Meghan McDoniel is the first recipient of the Irene E. Harms Graduate Scholarship Award. She is a fifth-year student in the Developmental Ph.D. program. Meghan’s primary research interest is in how individual, familial, and contextual characteristics influence the social-emotional development of children during early childhood, and its application to early intervention programs and education policies. Meghan’s mentors are Kristin Buss and Karen Bierman.
Meghan received her BA in Psychology from Grinnell College, taught pre-kindergarten through Teach for America, and earned her M.Ed. from the University of Missouri. While teaching, Meghan became interested in how to best support children’s social-emotional development during early childhood and the transition to school. This interest led her to pursue a doctorate in developmental psychology at Penn State. As a graduate student, Meghan has worked in several labs, enabling her to publish research findings which indicated responsiveness in parents can reduce the risks for classroom behavior problems for exuberant children. As a fellow in the Training Interdisciplinary Educational Scientists (TIES) fellowship program, Meghan became interested in how quality research and methods can be used to help improve early intervention programs and education policies.
In September of 2018, Meghan began as a fellow with the Pennsylvania State Office of Child Development and Early Learning (OCDEL) in Harrisburg, PA through the Society for Research in Child Development State Policy Fellowship. Through this fellowship she has had the opportunity to work on a federal Preschool Development Grant given to the state of Pennsylvania. This experience has taught her a great deal about how early childhood policies are created, implemented, and assessed at the state level as well as the importance for researchers, advocates, and the state and federal government to work together for effective policymaking. Currently, Meghan is leading a project designed to extend current work on the cost and systems analyses for early care and education programs.
The Irene E. Harms Award will allow Meghan to extend her work with OCDEL beyond the end of her fellowship year, allowing her to see the project to completion and helping to ensure the important work is disseminated in a way that informs early care and education programs and policies. This valuable experience during her pre-doctoral years will benefit her training and help move her postdoctoral career in the direction of translating the evidence-base into practice, helping schools and educating policy makers in the area of basic and applied socioemotional development.