Introducing the Grad Lounge: DU’s Newest Open Work Space for Grad Students

Welcome to DU’s new open work space for graduate students, The Grad Lounge. The Grad Lounge is open from 6:30 am to 6:30 pm every Monday through Friday and is located inside the Campus Life and Inclusive Excellence suite in Driscoll North. This space was just created this quarter for DU graduate students and provides an area to work on the many projects that seem to take so much longer than anticipated. This week I sat down for a chat with Campus Life and Inclusive Excellence’s Assistant Director of Graduate Student Programs, Sujie Kim, to learn more about this new resource. Happy reading!

Open Work Space Just for Grad Students

Graduate students are often criticized for their tendencies to sequester themselves during their time in school. While alone-time is definitely vital for any scholar, it’s also important to get out one’s lab/cubicle/desk periodically. The Grad Lounge is a perfect opportunity for that, providing not only an open work space to get that dissertation chapter started, but also a space for our graduate community to write together. Additionally, it can be used as a convenient spot to relax, unwind, or just kill time before a class/meeting. The lounge is equipped with items to support every graduate student’s cognitive needs including tables, couches, writing supplies, a fridge, a microwave and even Play Dough, fidget spinners, and peppermints (which have been shown to help with mental recall)!

Drop In Writing Assistance

Prefer more low-key, graduate focused writing support? Need to talk to a writing center consultant but have your kids with you? The Writing Center can help! The Writing Center will be offering drop in consultations every quarter right in the lounge. Sujie explained that what’s great about these sessions is the fact that they are flexible and can be made to fit graduate students’ diverse writing needs. Unlike the traditional 45-minute sessions that are offered in the Anderson Academic Commons, these drop-in hours can be more customized. Advanced graduate consultants are available to talk with you about ideas for a paper, help you refine arguments, and working on later-stage revising and editing. The Writing Center also now offers online scheduling that can be made for sessions in the AAC or Grad Lounge (current hours in the grad lounge have ended for the fall quarter but will resume in the winter). Once you’ve created an account, the system will also send you reminders the day of your scheduled appointments, allow you to register for workshops, and add you to an automated wait list if you cannot get an appointment at your preferred time. In the future the Grad Lounge will also be offering accountability and writing groups for graduate students.

Mental Health Support

Graduate life can take a toll on you, both mentally and physically. To help combat the mental stresses that students pursuing post-baccalaureate goals encounter, Sujie coordinates Grad Chat and Wellness Wednesdays. Grad Chat offers the opportunity for graduate students of color to talk and engage around mental health topics over a meal. This fall the monthly sessions included stress management and care and medication management. Sujie explained that each meeting is facilitated by a mental health expert such as the Health and Counseling Center’s postdoctoral fellow (who helped with the stress management session) and a psychiatrist (who facilitated the medication management session). Wellness Wednesdays is a another opportunity for students to make time for self-care during the quarter. Wellness Wednesdays is a weekly program that currently provides coffee, snacks and de-stress activities. Future programming will include yoga, wellness workshops, mindfulness and meditation, and massage.

So next time you’re traversing Driscoll Bridge to get out of the cold and snow be sure to drop in at the Grad Lounge! If you have any questions or would like to utilize the space for an upcoming meeting feel free to email Sujie (currently, the Black Graduate Student AssociationGraduate Women’s Council, and Latino/a Graduate Association, hold regular meetings in the lounge). Happy writing!

Tips for Landing a Postdoc Position: Insights from Hiring Faculty Members

The postdoc application process can be confusing to navigate for many PhD students. Deciding on what institution is the best fit, how you can set yourself apart from other candidates, and even identifying what postdoc positions are available can be tricky. To help you navigate this process, I decided to get some perspectives from the other side of the hiring process by asking some Sié Center faculty members about their thoughts and recommendations regarding the whole the process.

Finding the Right Fit

Before you start emailing faculty and  submitting applications, Sié Center director Dr. Avant recommends that along with salary and research support that each position will offer, applicants should consider the term, location, and job responsibilities for the position in which they’re interested. Where would you be willing to move for a short period of time? (Postdocs, at least in the social sciences, are generally for 1-2 years.) Are the responsibilities compatible with what you want to do? What does the position require? (Most postdocs require some writing and research; some also require participation in activities or research.) Specifically, at the Sié Center Dr. Avant states that the faculty are looking for high quality research, but also for research that reflects a broad view of global security issues and is directed toward contemporary problems: “We are specifically looking for students who want to engage with global politics as well as study it.”

