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HDFS Grad Students Attend SRA Summer School in Greece!

​Two HDFS grad students, Meg Bishop and Shanting Chen, traveled overseas to attend SRA Summer School in Kalamata, Greece. Read about their experience below! 

Interdisciplinary, global perspectives on adolescence: Reflections from the 2019 EADP/EARA/SRA Summer School in Kalamata, Greece
Meg Bishop, M.A.
University of Texas at Austin

Four hours south of Athens, between the peaks of Mt Taygetos and the gulf of Messinia, lies Kalamata, Greece. Kalamata is most commonly known for its olives and beaches. Last week, it was also home to the EADP/EARA/SRA summer school, a week-long intensive training wherein dissertation-level predoctoral scholars from around the globe are mentored by top scholars in the field of adolescent development.

Sitting in the same room as Dr.s Susan Branje, Rob Crosnoe, Linda Juang, Tina Malti, Ellen Hamaker, Michiel Westenberg, Katariina Salmela-Aro, and Lisa Kiang was in itself humbling. Equally exciting were the ample opportunities to delve deeply into the most pressing topics in the science of adolescence with scholars from all over the world. After a dangerously delicious breakfast spread of pastries, traditional Greek pies, fruit, yogurt, and coffee, our day usually began with a talk from a senior scholar followed by a collaborative activity designed in response to the talk and presentations from junior scholars on our dissertation work. The day usually ended with a stroll along the seaside or a dip in the ocean. It would require too much space to review all that I learned, so below are my key take-aways that spanned presentations, continents, and topic areas.

Simplified "storm and stress" frameworks strip adolescents of the respect they deserve
Dr. Rob Crosnoe, president of SRA and renowned scholar of adolescence and educational trajectories, began the summer school with a talk about adolescent social experiences and the challenges of intervention. Dr. Crosnoe emphasized that although adolescence is often considered a period of irrational storm and stress, adolescents are in fact hyper-rational relative to their social contexts.For example, the importance that adolescents place on their social relationships makes perfect sense in their developmental contexts, where social relationships define many of their day-to-day experiences and overall ability to thrive. Dr. Crosnoe urged us to start from a place of respect when designing adolescent interventions, an approach that we practiced in small-group collaborative activities. By designing interventions informed by adolescents' developmental contexts, we treat young people with the respect they deserve and design better interventions.

One size doesn't fit all: we must consider national, cultural, and historical contexts of the constructs that we study
In a talk by Dr. Linda Juang, we explored how cultural and sociohistorical contexts shape the constructs that we study. Specifically, Dr. Juang guided us through the distinctive historical and political contexts of race as a construct in Germany relative to the United States, and how these diverse histories shape our research and measures. Dr. Juang's talk underscored for me that the social, historical, and political contexts in a racialized society influence development and identity. We further explored this idea in small groups by tracing the history of a construct we study in our own research (I chose gender identity) to better understand what intellectual and cultural tradition that construct comes from. A main take-away was to push myself to think critically about researchthat comes only from the US, and to extend my understanding of intellectual traditions across borders. Dr.s Katariina Salmela-Aro and Ellen Hamaker also discussed that one size doesn't fit all, but this time in a methodological context. Specifically, these scholars emphasized the importance of making intentional decisions about person- vs. variable- centered approaches and longitudinal approaches to developmental science, urging us to make sure to use a method that fits our research questions.

Two (or three, or five) heads are often better than one
Collaboration was a central part of the summer school experience. Each day included at least one collaborative activity in which we put to use the principles discussed by senior scholars during our talk. For example,following Dr. Salmela-Aro's presentation, we split into small groups by interest area to design a study considering person centered approaches. In the span of an hour, my group conceptualized and wrote up an abstract for a study examining trajectories of gender centrality among a diverse cohort of adolescents from the US and Spain. This task would have otherwise taken me weeks if I was working on it alone. This productivity was partly a result of a tight deadline, but also arose out of the joining of different expertise, perspectives, and experiences that dampened the usual hurdles of pushing ideas forward to execution.

