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Olivenne Skinner, Ph.D., is a graduate of our Developmental Psychology program in the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience. She is now a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Human Development and family Studies at Penn State University.

As a postdoctoral fellow, Olivenne is working on a National Science Foundation-funded project focused on African American adolescents’ daily classroom experiences during their first year of high school. Through this project, Olivenne hopes to expand our understanding of youth’s daily experiences (both inside and outside the classroom) and how these experiences are related to classroom engagement and academic success. She is also exploring questions about African American adolescents’ development in the context of the family, using data from Dr. Susan McHale’s Family Relationships Project.

Olivenne says, “My training at UNC provided me with the essential skills that I use in my research. I also appreciate the practical skills I learned at UNC about how to organize and manage a lab – and how to execute a research study from beginning to end.” Her faculty advisor was Dr. Beth Kurtz-Costes and one of Olivenne’s favorite parts about being a part of the Developmental Psychology program was the community in the Department and in Dr. Kurtz-Costes’ laboratory. She shares, “It was always nice to have a safe space to get help when needed and to have colleagues that celebrated each other’s accomplishments.”

As an alumna, she has three key pieces of advice for students currently pursuing a Ph.D. “First, collaborate. The process of learning and discovery is more enjoyable when you are doing it with others who are also passionate about the work!” Olivenne also advises to “avoid comparing your progress and your path to that of others. If you remain persistent, things that will work out in a way that best fits your needs.” Finally, she suggests: “Identify a couple of individuals who are different stages in their career and seek their advice and support throughout your journey. In other words, seek mentors who really care about your success and overall well-being.” Olivenne is currently in process of completing her postdoctoral fellowship. She will soon begin an appointment as an Assistant Professor at the Merrill Palmer Skillman Institute at Wayne State University.

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