IU South Bend Student Assisting in Long-Term Notre Dame Research Study
Who says you can’t start working in your field until graduation? IU South Bend senior Geri Sult is already participating in a long-term childhood developmental study with the University of Notre Dame – all while still working toward finishing her degree.
“IU South Bend has given me a great education that opens up opportunities,” says Geri.
Geri will graduate in December 2017 with a bachelors in Psychology, and is already developing her career path by being a parent assistant in Notre Dame’s five year study on the relationship between babies younger than seven months and parents, through a $3 million grant from the National Institutes of Health. More information on the study: http://wsbt.com/news/health/notre-dame-researchers-to-conduct-study-of-babies-and-their-parents
The purpose of the study is to work with families to help strengthen the attachment between the babies and parents through recording interactions during home visits. According to the attachment theory, children who grow up with parents who are sensitive to their needs from infancy and onward will feel more secure in their parental relationships, and thus be more likely to grow up to have high self-esteem and healthy personal relationships.
As a parent assistant, Geri takes video of the interactions between the participating families, reviews them to look for communication cues from the babies, and then shares her findings with the parents so they can understand what needs their baby may be trying to communicate.
“I really like watching the parents and babies interact. It’s so sweet to witness the moments when the babies smile big and I can really see the love, and get to point it out to their parents. My heart just melts,” says Geri.
A graduate of Clay High School in South Bend, Geri got married and had three children before her and her husband both opted to pursue college educations at IU South Bend.
“I originally had no plans to go to college. But at the same time, my husband and I both decided it was time,” explains Geri. Having both parents going to college at the same time is, “definitely tough, but doable” says Geri, who credits the psychology department faculty here for their support. “All my professors have been so understanding.”
Geri has been a teacher’s assistant and held a research study internship last year, and believes establishing a relationship with faculty is crucial for students to make the most out of their time at IU South Bend.
“Reaching out to your professors is really helpful in making connections that can get you internships or jobs. Being involved in my program got my foot in the door and helped everything fall into place to land this Notre Dame role,” says Geri.
After Geri graduates with her bachelors, she plans to continue her involvement on the research study and is considering pursuing graduate school. Her professional goals are to work with children in a mental health setting. Although she is excited for the future, she says she will miss her time at IU South Bend.
“It is bittersweet to graduate, it’s like family here after spending four years together. IU South Bend was a good choice for me. The faculty and staff are so helpful, and it’s really close-knit. Everyone really wants to help you succeed.”