According to Dr. Kaplan, who was a postdoc for two years at Stanford and Princeton, the nature of postdocs varies widely across different schools—some positions are with individual faculty, while some are with broader departments, and others are attached to research centers or projects. A benefit of being attached to a particular project or center is being more closely tied to a research community, which can be helpful since postdocs can fall through the cracks between grad students and faculty, and may have trouble connecting with an academic community. However, he states that a trade-off (if one can term it that) to that attachment is that the center- or project-based postdocs may spend more time on group projects relative to their own research; but this can also be mutually beneficial, since group projects offer postdocs the opportunity to learn new skills and methods, and develop substantive areas of expertise.

Conducting Your Job Search

You should be ready to apply for a desired position approximately six months to a year beforehand. Dr. Avant recommends that students also start looking at postdoc positions they might be interested in before that period so they are ready to apply when the time comes. “From a practical perspective, it might be a good idea to apply for postdocs and jobs at the same time in order to manage your time more efficiently.” Sié Center postdoc, Dr. Kelsey Norman, applied widely for postdocs and jobs. She recommends letting other academics (in your department or elsewhere) know that you’re on the job market. “This can help you discover jobs that aren’t circulated widely enough, as well as aid in your ability to learn about opportunities as new position announcement get released.”

C.V.s and Publications

When updating your resume/CV make sure that it’s clear and jargon free. Dr. Avant states that “applicants who communicate clearly and take the time to think about what their audience will want to know are highly advantaged.” Now, in regard to publications, Dr. Sisk’s advice is to “publish, publish, publish.” He advises potential postdocs to thoughtfully weigh the short-term monetary benefits of adjunct teaching (which universities will always have a need for) with the gains (such as getting hired and promoted) against longer term trajectories that come from a focus on publishing. He states that while he “would never have a blanket advice of ‘don’t make money,’ postdocs will likely have less time to take material to publication once the teaching, committee service, and other obligations of assistant professorship crowd in. ” Dr. Avant supports Dr. Sisk’s recommendation, asserting that more and more students are publishing in graduate school, making it increasingly important for interested applicants to have publications. However, she also says that “a very interesting project and strong recommendations from esteemed faculty about the worth of the project can sometimes outweigh the publication component.”

Hopefully this is helpful as you start your postdoc search. If you have any suggestions please feel free to add them in the comments section!

Award Winning Database is Revolutionizing the World of Data Access on Social Conflict One Incident at a Time

Data on social conflict now comes in a clean, flat, .csv file with any number of IV/DV combinations ripe for the picking (or analyzing) thanks to Dr. Cullen Hendrix’s  collaborative endeavor with researchers at the University of Denver and from the University of North Texas. Nearly a decade since its inception, the Social Conflict Analysis Database (SCAD) project was given the 2017 J. David Singer Data Innovation Award by American Political Science Association for being this year’s “best data contribution to the study of any and all forms of political conflict” (APSA). Today, researchers have the opportunity to combine, juxtapose, and differentiate information on nearly 20,000 social conflict events in Africa and Latin America with approximately 50 attributes per episode (think of the statistical power!).

Last week I had the opportunity to sit down with one of the co-parents of this brainchild, Dr. Cullen Hendrix, to learn more about this nationally recognized achievement.  Dr. Hendrix is a professor at the Josef Korbel School for International Studies and researcher at the Sié Chéou-Kang Center for International Security and Diplomacy. His current work “focuses on the political and economic consequences of environmental degradation and climate change for peace, security, and stability in the developing world, with a particular emphasis on Africa.” (About). During my conversation with Dr. Hendrix I was specifically excited to learn about the involvement of DU graduate students on this project!

Database Background

The SCAD project was conceptualized in 2008 and officially released in 2011. It serves as a resource for exploring various forms of social and political unrest in Africa and Latin America that are not covered in traditional datasets (think smaller-scale events such as protests, strikes, and riots). Information is aggregated via media reports from LexisNexis and manually coded into the database by a team of researchers. The project provides a robust repository for researchers seeking to explore a variety of different avenues of inquiry surrounding global social conflict. This year new variables were added which include information on women’s participation, gender, and sexual identity. Funding was provided for the first six years by the U.S. Department of Defense and is now being supported by a grant from the Carnegie Corporation.

