On the first day, he had us build a door. I had no idea what I was doing.
I don't mean that I was unsure of how to build a door; I unquestionably did not possess that knowledge. I mean I really didn't know what I was doing—that I was building a door, that this door would be the entrance to Gary's office indefinitely, that I would not sever a fingertip in the process. (Don't worry, Gary Rogowski '72 had us sign waivers.) But at the end of the day, after several hours of foggy instruction following, Jacob and I did have a door in front of us (and lo, one that barely creaked, certainly opened, and practically closed), and twenty fingers between us.
Over the next few days Jacob and I would build more wooden things, culminating in the execution of a real live chair prototype. We designed and chiseled and sawed and swept. We went out to lunch with the Master Woodworking students at a Cuban restaurant in Northeast. We were privy to the same assignments the Master students received, if not the same skill set.
As the heels of my boots clopped against the Upper West Side’s sidewalk, I couldn’t help but feel a bit glamorous. My breath fogging in the crisp New York air, my gloved hands clutching a cross-body satchel, I felt the sort of working-woman swagger I’d attribute to Tina Fey’s Liz Lemon strolling near 30 Rockefeller Plaza. True, a Sex and the City comparison might afford me a bit more elegance, but for an equally geeky, slobbish, and sandwich-loving individual such as myself, Liz Lemon is the epitome of professional sophistication. Though I wasn’t writing for a comedy sketch show, I too had navigated the streets of New York City, passing momentous buildings and crowds, to go to work.
Rita Rosezkranz’s Literary Agency is situated in a brownstone apartment building. Rita, an elegant and well-spoken woman (perhaps a new model of professional sophistication), runs it out of her home office. Representing a variety of non-fiction titles, she advocates for her authors by pitching their projects to potential publishers. Additionally, she reviews proposals that will go to publishers, making suggestions to improve the project’s salability. However, her work doesn’t end once a publisher picks up one of these proposals. I primarily aided Rita in finding avenues to promote her various projects, as well as bolstering her writers’ presences and reputes. This sort of research required a clear marketing strategy and thus a firm grasp on the platforms that would most effectively reach the targeted consumer.
When I arrived, I sat in on a call with Rita and Roxanna, the author of a newly released children’s book. I discussed with Roxanna what kind of leads would be most useful in establishing her platform. From there, it came down to scouring the Internet for pertinent articles and journalists. I continued to compile leads for Roxanna throughout my stay with Rita, but also edited multiple proposals and reviewed query letters.
For two days last winter I had the wonderful opportunity to shadow Arwen Dave, a systems engineer at the NASA Ames research center. I was really excited to get to spend time at Ames - having grown up in the area, I'd often passed by their gigantic wind tunnel and wondered what awesome science was at work inside. NASA Ames is different from other NASA labs in that very little of their work is actual rocket science. A lot of their work involves designing, building, and operating the missions that the rockets actually deliver. Ames has a focus on robotics research, which is the field I'm currently trying to work my way into.
This opportunity came at a critical time in my search for career paths, as I had decided to put off grad school in order to try out future job paths before committing to one in particular. My main decision for which I was gathering information was whether continuing on in academia or shifting to an industry such as engineering would put me on a better career path. Ames was the perfect place to learn about future jobs, as there is a healthy mix of scientists and engineers working in close collaboration.
My time at NASA was split between following Arwen around on her job, taking tours of some of the labs, and wandering around talking to people about their jobs. I finally got to see the inside of a wind tunnel, and got to geek out with the local machinist over their awesome equipment. Following Arwen was very informative in that, for the first time, I got to see what it is that systems engineers do with their time. It turns out that the majority of the work consists of collaborating with lots of different kinds of people to try and get a project designed and built. Working at NASA in particular seems to make the job harder, since there's tons of added bureaucracy to deal with, but also a whole lot more rewarding, since you get to see your creations put into space. Arwen tends to be working on a number of different projects at once, and had a few tips for me on how to seek out and create new work opportunities within an existing position.
