school, including talks on graduate school applications and a structured process for recommendation letters. But my strongest support during that time were my mentors who reviewed my application materials, wrote recommendation letters on my behalf, and with whom I talked through my decisions of where to apply and eventually what program to choose. I ended up deciding to go to the University of Virginia, where I received my PhD in Developmental Psychology last May. I am now a Postdoctoral Fellow in the School of Education at the University of Delaware.
I had experiences in the Psychology Department at Wake that I wouldn’t have had at larger research institutions, where there is less interaction with faculty and fewer opportunities for undergraduate research involvement. In addition to the amazing academics, I found a home in the department – the faculty and staff had high expectations for students but also fostered a supportive and nurturing environment. I certainly wouldn’t be where I am today without the guidance and influence of my mentors and the quality of my academic experience in the Psychology Department. My experiences at Wake prepared me for the challenges of my graduate program and for professional life more broadly.
Describe an interesting project that you’ve worked on recently. What did it involve and what was the impact?
In one ongoing project, I am looking at children’s learning from e-books. One potential advantage of e-books is that pre-readers can use audio narration to engage with the book without the assistance of a parent or teacher, but little evidence exists regarding the effectiveness of audio narration for children’s learning. My preliminary results show that 4- and 5-year-olds can recall more story details after being read an e-book by a parent than after hearing the e-book audio narration or looking at the e-book without narration. These findings suggest that e-book reading is best served by contingent, conversational interactions with an adult. However, results also show that children hearing the audio narration can learn some content from the e-book: They recall more details and answer more questions correctly than children who did not hear any narration. This finding implies that using e-books independently may be a worthwhile activity for preliterate children while caregivers are otherwise occupied. These findings have implications for how e-book creators could improve audio e-book’s educational potential, perhaps by making e-book narration more like an adult narrator by including questions or other interactive prompts. I plan to present these findings at a national conference in the spring and then write them up in an article that I will submit to an academic journal.
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?
Be confident in your abilities and potential, while being humble enough to ask for and accept advice and constructive criticism to grow your skills and knowledge.
What do you know now that you wish you had known about being a working professional?
Even in the relatively independent world of academia, being able to work with others and successfully navigate social situations is vitally important.
Have you been mentored by anyone in your professional field since entering the workforce? If so, what impact has that had on you?
I had wonderful mentors and advisors in graduate school at UVA, who pushed me to succeed and always had more faith in me than I had in myself. Building a network of mentors is so important: Having multiple sources of advice and support really allowed me to see that there was no right answer to my questions and helped me develop the skill and confidence to make my own judgments.
Story published in November 2016.