An Open Environment for the Public Good

In academia, it’s an unfortunate reality that data is often hoarded by researchers in order to avoid getting scooped by competing scholars. In creating SCAD, Dr. Hendrix, Dr. Salehyan, et al. took a risk; they chose to make data available as soon as it was cleaned and ready for analysis. While there was definitely the possibility for researchers to get the jump on Dr. Hendrix with this approach, he stated that it actually turned out to be an effective way to drive interest to the data project and resulted in some really fascinating research. Many of these contributions have moved far beyond the contribution of the SCAD database and demonstrated what can happen when you tear down the firewalls surrounding data and open it for use toward enhancing the public good. SCAD data underpins analysis on topics ranging from the effects of cell phones on violence to the role winning national team football matches has on ethnic self-identification.

DU Student Involvement

One exciting aspect of this project being housed at DU is the fact that Korbel students have the opportunity not just to gain a great education about world affairs, but also attain applied data oriented skills that give them competitive edge when they hit the job market (and including your involvement on a grant funded internationally recognized project on your CV isn’t too shabby either). Skills in data management and content knowledge have provided a springboard for DU students to market themselves after graduation. For example, Richa Bhatia, who is now an analyst with the US Department of Defense, reports that as a DOD Minerva Project funded endeavor, SCAD helped get her foot in the door for interviews with potential federal government employers.

Additionally, one can really gain some intimate knowledge of a region when their combing through media coverage of social conflict events in that area. So as students are analyzing, coding, and managing data, they’re also gaining deep substantive knowledge on a social conflict in a specific geographic location. To enhance the somewhat tedious task of culling and entering information, those involved in the project have the opportunity to bid on countries that they find interesting and/or relevant to their area of research. One of the first coders on the SCAD project, Jennifer Williams, who’s now the Deputy Foreign Editor at Vox, had the chance to code data for Egypt. This comprehensive content culling for SCAD provided fertile ground on which to grow her knowledge for her honors thesis: “External Financing and Extremist Group Viability: A Human Capital Perspective on Egypt’s Al-Gama’a and Islamic Jihad.”

PhD candidate and former Sié Center research fellow, Jonathan Pinckney, worked on SCAD both as a coder – reading newswire articles and transforming the information in them into lines of data – and as a supervisor – managing the work of the student research assistants and troubleshooting day-to-day problems in the coding process. For him the best parts about working on the project was “getting to learn so much about the political dynamics of particular countries and working alongside a world class scholar like Dr. Hendrix, which was both a tremendous privilege and an incredibly rewarding experience.” Jonathan is planning on using his strong data skills in his new role as a postdoctoral research fellow at Norwegian University of Science and Technology. At NTNU he’ll be working on the “Anatomy of Resistance Campaigns” project; an effort to build the scholarly understanding of the organizations and social groups that participate in resistance movements.

Database Challenges

However, involvement on the SCAD project isn’t all publication-induced academic glamour; it takes a lot of time and dedication to code data. The daily grind inherent in data coding and management takes a specific personality type that involves discipline, nuance, and a certain contextual understanding. One of those discerning individuals, Jonathan Pinckney, cited “quantitizing” qualitative information as a challenge that he faced while involved with the project. He states “any data collection effort involves translating the complexities of reality into simple, consistent numerical coding. Dealing with events that are unexpected, or weren’t anticipated in the original coding scheme is thus always one of the most challenging things about working on this kind of project.”

Another challenge involves the complicated nature of creating a database that relies on material that is inherently based on varying perspectives and subjective vantage points. Exemplified by Dr. Hendrix as the Rashomon effect, this challenge involves the many (and often differing) ways in which people experience a certain event. Having to depend on information generated in this murky space that involves the imperfect process of human observation inserts a certain degree of bias to the information that comes across a SCAD coder’s computer screen. That’s why proper discernment and judgment are so important for the grad students who are examining these accounts. This, however, is tempered by a detailed codebook intended to ensure interrater reliability among coders and facilitate consistency with those using and interpreting the data.