When I met Dr. Tracy Sax, it had been 3 years since I had given up my dream of becoming a doctor. I had taken an introductory Biology course and felt that I was not capable of doing the work it would take to achieve that goal. I expected this Winter Shadow to give me certainty that I was not interested in work as a clinician, particularly as an MD. As happens often in life, I got the exact opposite.
The dream was reawakened in a Pete's Coffee shop in North Portland. I sat down with Tracy Sax to do some introductions and preliminary instruction before the Shadow began. Her enthusiasm for what she did stood out to me in a way I don't see often. At first it scared me because I worried that my first bad experience with Biology leaving me with no passion for the field said something about me as a student. I thought if I couldn't make it through that there was no way I'd make it through medical school. But she was so encouraging, without even knowing me she encouraged me to go into medicine. Her enthusiasm was infectious.
We dealt with some really emotionally taxing material and I was proud of the way I handled that. I sat in on a session during which we preliminarily diagnosed a young man with ALS. I have felt confident in my potential as a clinical psychologist and this demonstrated that in this field, doctors get an opportunity to run tests and diagnose patients but also help them cope with these diagnoses, if only for a little while. Tracy handled the conversation in a personal and professional way. I learned that neurology is a field that could allow for a combination of my interests and skills in psychology.
One of the pictures I took of glowing antibodies in a brain slice
I can’t say that I ever imagined myself slicing up a brain before junior year of college. A few short weeks ago, I found myself doing just that: turning the huge crank on a deli-slicer-like machine to create a fifty-micron slice of rat brain. I then used an extra fine paintbrush to fish the brain slice out of the negative 22oC resting place and into a room temperature solution that would preserve it for future experiments.
I started high school thinking that psychology was the path for me. Somewhere between the first day of 9th grade and my first day at Reed, I reimagined myself as a rebel who would never follow in their parent’s footsteps. As a freshman I wandered around the philosophy department, and stuck my head in the political science department and finally, with much chagrin, signed up to take intro psychology my sophomore year.
Because I came home to psychology relatively late in my college career, I had to find my way through the department quickly. I had only three years to complete my major requirements, while those who knew what they were about from early freshman year had four. When I found myself enchanted with behavioral neuroscience, I found that I did not have room in my schedule to pursue this interest as well as graduate on time. This is when the winter shadow program appeared in my life and gave me a wonderful opportunity to explore the field of behavioral neuroscience in a hands-on way.
It would be impossible for me to define an average day during my externship in Brooklyn, New York this past January, as every day I engaged in activities as diverse as writing liturgy to learning how to handle a cordless drill. I shadowed Ben McKelahan, a Reed alumnus who works as a Lutheran pastor in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, serving both a Spanish-speaking immigrant population and Parables, a young adult artistic congregation. Part of his job involves bridging the two communities (who share the space of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church) in a neighborhood that is undergoing gentrification.
This externship gave me the opportunity to develop my understanding of religion in both an academic and a personal sense. At the start, I found church life foreign and abstract, as I did not grow up religious and my understanding of Lutheranism came from a movie and a couple of texts I read before flying to New York. But throughout the week I was able to learn quickly through lengthy conversations with Ben and through working with the various communities that make up the church in Brooklyn. While studying the bible with Lutheran pastors, shaking maracas at a Parables spiritual dance party, and sharing chocolate de maíz with immigrants from the Dominican Republic as they described their favorite psalms, I began to understand what it means to be part of the Lutheran church community, and each day I was struck by the warmth and energy of everyone with whom I interacted. I was curious to see how God becomes present in people’s day-to-day lives, and I think I saw it best in the relationships individuals shared with one another.
Although my future career plans are still hazy at this point, this shadow opportunity unequivocally made me a better student of religion. I have always loved traveling internationally because it gives me the opportunity to grow, explore, and challenge myself in new situations and cultures, and this trip reminded me that I can have these same experiences in my own backyard (so to speak) if I am willing to step outside of my comfort zone. I want to extend a huge thank-you to Ben for allowing me to shadow him and putting up with my endless questions, to Hannah for offering me a bed in her apartment, and to the other communities I spent time with, who welcomed me into their conversations, homes, and lives however briefly – I am very grateful.
