Graduate Citings: Tales from the Field – Stephanie Begun

Happy spring pios! Hope you’re all having a wonderful and restful spring break. This Monday marks the second half of the dreaded “mega quarter” here at DU. To give you a little encouragement to keep plugging away, we thought we’d create a blog series specifically focused on the fruits of your fellow pios’ research labors. The new series, Graduate Citings: Tales from the Field, features graduate students who are conducting some important and inspiring scholarship here at DU. The series serves to highlight the various research happenings on campus, as well as provide you with some timely research advice from your colleagues that can help you in your future endeavors. Our first post features Stephanie Begun, a PhD candidate at GSSW, who is investigating the impact of social media on homeless youths’ attitudes towards sexual health.

Stephanie-BegunResearcher: Stephanie Begun, PhD candidate at the Graduate School of Social Work.

Current Research: My dissertation research focuses on reproductive and sexual health attitudes and decision-making among homeless youth, and how youths’ social networks, perceptions of social norms, and sources of social support may serve as risk/protective factors in youths’ engagement in sexual behaviors. More broadly, I also investigate opportunities by which prevention science, policy, and community-based participatory research may work in tandem to positively impact family planning access and reproductive outcomes for all populations. Additionally, I am currently working on an interdisciplinary grant that seeks to identify new ways of using design thinking and social media to engage vulnerable youth in teen pregnancy prevention and education efforts.

My hope is that my dissertation efforts will result in more effective and culturally responsive approaches to pregnancy prevention specifically among homeless youth. I truly enjoy writing and have been very lucky to publish numerous peer-reviewed articles with my many wonderful collaborators at DU and beyond. I have published manuscripts on topics including reproductive health and family planning, youth homelessness, social networks, community-based participatory research methods, social innovations, among other topics. A full list of my publications are available in my DU portfolio.

Collaborators: Throughout my time at DU, I have had the great fortune of working with so many amazing formal and informal mentors. Kim Bender is my mentor/dissertation chair, and I have also worked extensively with Anamika Barman-Adhikari, Ramona Beltrán, Jae McQueen, and many others at GSSW, in addition to Anne DePrince in Psychology. Learning from our many diversely talented faculty members has been one of the major highlights of my doctoral education.

Initial Inspiration: For as long as I can remember, I have always loved working with youth and helping them to reach their incredible potential! Pregnancy and parenting at a young age can be very stressful, and as I worked more with homeless youth, I began to think about how such stressors are even further amplified among this population. Many homeless youth indicate either an ambivalence toward or an active desire to become pregnant or involved in a pregnancy, as they often see pregnancy and parenting as the only perceived “cure” to other life challenges and experiences of abuse, neglect, and trauma. I think that understanding the complex reasons behind such pregnancy attitudes may help us to better reach and educate youth populations that continue to exhibit the highest pregnancy rates.

Biggest Challenge: At my core, I am such a nerd! I find almost everything interesting and I have such a hard time saying “no” to projects. For me, the biggest challenge is being realistic and strategic about which projects to take on and which ones to (unfortunately) decline due to time constraints.

Research Advice: Stay persistent! The peer-reviewed publishing process can often take a long time and can be frustrating, but your work is important! Also, study something you truly care about. Becoming a scholar is exceptionally difficult, so you have to love what you do; perhaps more importantly, the people your work is seeking to help really need your passion and commitment to conducting novel and ethical research, too.

Do you know anyone who is conducting some inspirational scholarship? Let us know and we might feature them in an upcoming series post!

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