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2nd Year CPR Student, Josh Lovett

We caught up with 2nd year Community and Prevention PhD Student, Josh Lovett! Josh has been up to some really good stuff this semester!


Happy Tuesday! We caught up with Josh to learn more about his TA (peer-advocate) support program! Josh also shares his background and journey that led him here!

Hi Josh! Thank you again for agreeing to be featured this month! We are so excited for you to share your story with us and our readers!

[TT] Can you start by telling us how you became interested in Psychology?

[JL] Well, to be honest it all started in high school. I attended a high school with few resources, so I ended up carving my own kind of path there. One of the things I did was self-study AP Psychology, which I found fascinating at the time. When I went to college, I took a psychology course and really loved thinking about the complexities of behavior and all the contextual factors that influence how we feel, think, and act. I ended up majoring in psychology and then teaching for a few years after graduating. As a teacher, I was thinking a lot about the social and emotional contexts of learning, and I started to look into the research on this more deeply. Then I found the field of SEL (social-emotional learning) and the rest is history!

[TT] Given your academic history and experience, why did you choose UIC? How did you know UIC’s program would be the right fit for you?

[JL] Choosing the right program is a very difficult decision. I applied to a wide variety of programs, including programs in schools of education. When I met Kim (my advisor) on Zoom, she was so incredibly kind and supportive. I knew that as a first-generation student I would need a lot of support and guidance in graduate school, so this really stood out to me. Additionally, UIC is situated in the heart of Chicago, which brings so many opportunities for community-centered work and collaboration. I have met so many amazing people here so far, and I am looking forward to growing those connections throughout the next few years.

[TT] This is your second year in the CPR Program. What has this experience been like? What have you learned or how has your interests/research evolved since your first year?

[JL] I think the first year was spent really adjusting to a new city and to graduate school in general. I really tried to give myself time to make those adjustments, which helped immensely. Overall, I have had a great time with the program. I have an amazing cohort of friends who have really helped me out, and the faculty in my program are doing a lot to support us as emerging scholars. My research interests have definitely gotten more specific as I have progressed through the program. At the same time, I am still learning so much, so I feel like I am constantly having new ideas. In addition, being a TA has really solidified my passion for teaching, so that has also been really great!

[TT] Would you mind sharing your current research interests or any projects you are currently working on?

[JL] Well, my main priority right now is my thesis. My thesis work is centering on implementation of SEL programs (i.e., how teachers implement SEL in their classrooms using a specific program). More specifically, I am looking at how and why teacher’s make adaptations to SEL Programs and the potential outcomes these changes have on students’ social-emotional skills and well-being. Additionally, I am involved in a project in our lab that is assessing an intervention that targets students and teachers’ well-being and skills at the same time, which is quite novel as much of the existing programs have only targeted students. In the Spring, our research team will be going into schools for data collection, which I am super excited about!

[TT] Something we’ve discussed throughout the semester was you creating a support group for the TA’s in the department. Community is EVERYTHING! Would you expand a bit on the importance of creating this group? How has it helped you to navigate this semester compared to others?

[JL] Yes, you are totally right – community is everything! The TA Support Group has been a great space to begin to grow with other TAs. I realized that there was not a space for TAs to really share and learn from one another. We met a couple of times this semester to lay the groundwork for what we wanted to be. I had a lot of ideas, but I really wanted to co-create this space to identify the things we wanted to accomplish. We have tentatively identified a few things that we want to work on throughout the next few months: learning from each other, engaging in collective action, and building a supportive community. I think it is so helpful to have a space to celebrate the things that go well as TAs and to also have opportunities to talk through the more challenging aspects of this role.

[TT] What are you most looking forward to relating to the support group when we return in the spring?

[JL] So many things! I am excited to work on specific initiatives that we have discussed. One thing we are working on with some staff and faculty are to make improvements to the TA-Professor matching system – that will hopefully benefit both professors and TAs. This would allow professors to describe the responsibilities for their classes so that TAs can be more informed when requesting specific classes. I am also looking forward to trying a couple new things in my classes that I have learned from other TAs!

[TT] Is there anything in particular you are excited about as you near the end of your second year?

[JL] Honestly, I am excited about so many things! I am excited to start the analyses for my thesis and really dig into some of the qualitative data. I am eager to continue the work with the TA Support group and to build a community around teaching. I am very much looking forward to a special role I was given as a Department Teaching Fellow, which will allow me to work on teaching-related initiatives at a broader level. Finally, I am looking forward to going into schools for data collection!

[TT] Before we conclude, I have to ask what advice you would give to any new or current students in the department who are trying to figure things out?

[JL] Give yourself time and space to learn and adjust. There will be a lot of new material, theories, methodologies, etc. that you will be exposed to. Find different levels of support (family, friends, faculty, colleagues, etc.) that you can lean on when things are difficult and always celebrate accomplishments and progress – even if they seem small! Find time to authentically rest and do the things you love outside of your role as a PhD student.

[TT] And lastly, would you mind sharing a fun fact about yourself or a hobby?

[JL] I love games – board games, video games, whatever – and I really like to incorporate games into my teaching!

Josh, we are so proud of you and all of your hard work. Thank you for your leadership and compassion. Please enjoy the holiday break.