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Intensive Summer Interdisciplinary Experience Graduate Fellowship

This annual award program is designed to provide summer funding for graduate students to obtain intensive training in areas that are not typically part of their programs of study in their degrees. We provide up to $10,000 in summer support (travel, living expenses, etc.) to allow students to intensively study with new topics and areas of interest, to travel to other universities and labs to gain experience, to attend intensive workshops that contribute to enhanced interdisciplinary training and expertise, etc.

The key element is that this experience must expand the student's expertise into areas that are relatively new and of interest to the student's overall interdisciplinary goals. The funds provide an experience that goes beyond the disciplinary training being received or significantly expands the already ongoing interdisciplinary work.


Andrea Vest

Andrea Vest

Broadly, my research focuses on the antecedents and outcomes associated with adolescents’ formal (e.g., organized extracurricular activities) and informal (e.g., hanging out with friends) time-use. For example, I study how aspects of ethnicity and culture shape time-use and how time-use affects adolescents’ psychosocial development. The ISIE fellowship helped me gain expertise in a few specific areas.

I spent my summer at the University of California at Irvine working with a prominent scholar in adolescent time use, Dr. Joseph Mahoney. Dr. Mahoney was implementing a physical activity intervention aimed at reducing Latino youth’s obesity-related health risks. The project promoted my research in three areas related to Latino adolescents’ development: how time-use during different seasons, particularly summer, affects developmental outcomes; how factors related to ethnicity and culture shape time use; and the role of physical activity in obesity-related health outcomes. Although Dr. Mahoney did not have data that was ready to analyze, we utilized two national datasets for other related research projects. Dr. Mahoney and I used data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID) to test the long-term implications of the overscheduling hypothesis (the idea that participation in too many activities may be detrimental for some youth) in a diverse sample. We used data from the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) to understand how time-use affects academic outcomes around the world. Dr. Mahoney and I continued to collaborate beyond the ISIE fellowship and presented each of these projects at national conferences. Both projects were eventually carried out to publication.

Beyond the clear benefits of the research opportunities described above, the fellowship was also important to me for social networking opportunities. Dr. Mahoney and I have continued to collaborate beyond the fellowship and have several projects in line for the future. The fellowship also provided the opportunity to work with an interdisciplinary research team and collaborate with scholars from different fields. The fellowship broadened the scope of future research and job opportunities, inviting the possibility of working in fields beyond my primary discipline, such as sociology or education.

Chara Price

Chara Price

As a developing researcher, one of my main interests is to understand the role of ecological context in positive and negative choices made by adolescents.  I particularly became interested in the variety of mechanism through which low SES indicators were related to low organized activity participation rates. I applied for the Intensive Summer Interdisciplinary Experience (ISIE) graduate fellowship to learn from a scholar in child poverty research at the University of California at Irvine.  In addition, organized activity research often overlaps with educational psychology research; many organized activities occur in school and participation is related to academic achievement.  The fellowship provided me with an opportunity to gain interdisciplinary experience in an educational psychology department. 

The primary goal of the fellowship was to study the effect of poverty on after-school program participation.  Under the guidance of Dr. Duncan, the experience supported my graduate study goals by providing in depth interdisciplinary training on neighborhood effects and poverty from a leading scholar in the field and exposure to educational and economics perspectives and methods.  The experience provided me with an opportunity to work with faculty outside of my discipline.  In being part of an educational psychology department for a summer, I gain insight into the strengths and weaknesses in our two fields approaches to understanding positive after school choices of at risk adolescents. In addition, I received training in methods not traditionally taught in developmental research, such as instrumental variables.  Since completing the fellowship I have incorporated aspects of educational psychology into my research and continue to disentangle the many contexts shaping adolescents’ choices.

Megan O'Donnell

My ISIE experience included going to Northwestern University to enhance my understanding of how biomarkers play a role in psychological research. I worked with Emma Adams who is affiliated with Cells to Society: The Center for Social Disparities and Health. The mission of this group of scholars is to practice interdisciplinary research that brings together the social, life, and bio-medical sciences in ways that promote a better understanding of the origins, consequences and policy solutions for health disparities in the U.S.

