On May 14, UW–Madison will celebrate its Spring 2022 Commencement. We reached out to a few of our students who are graduating from programs in the School of Education to learn about their favorite UW–Madison memories and future plans. Following is a Q&A with Emma Lazaroff, a WCER Fellow who is graduating with a PhD in educational psychology.
Where are you from, and what brought you to UW–Madison?
I grew up in Connecticut and got my undergraduate degree there. I was drawn to UW–Madison because of the Department of Educational Psychology’s mission to make tangible impacts on learning and education. What stood out to me most, though, was how warm, collaborative, and respectful the environment was. No other place I had interviewed at was quite like it. I knew right after my interview weekend that I definitely wanted to come here.
Why did you decide to pursue graduate studies?
I had been involved in research since my sophomore year in college and worked as a lab manager for two years after graduation. I wanted to continue doing research because I enjoy the process of discovering new things and thinking through complex problems. I also knew that I needed a graduate degree to have the career in research that I wanted, so pursuing one was a no-brainer.
Tell us about your research.
My research investigates how children use cognitive supports, such as analogy and language, to learn about STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) concepts. In particular, my interests lie in determining how these concepts can be organized to help children retain and generalize information across development. I am passionate about conducting research that has significant implications for education policy and practice.
What was your most meaningful experience at UW–Madison?
My most meaningful experiences here have been my time with children. I’ve learned so much about how others learn from doing research with children in the lab or at local schools. I’ve also had many opportunities to tell children about my research and get them excited about STEM from my time doing science outreach on campus.
"I wanted to continue doing research because I enjoy the process of discovering new things and thinking through complex problems."
What class or professor had the greatest impact on you, and why?
Ed Psych 709, a seminar on the how-tos of grad school, is one of the first classes we have to take. Our professor, Ed Hubbard, did not have a “traditional” linear career path and openly discussed the setbacks that everyone experiences, like rejection or experiments not working as planned. It meant a lot to hear this because as a grad student, it’s easy to fall into a pattern of comparing yourself to others and being a perfectionist.
What advice would you give to incoming students?
Take advantage of as many opportunities as you can while you’re here. Take or audit those statistics classes or that programming workshop. Visit the Career Center early to discover and prepare for your options after graduation. Connect with recent graduates to build your network and learn about their paths. Attend some of the many fun events the university and city put on year-round. And PLEASE get to know your fellow students! Grad school can be isolating and it’s critical to have a support system.
What’s next for you? What are your plans for the future?
I plan to continue the job I have had since November, which is on the Learning Sciences and Analytics team at Age of Learning, Inc. I conduct research on the design and efficacy of educational technology products that aim to improve children’s math and reading skills. It’s a great fit with the work I did in grad school!
What is your favorite “hidden gem” on campus or in Madison?
The Lakeshore Nature Preserve is right in UW–Madison’s backyard! You can see and hear a variety of animal and plant species year-round. There are many windows into the past, like Native American mounds and other evidence of people who made their homes there. The lake and sunsets are beautiful, and there are tons of places to hike through or relax and enjoy the view.