Newsletter Article

Experiencing Summer School in the Netherlands

Photo: Karen Pang
Photo: Karen Pang

Karen Pang is a 6th year Child Clinical student working with Elizabeth McCauley (Seattle Children's Hospital) and Lynn Fainsilber Katz. The Psychology Department asked Karen to share her experience as a summer EARA-SRA scholar.  Karen has previously been awarded a 2013 ALCOR fellowship for her research with depression in adolescents, honored for her commitment to the graduate student community with a 2014 Graduate Student Service Award, and received the 2014 Psychology Department Distinguished Teaching Assistant award for her excellence in teaching in support of undergraduate curriculum.


Last June, I had the unique experience of spending time on the edge of a national park near Utrecht, The Netherlands. I had been chosen to participate in the 2014 EARA-SRA Summer School, a program that allows doctoral students in the field of adolescent psychology to learn from some of the best researchers in the world. Thanks to the generous funding support of the Johan Jacobs Foundation, I had been given the opportunity to spend a week together with 24 other junior scholars (doctoral students working on their dissertations) and 12 senior scholars (faculty from around the world) in a grown-up, research version of summer camp. All travel expenses (From Seattle to Amsterdam and from Amsterdam to Utrecht), lodging, and food costs were covered for the entire week!

Hotel Bergse Bossen

My week was spent listening to stimulating presentations, engaging in debates, and participating in intense, problem solving workshops. Each day we enjoyed presentations on a range of topics, from ethnic differences and similarities in parenting to fMRI approaches for understanding adolescent behaviors. We then broke into smaller groups to complete tasks ranging from outlining potential alternative statistical analyses, to deciding how to present research data to families or schools. These group activities were a very important part of the program, as they stretched our critical thinking and allowed us to get to know each other better.

Each day we were also given the unique opportunity to either present our dissertation projects to a small group of senior scholars and peers, or listen to our junior colleagues present on their own work. These presentations offered us the best souvenirs possible: feedback we could bring back with us to improve our individual projects. This experience also allowed us a chance to practice offering critiques to our peers and identify both strengths and potential weaknesses in others’ projects.

BonfireAlthough we spent the week immersed in discussions in an air-conditioned conference room, the location of the summer school allowed us some of the more typical summer school comforts. We ended our last day of summer school with a bonfire and marshmallows. Indeed, in the spirit of lifelong learning, some of the junior scholars even taught the senior scholars appropriate selfie taking techniques!

The relaxed nature of these interactions characterized the experience as a whole. Many of us commented that this opportunity had shifted how we perceived senior scholars more broadly. We now felt comfortable raising ideas with them, asking questions we were worried might sound simple, and yes even challenging an idea or two. We realized through this experience that although senior scholars are impressive, they’re also people who share similar passions and interests. We reached a consensus that this experience would shape how we participated in conferences and embolden us when meeting new senior scholars in the future.

Overall, this was a great, inspiring week and I fully encourage other students in the program to seek out this annual opportunity!

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