Shawn Jones, Ph.D. is a graduate of our Clinical Psychology program, Child and Family Track, in the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience. He is now a second-year National Science Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow at the Racial Empowerment Collaborative in the Graduate School of Education at the University of Pennsylvania.

As a Postdoctoral Fellow, Shawn investigates the dynamics that underlie how Black families navigate the racial socialization of their children through the Raising Our Offspring Every Day (ROOTED) project. ROOTED is a series of three related, but distinct, studies – each of which uses a mixed method approach. The primary aim of the first study, Mosaic, is to use survey and interview methods to elucidate the ways in which Black families representing a diverse structural spectrum (e.g. non-residential co-parents, extended kin, blended families, LGBT couples) undertake the racial socialization of their children together. In addition to his own program of research, Shawn also supports the local activities affiliated with the Racial Empowerment Collaborative.

His graduate training at UNC helped Shawn to prepare for his current position. “My rigorous training in quantitative methodology in the Department, combined with additional training through the Odum Institute, have allowed me to ask these very timely questions and in ways that are dynamic,” he says. “My solid training in clinical practice with children, couples and families, has not only informed my research questions, but has also impacted the ways in which I train my research team to deliver ROOTED interviews. Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, my investigation of the interplay of racially-relevant risk and protective factors for Black youth and families was forged through my time as a member of Dr. Enrique Neblett’s African American Youth Wellness Lab. I am forever indebted.”

While Shawn was finishing his Master’s degree in Public Mental Health at Johns Hopkins University, he knew he wanted to pursue a Ph.D., but was considering both clinical psychology and clinical/community degrees. At Carolina’s Visiting Day, Shawn shares, “I really loved the excitement of both the faculty and students, and of course my specific faculty advisor, Dr. Neblett. Ultimately, I knew that Carolina was a place where I could get great training and grow.” Of his time at UNC, Shawn says, “I loved that UNC generally and the Psychology Department more specifically, were not ‘finished products.’ I could grow and learn in this environment that also needed to learn from me, and the perspectives that people like me represent, to grow. I could enact change and be changed for the better simultaneously.”

Shawn has great advice for students who are applying to Ph.D. programs: “Consider applying to graduate school your first research project! For good measure, make sure that it is mixed-methods; get the numbers and the narratives! The adage of ‘doing your research’ goes beyond just browsing the websites of programs in which you are interested. It means understanding the work that a potential mentor is doing. It means looking at a program’s commitment to things that may be important to you (e.g. diversity). It also means talking (and listening) to students. Getting the perspectives of trusted others. Potentially learning about the city that you would be calling home for the next several years. The Ph.D. is a great commitment, so the more due diligence you can do, the happier you will ultimately be with your decision.”

For those already in a Ph.D. program, Shawn says, “Enjoy the ride! Celebrate seemingly ‘small’ milestones. Don’t sacrifice who you are for a degree. Employ self-care! Try to find community in your research team and your cohort. I found that taking this approach made the ‘marathon’ that is the doctorate a much more enjoyable race, and gave me a better sense of agency over the pace.”

Shawn is completing his last year of his postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Pennsylvania. Starting Fall 2018, Shawn will join the Psychology Department at Virginia Commonwealth University as an Assistant Professor.

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