Developments on the Horizon

In the coming years SCAD will continue to be maintained and updated. The research team is also working with a librarian who will help get the data hosted on a SQL server. This will serve to enhance the scalability of the project as well as provide an opportunity to generate data visualizations in the future. This year Dr. Hendrix is leveraging SCAD’s bevy of data points to explore more nuanced insights about repression and uncover connections between climactic conditions in Africa and social conflict. Be sure to stay tuned for his upcoming research publications as well as articles using data from SCAD!

 

Image Credit: Takver, Wikimedia Commons

Dr. Yolande Bouka is investigating female freedom fighters in Namibia’s liberation struggle

Meet the Sié Center’s newest postdoc fellow, Dr. Yolande Bouka. Dr. Bouka is a highly accomplished scholar who not only conducted the first systematic investigation of the legal journey and reintegration of former prisoners of the genocide in Rwanda, but had two children during the process! Here at DU she is working on completing her book manuscript on transitional justice in Rwanda and continuing her study on female freedom fighters in Namibia’s liberation struggle. In this study she employs a feminist analytical lens to narratives of military participation to explore women’s agency. Enjoy reading more about her groundbreaking research and the advice she has for DU grad students.

Researcher: I received my PhD in International Relations from the School of International Service at American University. My MA was also in International Relations from Seton Hall University. At the Sié Center I am continuing my work on micro dynamics of violence by looking at women’s agency in non-state armed groups based on field research conducted with former female combatants who fought during Namibia’s war of independence.

Dissertation Research: My dissertation, “In the Shadow of Prison: Power, Identity, and Transitional Justice in Post-Genocide Rwanda,” investigates power relations in Rwanda’s transitional justice program. More specifically, I analyze how the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) manipulates the transitional justice program to legitimize its post-genocide rule. The project explores the legal journey of former prisoners accused of genocide crimes. This exposes the bearings of long years of socialization in post-genocide prisons on ordinary citizens and how one-sided criminal accountability challenges social repair. It also explores how released prisoners remember the multiple episodes of violence in Rwanda that took place during the 1990s. My research finds that incongruences between their memories and the official narrative on violence frame which violent acts the RPF regime chooses to criminalize or normalize for political purposes. My research finds that the legal framework forces Rwandans who journey through the judicial system to take on unitary identities that highlight their assumed criminality but eschew their victimhood at the hand of the state. I argue that the transitional justice program in Rwanda is one of the new battlegrounds of identity politics in a continuation of power struggle between political elites since the colonial era.

In my dissertation, I used a mixed-method approach that involved four months of ethnographic work in Northern Rwanda, where I conducted in depth semi-structured interviews with released prisoners. The project also entailed a critical discourse analysis of the official narrative on the legacy of violence in Rwanda to contextualize my ethnographic and interview data. My research is the first systematic investigation of the legal journey and reintegration of former prisoners of the genocide and offers a new investigative window into the role transitional justice can play in identity politics following mass violence.

Research at the Sié Center: I am working with Marie Berry on a project on women in politics in Kenya and Timothy Sisk on a project on innovations in peace building. During my time as a postdoc fellow I will complete my book manuscript on transitional justice in Rwanda. Aside from that, I will focus the bulk of my time on a new research project  “Gender and Security in African Wars: Learning from Female Combatants in Namibia’s Liberation.” This ongoing study investigates female freedom fighters in Namibia’s liberation struggle. As part of my recent Fulbright Scholar grant in Namibia, I used life history interviews and archival data to investigate the agency of female combatants in the country’s war of liberation. While contemporary analyses often look at women in non-state armed groups as a new and emerging phenomenon, they have in fact always been part of such groups in various capacities. Because scholarly studies of insurgencies in Africa are based primarily on analysis of masculine perspectives, I gender the narrative of the Namibian liberation by looking at women’s agency and how they navigated the rules and norms of the non-state armed group despite the limits to their participation. This ongoing project breaks new ground within the gender and security literature by applying feminist analytical lenses to narratives of military participation in episodes of political violence, which has not been applied to the case of Namibia to date. This research hopes be part of larger project on women’s agency in warfare in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Postdoc Job Search Steps: Because I have spent the past few years working in security policy, away from academia, it was important for me to focus my search on postdocs that would enable me to focus on academic publications. At the end of last summer, I started looking for postdoc through various sites, but my most fruitful finds were through word of mouth. Once I identified the fellowships I wanted to apply for, I familiarized myself with the faculty, the vision and mission of each program to tailor each application.