For the first two weeks of January, I had the opportunity to intern at the Kartini Clinic in Portland. I applied to this internship because it had somewhat to do with my major, and I had never been in a healthcare setting. I was curious how my skills applied to a pediatric eating disorder program and wanted to be a part of something that helps children and their families through this process. My sponsor was Morgan who is a Reed alumnus from 1994. I worked closely with him and Megan, who is head of the Business Office at the clinic. In this internship, I input data, analyzed it, and gave a presentation on my findings.
I was first of all very surprised with how much I was allowed to do. It was way more hands on than I was expecting which was a definite plus. As it was the beginning of the new year and December’s data had not been completely submitted, I started off with raw data entry. I thought my work would end there, but I was presented with possible questions about our patients that I could analyze. My first day there, I was able to participate in a finance meeting that went over revenue and expenses for 2015.
My primary job was to analyze patient data with regard to age, gender, and type of insurance for a nine-month period. Then, I came up with estimates on the average revenue of patient, average length of stay, and average revenue based on insurance. I worked closely with Megan in regards to the specifics of my analysis. We regularly checked in with one another both in person and though email. When she went to work off-site, we discussed the materials that I should look into the day prior so that I wouldn’t run out of things to do.
Metro is a large municipal agency based in the Portland area, though its influence is defined by a boundary that encompasses multiple cities in several counties. This January, I had the opportunity to spend two information-filled days meeting with and shadowing multiple Reedies who work at Metro.
The first day began at the regional center in Portland where I met my host, Jim. From there we got into a Metro-owned car and drove down to Swan Island to visit the MetroPaint facility. Metro runs a fantastic program there; there's nothing else like it in the country. Jim gave me a thorough tour of the facility, the most exciting part being the processing room. This is a sealed-off room where a small crew (four or five people in jumpsuits and rubber boots) receives and sorts containers of paint that have been collected from throughout the Metro region. The crew quickly opens the containers and inspects them for quality. If they're bad they get dumped into a drain leading to a large plastic tank. If they're good, they get mixed and dumped into one of about a dozen different stations, sorted by approximate color, that drain down to separate collection tanks. It's a messy assembly-line process, and fascinating to watch. The collected paint is further homogenized and adjusted to create standard colors that Metro sells commercially. All of this work, including the packaging, happens in the same facility. I had no idea of the extent or precision of this program before I visited Metro, and I was very impressed by the program’s ability to turn waste back into product.
We left the MetroPaint facility after lunch and drove across the river to visit one of the two Household Hazardous Waste (HHW) collection centers that Metro operates (and that Jim manages). The operation there is efficient and impressive. Customers drive up with a load of waste that can include batteries, CFL bulbs, paint, pesticides, containers of mystery liquids, all kinds of things. A crew there does all the unloading while the driver stays in the vehicle. They quickly load everything onto small roll carts, triaging and sorting as they go. When the driver leaves they pay five bucks for dropping off up to thirty-five pounds of waste.
This January I shadowed Dr. Ruth Selvidge, an Emergency Department (ED) physician at Natividad Medical Center (NMC) for a week. NMC is a Level II trauma center and it is located in Salinas, California. The ED at NMC consists of a triage area at the front where patients are first reviewed by physician assistants and nurses. Based on this first examination, the patients are either discharged or they are sent to the back of the ED for further examination by the ED doctors. This is where Ruth steps in. Her job consists of examining these critically ill patients and determining the proper treatment. Ruth is usually accompanied by one or two ED doctors during her shifts, but there are some instances where she is running the ED by herself. She has 23 years of experience and was recently assigned as the temporary Assistant Director of the ED.
During this externship I shadowed Dr. Selvidge and discussed the cases with her. I learned about filing charts, illnesses and diseases, the scribe program at NMC, residency programs, and what a day looks like for an ED doctor. I learned a lot because Ruth always took the time to review the cases and explain their differential diagnoses. I observed interesting cases because, as Ruth put it, I brought a “black cloud” to the ED since every time I stepped in there were more trauma cases than usual: car accidents, gunshot wounds, stab wounds, among others.
