What made you choose UC Davis?
I was drawn to the innovative nature of the and its thoughtful and purposeful integration of disciplines. Although my area of emphasis is in learning and mind sciences, the diversity within the school affords multiple opportunities for interdisciplinary collaborations to advance education for students with or at-risk for poor educational outcomes, including students with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Additionally, the chance to join Peter Mundy and Emily Solari in a collaborative partnership at the in the development and evaluation of effective educational practices for students with ASD aligns perfectly with my research goals. And, of course, the infrastructure and ASD specialization of the offers unparalleled opportunities and support for carrying out a line of ASD research.
What inspires you?
I want to make a positive impact in the lives of individuals with ASD and their families and caregivers. Working with individuals with ASD as a speech-language pathologist, educational consultant and research partner in the preschool and elementary school settings, I observed the extent of the challenges that children with ASD face in the classroom. These ranged from difficulty regulating their behavior to participate in classroom activities and adapting to changes in class schedules to making and maintaining friendships and asking for help or advocating for themselves. I understand why children with ASD may exhibit intense problematic behaviors and/or frustrated communicative attempts in educational settings, and it is my goal to help create change by identifying instructional practices that will support their educational success.
What unique research are you currently working on?
My research focuses on evaluating student, teacher and environmental characteristics that support development and learning in school-age children with ASD and similar learning requirements—an area of great need. This research is unique in that it emphasizes the dynamic interplay between students and their classroom environment, each influencing the other to shape learning and development over time. Together with my colleague, Emily Solari, I am working to develop an observational tool for identifying patterns of student active engagement and instructional support strategies that facilitate reading comprehension in children with ASD. I am also working on follow-up research investigating how elementary teachers match effective classroom learning opportunities to students with varying learning profiles to optimize social-emotional and academic engagement.
If you could impart one piece of advice to our undergraduates seeking a course of study/career path, what would it be?
Whichever path you choose, take advantage of the interdisciplinary and collaborative opportunities that arise. Learn from your professors and your peers, but remember to also listen and learn from professionals working in the field. Stay humble but assertive, work hard and never stop learning.
What is your favorite spot on campus?
I love the Arboretum.
If you could have one super power, what would it be and why?
I would freeze time because there is never enough and it seems to fly by too fast.