The opportunities I received at Texas A&M University are the reason I am in the position I am in today. Through an autism training grant, directed by Dr. Jennifer Ganz, that funded my graduate studies, I was able to intern at the United States Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs, for a summer. While there, I connected with the project officers and leadership team at OSEP, who later recommended me for the postdoc position at FPG. In addition, the time that Drs. Jennifer Ganz and Kimberly Vannest invested in my education helped prepare me for the research-intensive nature of a postdoc. The frequent opportunities I had to collaborate with them on research projects gave me the hands-on experience I needed to build my research skills and provided me with a solid research foundation. Further, both Drs. Ganz and Vannest frequently made themselves available for advice whenever needed and facilitated connections with other researchers in the field; thus, building my confidence as a researcher and helping to expand my professional network. I am incredibly grateful for my time at Texas A&M University and especially for the mentorship I received from Drs. Ganz and Vannest. I decided to pursue a postdoctoral fellowship because of them, and the exceptional education I received from Texas A&M University’s Special Education Program made it possible for me to obtain one.
I am currently working as an IES Postdoctoral Research Associate at the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute at UNC-Chapel Hill, as well as serving as the President of the North Carolina Subdivision of the Council for Exceptional Children’s Division on Autism and Developmental Disabilities (NC DADD). My postdoctoral position at FPG provides me with a unique opportunity to work on projects related to my research interests, while also expanding my research skills by attending professional trainings and seeking advice from my IES mentors, Drs. Kara Hume, Sam Odom, and Brian Boyd. Some of the projects that I am currently affiliated with are the National Clearinghouse on Autism Evidence and Practice (NCAEP) review of evidence-based practices for individuals with autism and The Efficacy Study of Elementary Learners with ASD (TESELA), a randomized control trial investigating a professional development model to promote teachers’ use of evidence-based practices for students with autism. I am also developing my own line of research by submitting a grant proposal to the Organization for Autism Research to investigate the efficacy of a tiered model of professional development for teachers of children with autism, as well as by working on a meta-analysis and quality review of the literature on video analysis as a professional development tool for teachers and paraprofessionals. I plan on continuing this line of research in an Assistant Professor faculty position at the conclusion of my postdoc.