Ruth informed me that the hardest part of her job is the humanitarian aspect. She explained that recently doctors are in front of a computer far more than with patients, due to the way information is archived.
This January I spent a little less than a week shadowing Naomi Goodman at the Electric Power Research Institute in Palo Alto California. I was drawn to this shadow because I wanted a better sense of the kinds of career opportunities that exist for environmental chemists outside of academia. I was also interested in the fact that EPRI receives some of its funding for research from the power industry. I came into this shadow with the hope of understanding if this source of funding could potentially lead to a bias in the types of research that EPRI does.
After spending a week talking to Naomi and her colleagues I now have a much better appreciation for the work that EPRI does. EPRI does research for and receives funding from, a variety of different stakeholders, including their members in the power industry, but also the EPA and some environmental advocacy groups as well. EPRI’s goal is to gather and present data in the most objective, least biased way possible. They do not make policy recommendations or do advocacy work but strive to maintain a reputation of credibility and objectivity that makes them important allies to all third parties that require credible scientific analysis of environmental problems.
Naomi and the rest of the folks at EPRI were incredibly welcoming and hospitable. While I was there I got to have my own cubicle office and I spent most days working on my thesis, going with Naomi to meetings, and meeting with her collogues at EPRI and discussing their work. The people who I met with were, for the most part, project managers and no longer do their own research. They spend most of their time coordinating research projects, analyzing that research, and communicating the findings of that research to the agencies, companies, and other interested parties that are their members. This happens largely via phone calls.
Going to dinner
The winter shadow that I had the pleasure of going to was far more fulfilling than I ever thought it could be. My hosts were very kind. Their homes were beautiful and their hospitality was very much appreciated. Ann Arbor, Michigan, was one of the most beautiful and easy to get around towns that I’ve ever visited. Mario Mateo’s house was about 2 miles from the University of Michigan, where Sarah and I worked most of the time. We found ourselves really looking forward to the walks every day. Not only was it really nice to pass through the urban and suburban areas of Ann Arbor, but it also gave us an opportunity to explore the downtown more. The food was delicious, the sights were see-worthy, and the snow was puffy. I feel so grateful to have received this externship because I will have otherwise never been able to visit Michigan.
As for the actual project, it was a great experience overall. Not only did I learn a lot of Python, a coding language, but also, I gained experience as an intern. I learned about the actual process of working with a data set and getting real results from my work that could actually contribute to scientific process. Because we were using data from the Magellan Clay Telescope in Chile, where each fiber attached to a plate referred to a specific star in the star cluster, Omega Centauri, we were working off Mateo’s idea of a new way of star cluster analysis. We had to be very careful with our calculations, checking and rechecking for the expected results. We had to generalize our coding, so that when new data comes in, it could be analyzed using the same programs and so that people all over the world would have the opportunity to do the same type of analysis. At the end of our externship, our work rewarded us with a complete spectrum of the stars we analyzed, which allowed Mateo to analyze the spectral lines for different elements contained in the stars.
When I arrived in Chicago to spend a week this January shadowing Anne Gendler, managing editor in design and production at Northwestern University Press, I admit I didn’t know what to expect. I had always thought of the publishing industry as notoriously difficult to infiltrate, a cutthroat business where productivity and ambition were valued in a time where people are fond of saying that print is dying. Yes, this was a small press, but would it be different?
My first hint that I had nothing to worry about was when I matched the street number I had typed into my phone with a small house that had a “Northwestern University Press” sign out front. Inside was toasty warm (outside the temperature was single digits verging into the negatives, but Chicagoans are good at staying warm), and I was followed in by Grace, the other Reed extern who had arrived the week before. When we had tramped upstairs and shed all of our layers, our arrival was greeted with a cheer, and we immediately got to work.
Equipped with a red pencil and a loaner copy of The Chicago Manual of Style, I spent my week at the press checking passes of manuscripts—essentially different rounds of edits—against each other, proofreading e-books and one author-made index, and attending staff meetings, where all aspects of the process were discussed to see what progress had been made in the week between meetings: acquisitions editors introduced their new books, project editors updated the status of manuscripts undergoing editing, sales and marketing people talked about cover design and material, book size, selling points, and likely audiences.
