Ph.D. in Education, 2012
School of Education
May 1, 2014
New Publication from Public Profit: Strategies to Promote Non-Cognitive Skills: A Guide for Youth Developers and Educators
I consider myself a youth development professional and have done so for as long as I can remember. I pursued my Master’s in Public Policy and my Ph.D. in Education as an entry into youth development work from a systems level as opposed to a program level. Despite my good intentions, the back-to-back advanced degrees took me out of the youth development context much more than I would have liked. During my studies, I spent my spare time flirting with the youth development field, volunteering, serving as a grant reader for the 21st CCLC grants, and becoming an after school trainer through the California School-Age Consortium. By 2012, when I graduated from UCI with my Ph.D. in Education, I was eager to re-enter the youth development field full time.
I now have that opportunity through my current position as a Research Associate at Public Profit, an evaluation and consulting firm that is committed to helping public service organizations measure and manage what matters. As a Research Associate, I design and manage mid- to small-size evaluations of out-of-school time (OST) programs and professional development initiatives for youth workers. Two of my larger projects include evaluating roughly 80 school-based after school programs in Oakland and evaluating a collaborative effort of eight OST programs to improve youths’ non-cognitive skills, such as study skills and academic perseverance.
What I enjoy most about my job is that it requires a delicate balance between research and practice. I am constantly interacting with professionals who are passionately implementing programs for youth. Many of them rely on my colleagues and me to help them understand the impact of their work and to share insights about the quality of the services they provide. Here is where the balance comes in. I tap into my research skills to help me decide what kinds of data can help me share that information with our clients.
Not many youth development professionals are moonlighting as data scientists. So, it is important that we find strategies to help our clients make sense of our evaluation findings and support them in making connections to their practice. Sometimes that translates into innovative ways to display data and other times it means facilitating discussions about the next steps based on evaluation findings. The Public Profit team, myself included, strives to provide our clients with actionable data and informative reports.
I think connecting our evaluation findings to our clients’ daily work is just the first step. I am also interested in sharing what we learn with the OST field more broadly. Our recent publication, Strategies to Promote Non-Cognitive Skills: A Guide for Youth Developers and Educators, is an example of the kind of contribution to the field that I would like to see continue. The Guide spotlights 16 different approaches that help youth cultivate non-cognitive skills, the strategies, attitudes, and behaviors that help young people thrive in the 21st century. The Guide is intended to help youth developers and educators make comparisons between strategies, which we hope will inform their decision about how best to support children and youth.
The research and practice around non-cognitive skills is just emerging, but what we know suggests that non-cognitive skills are important for youths’ success in and out of school. It is so exciting to be at the forefront of such promising approaches to youth work. I am grateful for the many opportunities that I have as a researcher at Public Profit to be an active and engaged scholar. I’m looking forward to making more contributions to the OST field in the future!