Dawn Watson, MU graduate student studying for her master’s in social work, has been awarded a professional development training opportunity as a student researcher for the Institute for Research on Poverty. The program is extremely competitive as it only accepts 10 graduate students nationwide, who are usually doctoral candidates.
The Professional Development Training Series on Poverty and Economic Mobility Research Program is a federal government-university partnership conducted by the Institute for Research on Poverty. The program seeks to increase the number of postdoctoral researchers conducting policy-relevant research on poverty and inequality in the United States.
Watson explains how important this opportunity is to her, “I was really thrilled to be selected as I am first generation college graduate and masters’ student and a queer woman, so the representation is important. The application also specifically encouraged students from institutions that are not known for their research programs, which opens up opportunities for people who attend state schools like Millersville.”
This professional development opportunity came to Watson through an email list where she then had to complete the short application. “I came across the call for applications to the program through a social work research email list. The application itself was brief and required a letter asking about my current experience and interests with research, and about what kind of professional development I hoped to gain from their program,” says Watson.
Watson will complete training sessions on topics the students selected. “This is a professional development opportunity structured into four, two-hour training sessions this fall and next spring. All the participants were asked if there were specific topics we’d be interested in hearing more about, so the sessions are tailored to what the students have requested,” Watson says.
She makes sure to note how beneficial the research program is to the students involved, “For those of us actively searching for employment, this opportunity will allow us to make some great connections. This professional development opportunity is intended to connect people with careers outside of academia.”
When asked how Millersville University supported her academically to achieve this opportunity, Watson says, “So much of this can be attributed to the faculty in the MU School of Social Work and the Center for Public Scholarship and Social Change, because my understanding and application of social work research has developed as a result of that mentorship and encouragement.”
Watson also mentions a project she is proud to be part of which has increased her experience in research. “Currently, I am most proud of our People & Places project, which developed from Dr. Jennifer Frank’s elective on homelessness in Spring 2021. We are completing a report and have involved over 50 members of the community as part of the research. I think it’s critical for social workers to understand research as praxis rather than something isolated and separate from the work we do every day.”
Currently, Watson works as a policy research coordinator for the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank while completing graduate school as a part-time student. After graduating, Watson is considering earning her Ph.D.