Biggest Challenge as a Doctoral Student: My biggest challenge was staying focused during the writing process while parenting young children. I had two children during the course of my doctoral studies. Luckily, I had a very supporting chair who encouraged me to stay focused and even came to my house once to discuss one of my chapters.

Advice for DU Doctoral Students: Publish before you finish your doctoral program and apply for research grant, even if you don’t necessarily feel the need for it. It will one of the key things committees will look for on your applications. Also, look for balance in your life. Mental health is a problem in academia.

Sie Center Postdoc, Kelsey Norman, Explores Migrant and Refugee Settlement in the Global South

A photo of Kelsey taken by an interviewee while conducting fieldwork in Alexandria, Egypt in 2015.

Happy day 2 of National Postdoc Appreciation Week! We’re taking this week to acknowledge the wonderful research our DU postdocs are conducting on campus. Today we’re featuring Dr. Kelsey Norman, a postdoctoral fellow at the Josef Korbel School’s Sié Chéou-Kang Center for International Security and Diplomacy. The Sié Center’s many research projects focus on managing violence and maximizing resilience at the local, national, regional, and global levels. In her scholarship, Dr. Norman examines Middle East and North African states as countries of migrant and refugee settlement. Below she explains more about her research, dissertation process, and steps she took in her postdoc job search. Happy reading!

Researcher: Dr. Kelsey Norman: I graduated in June this year from The University of California, Irvine with a Ph.D. in Political Science. I received a Master of Public Policy from the University of Toronto and a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

Dissertation Research: My dissertation, “Reluctant Reception: Understanding Host State Migration and Refugee Policies in Egypt, Morocco and Turkey,” explores migrant and refugee settlement in three Middle East and North African host states and asks: What policy options do states in the Global South have for engaging with migrants and refugees, and what factors make a state choose one option over another? To answer this question I conducted extensive fieldwork and 131 interviews in Egypt, Morocco and Turkey with government officials, international organizations, local NGOs, and individual migrants and refugees.  I find that in the 1990s and the first decade of the 2000s, Egypt, Morocco and Turkey were able to mostly ignore the implications of their new inward migration due to three primary factors: migrants and refugees found ways to integrate into large informal economies, international organizations and domestic organizations intervened to provide essential services, and the issue of migration was not so highly politicized that it gained prolonged traction in media or amongst the national population. By allowing migrants and refugees to integrate in a de facto sense through minimal government intervention and by relying on international organizations to provide primary services, host states derive international credibility while only exerting minimal state resources.

I also look at the factors that cause migration and refugee policy to change over time in each host state. I find that geostrategic imperatives and international perceptions drive state engagement decisions more than the capacity of each host state. Capacity is therefore not only an empirical reality but also a perception that can serve strategic purposes, and this influences the choices that host states make regarding migrant and refugee responsibility. Additionally, I find that host states will enact a liberal strategy if (a) doing so allows it to co-opt domestic civil society critics, or (b) doing so will reap economic or diplomatic benefits from either a powerful neighboring state or a geostrategically important sending state. This contravenes the extant neoinstitutionalist and postnationalist explanations for why states in the Global North adopt liberal migration policies.

Research at the Sié Center: My primary project is working on turning my dissertation into a book manuscript, but I’m pursuing an active research agenda that includes: (1) further work on forced migration and host state policies in the Middle East; (2) migrant and refugee activism in semi-authoritarian settings; (3) the rise of global migration deterrence measures; (4) diaspora involvement in home country politics; (5) the role of international organizations like the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) or the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in determining host state migration policy outcomes. I currently work with Dr. Deborah Avant, the Director of the Sié Chéou-Kang for International Security and Diplomacy, but I look forward to working with various members of the center and of the broader Korbel academic community.