It is difficult to articulate exactly how I imagined non-profits before my time at Saturday Academy. My mental image resembled the bureaucratic equivalent of a panda, accepting donor funds, holding events, and slowly ambling towards its goal of benefiting the greater good. At Saturday Academy I quickly learned that whatever my conception was, it was utterly and completely incorrect. A non-profit is more like a spider in the center of a vast and intricate web of connections. It interfaces with donors, volunteers, and consumers to harness the latent desire of a community to improve itself and manifest that desire into a powerful force for good. Saturday Academy gives thousands of curious students the opportunity to indulge their interest in science with the help of talented community professionals. On a weekly basis, Saturday Academy accomplishes the incredible logistical feat of organizing hundreds of students and teachers into multiple locations across the city. When I asked Jeri Janowsky, Saturday Academy’s director and one of the most capable people I have ever met, how this was done, she jokingly told me, “complete chaos.” My time at Saturday Academy gave me enormous respect for both the mission and staff of the organization.
Additionally, I gained an understanding of the organization and operation of non-profits through a series of semi-independent projects assigned by the staff. Rather than merely observe the organization, I contributed to it, which was rewarding and educational. My observation of Saturday Academy’s structure taught me the most important lesson of all, the necessity of networking. I discovered that what I had negatively conceived of as schmoozing is in fact of a critical part of individual and organizational success.
It would be difficult to envision a more positive externship experience than the time I spent at Saturday Academy. I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity to work at Saturday Academy and honored that I was chosen as extern. I am also thankful for the hard work of The Center for Life Beyond Reed that facilitated the experience.
In the weeks before my winter externship began, the rare feelings of excitement that I could muster were always accompanied by anxiety. I had accepted an opportunity to shadow Elana Shneyer the chief of staff of Daniel J O’Donnell a prominent State Assembly member in Manhattan and in that moment I was thrilled. I had never been to the East Coast, let alone New York, and I would be working in a field that I had zero exposure to.
But once I purchased my plane tickets, the reality of my decision hit me. I was going alone to a city the size of which I had never been in and was expected to excel in work that I could not prepare for. And it had cost a pretty penny.
Needless to say I left for work over half an hour earlier than I needed to the first day, worried that I would become victim to the maze I envisioned the subway system to be. On the ride, I skimmed through advice articles with titles such as “How to make the best out of your internship,” and paid careful attention to the voice buzzing through the intercom.
Graphic Design is something that is relatively very new to me. I officially started doing graphic design when I worked as a graphic design intern at the Center for Life Beyond Reed last summer, but I was untrained and it was very touch-and-go. I quickly discovered that I had a knack for it, and that design came naturally for me, and I worked myself really hard to be as proficient as possible. I watched YouTube videos, looked at other designers’ work, and did my own research to refine my skills. I realized I had a lot of potential, which excited me because I feel graphic design could open up a career path I had never really considered. Being a studio art major, I always had this fear in the back of my mind that I would graduate with a BA in fine arts and then would never be able to make a sustainable living just doing art. Graphic design, however, is a marketable career path that I feel extremely passionate about.
Skip forward to my Winter Shadow. I got to shadow Shawn Ingersoll and his fellow design team at Ecova Inc. Ecova is a not a household name, but it absolutely should be. The Ecova team is hired by other companies and utilities, to eliminate all forms of inefficiency in the practices of those other companies. Ecova swoops in, looks at all the company’s bills, their history, literally everything, and says, “okay, you’re bleeding money here, here, here and here, so if you want to optimize your profits, you have to make these changes.” It’s a great company, especially because it’s really environmentally friendly and focused on sustainability.
I started my Shadow on Monday, January 11th in downtown PDX. It was only a convenient half hour bus ride away. I started my day by meeting the graphic design team composed of Shawn Ingersoll (my sponsor), Kelly Saunders, and the Marketing Team (two of the teams’ members were absent that first day), to talk about current and future projects and initiatives. The teams also spent a great deal of time discussing the weekend and catching up with each other. It was great, because I got some insight into how both teams work together, and also got to see what a friendly and motivated community they are a part of. Once the meeting was over, I had a one on one meeting with Shawn, who gave me his personal history and experience with graphic design, which was really valuable.
