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Teaching Adolesence

Emerging Scholar Spotlight: Jessie Rudi

February 2015

Jessie Rudi is interested in promoting positive youth development through supportive and involved parenting. Her research examines communication technology use within the parent-child relationship during adolescence and the transition to adulthood, and particularly how this use is related to family relationships and youth development. Her dissertation investigates how adolescents and parents use communication technology as part of the parental monitoring process (parental solicitation and child disclosure) in relation to parental knowledge and youth substance use and wellbeing. She has also examined how parents use technology to stay connected to multiple members of the family system, and ways in which online resources and programs can support parents and families. Her work has been published in peer-reviewed journals and presented at national conferences in the fields of youth development, cyberpsychology, college student development, Extension, and family consumer science.

Jessie was accepted into the nursing program at Penn State University in 2004, but quickly realized that a career in nursing was not for her after her first semester (let’s just say Organic Chemistry, Anatomy and Physiology didn’t go as well as she’d hoped). After quick pit stops in the major advising offices for Sociology, French, Religious Studies, and Psychology, Jessie stumbled upon Human Development and Family Studies. After the first day of HDFS 311: Interventions, she was hooked!

After finding her passion for learning about the myriad systems that influence who we are and who we become, Jessie was invited to join the Schreyer Honor’s College during her sophomore year, which meant she had to complete a research project. Luckily, her first honors seminar was led by Dr. Doug Coatsworth, who quickly scooped her up and became her honor’s advisor after learning of her interests in parenting, adolescent development, and prevention science. Jessie worked on Coatsworth’s Strengthening Families Program Initiative, a pilot study evaluating a mindfulness-enhanced version of The Strengthening Families Program (SFP 10-14). Jessie was involved in almost every aspect of implementing a randomized controlled trial, from conducting literature searches for appropriate measures, recruiting families to the project, collecting and cleaning data, and even implementing the program as a youth facilitator. Her involvement with this project showed Jessie that research is much more than working in a lab and crunching numbers; our work can truly have a positive, lasting impact for youth and families. Jessie attributes her passion for applied research to her first research experience working on this project.

While Coatsworth’s trial was focused on the parent curriculum and parents’ mindfulness, Jessie saw firsthand how the program was helpful for youth, particularly in how youth began to see their futures in more positive ways. She wrote her honor’s thesis on how youths’ future orientation was impacted by their participation in the program, and how intervention-targeted parenting practices moderated these changes.

Jessie is currently a doctoral candidate in Family Social Science at the University of Minnesota and plans to graduate in May 2015. She is involved in all phases of the Parenting 2.0 project under the direction of her Ph.D. advisor, Dr. Jodi Dworkin.  This project aims to better understand the ways in which, and the reasons why, parents use technology. Jessie has also worked with the After Deployment, Adaptive Parenting Tools (ADAPT) project led by Dr. Abi Gewirtz, an RCT evaluating a web-enhanced parenting program adapted for military families who have experienced deployment, particularly on the outreach, recruitment, and data collection phases of ADAPT. Jessie recently started working with Military REACH, a collaboration with the U.S. Department of Defense’s Office of Military Community and Family Policy and the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture that integrates research and outreach to support those who work with and on behalf of military families, led by Dr. Lynne Borden. Jessie joined the Emerging Scholars Committee of SRA in 2012 and in 2014, she was elected co-chair of the Emerging Scholars Committee and the next Emerging Scholar Representative to the Executive Council of SRA.

Jessie’s advice for fellow emerging scholars is to show up, be present, and get involved in your department, university, professional organizations (SRA!), and community. Yes, we’re all busy, but attending voluntary events and offering to help is a great way to network with potential colleagues and hear about new projects and collaborations. My involvement on many of the projects I’ve worked on began by attending a different project’s research meeting, a colloquium or local professional development event, or even an Emerging Scholars event at SRA’s biennial meeting. When new opportunities arise, your colleagues with think of you and your willingness to be involved and invite you to be a part of them.  Just saying “yes” when colleagues ask if you’re interested in something can lead to new experiences and collaborations.


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