Biggest Challenge as a Doctoral Student: Endurance. Working on a project for five+ years is difficult under any circumstances. I began my dissertation project in 2012, just following the Arab Spring and as Syrians were only beginning to seek refuge in neighboring countries. I did not anticipate, as I was finishing fieldwork in the summer of 2015, that the migration and refugee “crises” I had been researching would suddenly become front-page news in Europe, the United States and across the world. What had been a niche topic as I was writing proposals, seeking out contacts and conducting interviews, suddenly became mainstream. Initially this seemed promising: increased attention would mean increased support in terms of international funding and perhaps even refugee resettlement. But the momentary global sympathy after the body of three-year old Aylan Kurdi washed up on a Turkish beach quickly dissipated, and was replaced by xenophobic nationalism, anti-immigration platforms, and calls for reinforced borders. Against this backdrop, the process of writing my dissertation between 2015 and 2017 was difficult. Often I felt that my efforts would have been better directed toward activism or public engagement that attempted to counter some of the racist and exclusionary rhetoric that has become so prominent. But I persisted in finishing my dissertation and the degree, and I’m hopeful that the research I conducted will eventually be available as a book, meaning that the labor and time spent in relative isolation won’t have been in vain!

Postdoc Job Search Steps:  I applied widely for postdocs and jobs. The primary resource I used was APSA ejobs, but because I was also looking at positions in policy schools or affiliated with institutes that aren’t necessarily composed of political scientists, I looked at positions advertised via other websites as well, including jobs.ac.uk and globaljobs.org. As a bit of advice, it’s a good idea to let other academics (in your department or elsewhere) know that you’re on the job market. Sometimes job advertisements aren’t circulated widely enough, but if something crosses your colleague’s desk and they know you’re in the process of looking for a postdoctoral position, they can easily forward the advertisement to you.

Advice for DU Doctoral Students: Various people during the course of my PhD told me, “the best dissertation is a finished dissertation.” Your dissertation won’t be perfect, and if you’re hoping to eventually publish it as a book you’ll have to do substantial rewriting anyway. More generally, I think this mentality applies to publishing and having your writing available for academic or public audiences. Don’t fret too much about perfection, and be brave about getting your ideas out there for peer-review or public critique.

DU IRISE Postdoc Fellow is Exploring Issues of Environmental Justice Between the U.S. and India

Did you know this week is National Postdoc Appreciation Week? Here at DU we are so thankful for the amazing contributions made by our postdoc fellows. They are such an important part of our scholarly mission and we’re excited to take this week and celebrate all their inspiring research. Today we’d like to introduce you to Dr. Pranietha Mudliar, a postdoctoral fellow specializing in Environmental Justice and Sustainability at DU’s Interdisciplinary Research Incubator for the Study of (In)equality (IRISE). IRISE  is designed to support research and creative work dedicated to issues of (in)equality, social justice, and inclusivity. Under this initiative, departments, programs, and units on campus have the opportunity to engage and mentor promising scholars in their field or in an associated field. Below Pranietha shares a little bit about her journey as a doc student and what she’s doing now as a IRISE postdoc fellow:

Researcher: I graduated from Ohio State University in August 2016 with a Ph.D. in Environment and Natural Resources. My interdisciplinary mentorship committee consists of Dr. Sarah Bexell (Graduate School of Social Work), Dr. Chad King (Sustainability Coordinator), Dr. Andy Goetz (Geography), Dr. Karin Wedig (Korbel School of International Studies), Susan Daggett (Sturm College of Law), and Patience Crowder (Sturm College of Law). I works closely with Dr. Wedig on fisheries governance and Dr. Bexell on teaching and additional research.

Dissertation Research: As a doc student I was driven by the question of how social and economic inequalities among resource users affect water management strategies in developed and developing contexts. I synthesized theories from collaborative environmental governance, common-pool resources, and collective action to uncover conditions and institutions that promote collective action in socio-culturally heterogeneous groups in rural West Virginia, U.S. and rural Karnataka, India. I then examined whether these institutions address racial and caste-related inequalities. My findings indicated that institutions that promote collective action are actually repositories of power that merely mute racial and caste differences without challenging existing power asymmetries.

Research at IRISE: I am conducting a cross-national analysis of how adaptive governance can advance fisherfolks’ capacities to participate in and shape the outcomes of fisheries resource management in the Lake Victoria basin in East Africa. Specifically, I am comparing the socio-economic and political conditions in Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania that create opportunities and barriers for the emergence of adaptive governance of fisheries in response to declining stocks of Nile Perch (Oreochromis niloticus) in the Lake Victoria basin. In our research, we found that even in the presence of enabling factors (networks, learning leadership, and trust) that facilitate transition to adaptive governance, widespread poverty among local resource users, relatively low state-institutional capacities, and institutionalized power asymmetries prevent such transitions.