This past winter I had the opportunity to stay with two retired land use professionals, one a Reedie, and shadowed a number of employees at Bend’s Growth Management Department. Susan Brody, the Reedie, had formerly worked as the Director of Eugene’s Planning and Development Department, and as the Director of Oregon’s Department of Land Conservation and Development. Her husband, Al, is a retired land use attorney who had his own practice. Though they only moved to Bend two years ago, they are both active community members. As members of (different) Technical Advisory Committees, they each work closely with the Growth Management Department and project manager Brian Rankin to help expand Bend’s Urban Growth Boundary.
I applied to this externship because I was interested in a career that used technical skills and analytical thinking to develop impactful public policy. Discussions of Portland’s housing crisis and gentrification problems hinted that planning might be one such career. My experience in Bend unambiguously confirmed that hunch. The people I shadowed were dedicated to crafting the best Bend they (or more accurately, the public) could imagine, while working within the constraints of a municipal department.
The first thing I did when I found out I was accepted for the Winter Shadow program in Astronomy at the University of Michigan Ann Arbor was look into getting a parka. I was excited to visit Ann Arbor for the first time, and really hoping for some snow.
I stayed in Ann Arbor for a week, and left with unending love for what has become my favorite diner of all time.
I worked with a Mario Mateo, who is an astronomer at the University of Michigan. The project I worked on sought to measure the dependence of the magnitudes of RR Lyrae stars upon metal abundance. RR Lyrae stars are variable stars, known for having short periods. All the stars we observed were from the globular cluster Omega Centauri, which is a cluster known for having a range in the metallicities of its stars. All the data was from a telescope in La Serena, Chile that Mario had built. During the week I wrote several scripts in Python to read from huge files of data and run data analysis.
I headed to Seattle on Saturday the 9th to rendezvous with my host, former classmate, and Shadow contact person, Christina Gremore ’14. Christina had not only made the Shadow possible by petitioning her former boss, but also offered up her apartment for two lucky Reedies to stay for the duration of the Shadow. I was doubly lucky as an old classmate of hers, since she invited me to arrive two days early in order to have dinner and catch up with her before her business trip to Austin. Though we would only reunite for those few hours for the duration of the Shadow, I was reminded exactly how lucky I am to know her. I can only hope that one day in the near future, I will be just as accomplished as Christina in my personal and professional life.
Christina had arranged for us Reedies to Shadow her old department and thereby develop an understanding of the demands and growth potential at an entry-level job. Andrew Barker, Christina’s former boss and a manager in the Product Consulting department, graciously took the three of us Reedies under his wing for the entirety of our time at Tableau. Coming into the Shadow, I honestly didn’t expect too much from the experience. I already knew that I liked the product and believed in the company’s mission, so I was skeptical that I would learn much more from the experience. Andrew and the rest of the employees at Tableau quickly made me eat my words. Throughout my time at Tableau, I was blown away by the generosity, hospitality, and candor of the employees. It was one thing to have done my research on the company and another to be able to speak to people working there about their own career journeys. Andrew and the other employees were happy to talk about their time at Tableau and their experiences transitioning into gainful (or more satisfying) employment.
For the first day of the Shadow we received a general overview of Tableau as a company. Andrew talked about Tableau’s beginnings, its organizational structure, and gave us a tour of the Seattle campus after providing lunch. I found the tour to be one of the highlights of the Shadow since we got to learn more about how the different departments (and the people within them) work together. Taking the American Capitalism Sociology class has really impressed upon me the importance of organizational structures for employee satisfaction, so I was pleased to hear that Tableau is conscious of the potential perils of transitioning from a national business to a global corporation.