My specific goal was to learn about how cortisol (stress hormone) plays a role in the stress response mechanisms that lead to negative mental health outcomes. I feel that while it is important to incorporate contextual variables into stress process models, it is just as important to explore the ways in which biological factors impact stress and ultimately mental and physical health. My ISIE experience enabled me to gain: 1) hands on participation in cortisol data collection procedures, 2) increased knowledge in cortisol sampling procedures, and 3) training in statistical strategies utilized to analyze cortisol data. I was able to accomplish these goals through reading, running a mini-study, and completing a data analysis project. Further, I was able to attend a 3 day Biomarker Institute in which I learned about ways to incorporate several biological markers (e.g., blood spots, saliva, blood pressure, and BMI) into social science research. This experience not only gave me hands on experience in methods of collecting and analyzing biological data, but it also gave me the opportunity to collaborate with scientists from other disciplines (e.g., medical anthropology), broadening the ways in which I think about science. I believe that this collaboration is needed to take psychological research to the next level.

Since my ISIE experience, I have not had active experience in collecting biological data. I focused my time enhancing my knowledge of how culture plays into the stress and coping processes in Mexican American youth. That being said, I have utilized the knowledge acquired through my experience in the ways in which I think about science in general. I feel as though the ISIE experience helped me begin to break down the tunnel vision that is easy to develop when studying specific things for periods of time. Furthermore, I hope to incorporate biological data in future research upon graduation.

Amy Pennar

Through funding awarded by the ISIE fellowship I conducted a cross-cultural research project that examined maternal perceptions of acceptable childbearing and parenting practices in Southern, Malawi and Southern, Mozambique, two countries in sub-Saharan Africa highly afflicted by the HIV epidemic. The overarching goal was to investigate older women's cultural notions of childbearing and parenting, and how the HIV epidemic has influenced their perceptions. Older women, aged 45-60, were examined for two key reasons. First, HIV was not a concern when these women began their reproductive careers; however, as the epidemic infiltrates these women's communities it has become an increasing reproductive concern. These older women have witnessed the coming of AIDS and can articulate the changes they have seen. Second, older women serve as advisors for younger childbearing women. As such, their perceptions and beliefs regarding pregnancy and parenting are important as they advise and mentor younger women in their communities.

Following the completion of data collection in Malawi and Mozambique I began to analyze the data that has thus far yielded a paper presentation at the 2010 biennial meeting of the International Society for the Study of Behavioral Development. Revisions are currently underway with future plans for submission for publication. In addition to preparing a manuscript for publication, this research has led to a second follow-up research study in Southern, Malawi investigating the perceptions of women of reproductive age on acceptable childbearing and parenting practices in the face of AIDS. Specifically, the goal was to investigate intergenerational similarities and differences between this sample and the sample of women from the study conducted through ISIE funding.

The ISIE fellowship afforded me the opportunity to work with faculty members outside of my discipline. Collaboration with Dr. Victor Agadjanian, Arizona State University, and Dr. Jenny Trinitapoli, Pennsylvania State University, bridges this research across traditional disciplinary lines to examine a global social epidemic at the family level. This experience has led to a deeper understanding of the effects of the HIV epidemic on daily life for those most afflicted by the epidemic. Conducting research in this locale provided an immersion in cultural practices and beliefs, and has influenced not only the follow-up investigation, but also the lens from which I conduct research. The funding received through ISIE has enabled not only this research, but also a unique set of experiences that will have continued effects on and throughout my academic career.

Nicole Weller

The Intensive Summer Interdisciplinary Experience (ISIE) graduate fellowship provided me an opportunity to attend the Summer Institute on Sexuality, Culture and Society at the University of Amsterdam in the summer of 2010. I applied for this fellowship because my research interests focus on sexual and reproductive health and I wanted to engage in academic discourse that would intersect these two factors with cultural and social determinants influencing the health behaviors and outcomes of women and children around the world. The ISIE fellowship allowed me to attend the Summer Institute and brought me great reward through academic rigor, cultural immersion and international exposure.

The Summer Institute is an intensive five week program where graduate students from multiple disciplines and representing over forty different countries participate in seminars and workshops covering historical and current perspectives in sexuality, culture and society. The institute has been structured to enhance inter-disciplinary collaboration at an international level. The opportunity to engage with scholars from multiple disciplines and from diverse academic and cultural backgrounds was the most rewarding experience that challenged me to approach the study of sexuality and reproductive health from a theoretical and global perspective that is distinct from the quantitative approaches and Western-academia influences under which I have been trained.

Since completing the Summer Institute I have included more socially and culturally constructed determinants to my research that I may have not considered prior to the training. For example, I have implemented a more comprehensive approach to measuring the relationship between sexual and reproductive health within the United States reflective of the cultural and social diversity existing among religious, political, and racial and ethnic groups across the country.