In another research project, I am examining factors that contribute to the sustainability of collaborative watershed partnerships in the U.S. and in India. I am collaborating with Groundwork Denver, a non-profit working on watershed management in the lower Bear Creek in Denver, to undertake this research.

Biggest Challenge as a Doctoral Student: Finding a work-life balance was one of my biggest challenges as a doctoral candidate. Doing a Ph.D. is a full-time job with a myriad of conference and paper deadlines, teaching and grading responsibilities, conducting dissertation research, in addition to taking courses at the same time, which can take a toll on a student who is just starting out. Through the course of my doctoral career, I learned the importance of carving out time for myself and activities outside of school and breaking my work into smaller, manageable chunks.

Advice for DU Doctoral Students: As a graduate student, while finishing up with the dissertation must be a top priority, collaborating with other graduate students and faculty on other projects is a good way to get publications out of the door. Working on projects other than the dissertation gives you opportunities to expand upon the breadth of your experience in conducting research and build valuable and supportive networks with fellow graduate students.

Graduate Citings Tales from the Field – Samantha Brown

samantha-brown-university-of-denverHello Graduate Students! We hope you’re having a spectacular summer filled with a balance of relaxation and productivity. For August we’re featuring postdoctoral fellow and DU alumnae Dr. Samantha Brown. Dr. Brown is committed to reducing barriers to accessing services for vulnerable children and families and has conducted extensive research surrounding child health and well-being. As a recent DU grad student Dr. Brown is very familiar with the stresses brought on by publication and dissertation completion. Be sure to read her research advice at the end of the article!

Researcher: Dr. Samantha Brown, postdoctoral fellow in the in the SEED Research Center in the Department of Psychology and PhD alumnae from the Graduate School of Social Work.

Current Research: My overarching graduate research program sought to translate research on adverse childhood experiences, family functioning, and stress into the development and testing of preventive interventions aimed at promoting prosocial parenting behavior and child health and well-being. In support of this work, I implemented a randomized controlled trial of a mindfulness-based intervention that I adapted for child welfare-involved families with substance misuse for my dissertation. In addition, I am working with a research team to identify the mechanisms through which early adversity and family stress impact current parenting and child well-being.

While conducting my dissertation research (which I finished in 2016, yay!) I found that the mindfulness-based intervention could be feasibly integrated within public child welfare. Findings also indicate that the program reduced parenting stress and improved parenting and child behavior problems. These results are exciting in that there is potential to implement integrative mindfulness programs within child- and family-serving agencies. I am currently in the process of submitting findings from my dissertation for publication.

Collaborators: I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity to learn from talented scholars across multiple fields. The work that I have accomplished thus far would not have been possible without the great support and mentorship that I have received from my advisor and dissertation chair, Kimberly Bender, and my committee members, Jeffrey Jenson, Jennifer Bellamy, and Lavita Nadkarni. I will also continue to pursue this important area of study as a postdoctoral fellow under the mentorship of Sarah Watamura in the SEED Research Center.

Initial Inspiration: My prior clinical experience as a substance abuse counselor and child welfare caseworker is the driving force behind my current research interests and has motivated me to serve as a catalyst for change in reducing barriers to accessing services for vulnerable children and families. I worked with many children and families impacted by early adverse experiences and became interested in exploring alternative interventions that might be useful in helping individuals to develop sustainable skills to cope with these stressful situations.

Biggest Challenge: Setting aside enough time to complete tasks has been a challenge! I often underestimate how long projects may take, and then feel guilty when I don’t cross items off of my list. I have slowly learned to be strategic about every bit of time that I have available, which has helped me to stay productive and motivated, for the most part!

Research Advice: It is important to connect with a community of scholars who can provide support during a time that seems like a never-ending process! Surrounding yourself by positive role-models can only strengthen your skills and will add immensely to your experience. Sometimes the publication process can be tedious, but don’t let rejections or negative comments sway you from pursuing your important work! It is simply part of the process, and use those moments as learning experiences.