We interviewed psychological foundations PhD student Jasmine Kim about her experience as a student in the Department of Educational Psychology and her advice for prospective students.
What are your research interests?
I am interested in how people learn from texts and apply information from texts in new contexts. My research also focuses on how we can use texts to reduce readers’ socio-scientific misconceptions.
How did your path lead to the Department of Educational Psychology and your particular major?
I was a psychology major in college. I took a cognitive development course where I learned about the Construction-Integration Model (Kintsch, 1983), which is a theoretical model of comprehension. I became really interested in this model and found reading comprehension to be a complex, fascinating topic. When I applied to graduate school, I knew I wanted to pursue both basic and applied lines of research. My advisor’s (Panayiota Kendeou) research profile showed that she had the same research interests I do, so I applied to work with her.
What surprised you along the way?
Honestly, I never thought I would apply to graduate school. At that time, I had already worked in another research lab for several years, but I had other career aspirations. It turns out that I just had to find the topic I was interested in studying.
What is something you’ve most enjoyed about your experience?
There are so many things I love about graduate school. I enjoy meeting students who come from different research backgrounds. I love discussing new research ideas and debating with my lab mates. Designing experiments to study a phenomenon is really fun. Graduate school is also the only place where I’ve felt both terrified and intellectually-stimulated at the same time. But once you learn something new, the feeling of terror slowly starts to transition into confidence and feels really good.
What is most exciting about your work?
I like theory-building research because reading comprehension theories inform how people comprehend texts. Therefore, these theories have implications for reading interventions. My research also has the potential to advance the field’s understanding of reading comprehension.
How would you describe the student experience, and what does that mean to you?
To me, the student experience describes my research experience, the courses I take, and the relationships I build with faculty and students in the program. My sense of belonging and satisfaction with the program really depends on the ability to pursue the research questions I’m interested in, take thought-provoking courses, and build meaningful relationships.
What has been most challenging?
Honestly, I think the most challenging thing is separating work and personal life. It’s not that I don’t have a personal life – I just find it hard to “turn off” work when I am at home. As a result, I often feel guilty about not working (when I shouldn’t!). I also find myself comparing my progress with that of other students, but the students in the program are really supportive of each other.
Something else I’ve found challenging is explaining what I do to people outside of academia. I’m the first one in my family to go to graduate school, and they still don’t know what I do. Every summer, I have to explain why I can’t just go home and relax.
How have your professors helped you along the way?
My professors have helped me in so many ways. My undergraduate professors gave me the confidence to apply to graduate school. They also walked me through the application process and provided me with a list of mentors I could apply to. Even today, I reach out to my former professors to keep them updated on what I am doing, and they reassure me when I feel uncertain about my abilities. I’ve also learned so much about research from my current advisor. She trusts in the work I do and is always available whenever I need help. She also listens to the ideas I have and lets me ramble to sort out my thoughts.
What would you like prospective students to know?
The advisor and lab are really important! Graduate school is like an apprenticeship. You do take classes, but most of the learning comes from your advisor and peers in the lab. Also, you don’t have to know everything when you start the program. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and try new things. Make sure you build good relationships with your peers and focus on collaborating with others.
How has your cohort helped you along the way?
They keep me passionate about my work and help me develop new research questions. They also keep me from going crazy during stressful times. I feel really touched when they reach out to me with journal articles or resources they think are relevant to my work.
What are you looking forward to with graduation?
Right now, I’m just looking forward to tackling my list of research questions and running more experiments. Once I do graduate, it will feel nice to look back and think about everything I was able to accomplish.
How do you plan to use what you are learning/your degree?
I want to pursue a research career.
Why did you chose the psychological foundations of education program at the University of Minnesota?
I came here because I really wanted to work with my advisor. The students here are really welcoming, and the city is beautiful. It also helps that we have such a beautiful building (and the best offices and the best views).