Maybe because I’m a Reedie, getting an education at a college that tucks grades out of sight and celebrates the weird and wonky types of intelligence that stick out at awkward angles from standard boxes. Perhaps because, as my mom says, I was raised in a hippy era when testing kids was “uncool.” For whatever reason, I admit I entered into my weeklong shadow with Dr. Amy Summers, a private psychologist who specializes in administering tests to kids to gather information about cognitive development, IQ, and possible learning disabilities, with a bit of a bias. The bias wasn’t even due to an issue of ethics, I think I just heard words like “testing” and “assessment” and “diagnosis,” and thought these translated to numbers, objectivity, and standardization. In all honesty, I thought the work would be a little boring. I was beyond wrong!
I simply did not know enough about psychological testing to realize how interesting, exciting, and nuanced it really is. I’m so grateful to this externship and everyone who made it possible. One week with Amy opened my eyes to some really cool aspects of psychology that I never knew existed, and inspired in me a real fascination with the process of psychological diagnosis.
Amy let myself and my fellow Reed student shadower Jocelyn Hansson follow her through every step of the process of assessing a 5th grader suspected of having ADHD or ADD. Amy works predominantly with young children, mostly to administer IQ tests to kids whose parents are hoping they qualify for a highly capable school or program, or to test for a learning disorder/ADD/ADHD.
I decided to do the winter shadow program because while I’ve been certain that I’d be a psychology major for a long time, I have been struggling to figure out what specific area in psychology I want to pursue. When I saw Amy Summer’s winter shadow program I knew I had to apply. Amy Summers Phd., is an educational psychologist who administers psychological tests to children. She administers IQ tests to children hoping to apply to highly capable school programs and tests to children suspected to have a learning disorder or attentional problems. I already had an interest in learning disabilities and ADHD, but I was interested in exploring and learning more about the various different job opportunities within this field. Over the course of my week shadowing Amy, my externship buddy Maddy and I learned about the responsibilities of an educational psychologist. We were also introduced to others in the same field, and the different kinds of educational backgrounds they had. We learned about learning disorders, ADHD, child IQ scores, and the tests that score them while also observing and even sometimes getting the opportunity to administer some of these tests.
Perhaps the most exciting parts of my externship experience involved administering tests to the young children. Maddy and I were given the opportunity to prepare and administer tests to the two 4 year olds who were receiving IQ tests (these tests were non-essential, so we couldn’t mess up the results of the testing). It was sort of crazy to see how IQ is tested in 4 year old children. Some of the tests made sense to me, such as the test that looked at processing speed, but others were more unusual. For example, a block design test had the children arrange colored blocks to match a simple pattern. It was weird to hear that an ability to understand and reproduce diagonal lines is considered to be advanced spatial-visual ability in 4 year olds. These were super sweet and intelligent kids, but it was a shock to see kids this young being exposed to a convoluted testing process with the goal of getting them into a high achieving school or kindergarten. I was glad Amy was more than happy to talk about my conflicting feelings about the schools, and she ended up giving me a lot to think about. We talked about things like the instability of young children’s IQ scores, the status element of having one’s children attend these schools, along with the effects of the different schooling children from high and low socioeconomic status receive.
During the week Amy also assessed an 8 year old who was being tested because of a suspected learning disorder. Maddy and I spent a day observing him in his school environment. While we were there we were able to talk to people worked in jobs different than Amy’s that were in the same realm of interest. I learned not only about jobs related to educational psychology, but also about some interesting methods geared to teach children with significant learning disabilities to read. When this boy came into Amy’s office, we were able to both observe his testing, and administer some tests ourselves. I came into this experience thinking I knew a lot about learning disorders and ADHD, but found that I actually knew very little about the tests for these disorders. One of the most interesting things I learned about these tests was the fact that there are different spelling errors that indicate different kinds of problems. Simply put, some spelling errors make phonological sense, and don't indicate much, while others might be indicative of difficulties understanding sounds and their corresponding letters. I think the most rewarding experience of my whole shadow program was looking critically at this boy’s performance on the tests. It was cool to see Amy look at certain test results, come up with a hypothesis, and administer certain tests to look into her hypothesis. We were treating this boy’s development and abilities sort of like a puzzle. I’m glad I was comfortable enough to put forward my own ideas and hypotheses about this boy.