Similarly, each junior scholar at the summer school had an hour-long slot to present their dissertation plans to 5 other junior scholars and 2 senior scholars. The feedback that I received on my idea was invaluable, particularly because it was given by people who aren't in my direct research area. My experiences at the summer school were a good reminder to harness the expertise of colleagues—even when they aren't in your lab or even your own country—to advance developmental science.

When traveling for conferences, see the place!
While the summer school itself was enough of a reason to make the 20-hour journey from Texas to Europe, prior to this experience I had never been to Greece. I knew that I wanted to take advantage of the rich experiences that Kalamata and Athens had to offer—but, I tend to get swept into the conference vortex. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that seeing Greece was a soft requirement of the program. We had time each day to walk around Kalamata, go to the beach, and enjoy meals with our colleagues. Similarly, at the opening ceremony of the EADP conference that followed the school, we were encouraged to take advantage of the cultural history that Athens has to offer, and to see the city. I hope to carry this encouragement to see the place into future conference travel.

With input from different fields, cultures, and countries, our research grows stronger. The EADP/EARA/SRA summer school was a shining example that collaboration drives the future of developmental science forward.

Unforgettable Experience in 2019 EADP-EARA-SRA Summer School
Shanting Chen M.A.
University of Texas at Austin

I felt very grateful and fortunate to attend the 2019 EADP-EARA-SRA summer school, which was held in a beautiful beach town in Kalamata, Greece. This experience has made such a meaningful impact in my PhD journey and I found myself grew so much both professionally and personally.

I enjoyed all of the senior scholars' presentations, in which senior scholars summarized the most cutting-edge research in different aspects of adolescent development and pointed out important caveats in translating research findings into actionable interventions. Specifically, Dr. Robert Crosnoe emphasized the need to take into account adolescents' biological and psychological changes as well as their social experience in designing effective interventions. The methodological workshop from Dr. Ellen Hamaker was also very helpful. Not until I listened to this workshop, did I realize the new approach in teasing apart the within-person and between-person association in examining the covariation of two variables (i.e., random intercept cross-lagged panel model). Dr. Ellen Hamaker was such a good teacher, whom is able to explain complicated statistical models with easy-to-understand languages and provide concrete examples for us to follow along. After each senior scholar's presentation, we were asked to complete group activities, such as critique an intervention, design a study to inform youth violence intervention, etc. I really enjoyed these group activities, through which each group member brought his/her own expertise in brainstorming and refining each other's ideas to come up with better solutions. At the end of each group activity, each group presented their work to the large group. I found it so intriguing to see how other groups approach the same questions in different but innovative angles.

In addition to learning from the senior scholars, summer school creates great opportunities for fellow students to learn from each other. The attending fellow students are from 13 different countries (i.e., Turkey, Netherland, Germany, USA, Spain, Sweden, Russia, China, England, Greece, Finland, Italy, and Egypt) and it is so mind-blowing to meet people with such different background and to absorb diverse cultures and customs around the world. We also had very interesting discussions on how PhD program works in different countries (e.g., admission process and length of the program). I also benefited a lot from listening to fellow students' presentation on their dissertation project. Studying in the US institute, I was not well exposed to the research that is happening outside the US. These students' presentations helped me realize that there are so many active and impactful research going on around the world. It is also great to meet people who are doing similar research in the other part of the world. In terms of presenting my own dissertation research, I received great feedback from the senior scholars as well as the fellow students. They have pointed me to some new articles and pushed me to think deeper about my theoretical models and analysis plans. It was such a great opportunity to pick brain from many talented individuals with the goal to better my dissertation research.

Another invaluable asset that I took away from this summer camp is the friendship. After spending four full days together, I can tell that we are getting closer and become more open to each other. I hope that this friendship will last as long as it could and that we can be each other's strongest support to overcome the struggles and hurdles in our research in the future.

Last but not least, I want to thank the organizer (Susan Branje and Lisa Kiang) from the bottom of my heart for their efforts in organizing such a fabulous summer school. Without their hard work, it is impossible for us to have such a great experience to learn and grow as the next generation scientists.

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