Terri Motraghi

I began the MSc in Child Development and Education course in Michaelmas 2010. Before starting the course, I studied both psychology and nursing at the undergraduate level and also had a great deal of experience volunteering for organizations that help children and adults affected by trauma.

I was the first person in my family to go to college so choosing a postgraduate course at such a reputable university was overwhelming at first. I was initially drawn to the CDE course by its small class size, as well as the integration of the Child Development, Interventions and Policies to Promote Children’s Development and Foundations of Educational Research papers. Given my background working with children in in healthcare and mental health settings, I was really interested in evidence-based intervention research. I was looking for a course that not only taught advanced child development principles, but explored how different research methodologies informed policy decisions for at-risk children.

I had a great experience with the CDE course. Not only was it intellectually stimulating, but the faculty members were warm, approachable and went out of their way to provide excellent supervision. Students from over 9 countries were represented in our small class of 12, so my peers were diverse and offered a great deal of cross-cultural insight to discussions. I particularly enjoyed the lectures which focused on evidence-based interventions to help children with a variety of mental, physical and behavioural difficulties. My MSc dissertation explored the effects of a preschool language intervention.

The CDE course prepares graduates for a wide range of careers, not just those seeking employment in early childhood education. Since completing the course, I’ve worked in the U.S. as a research coordinator and clinical assessor on a number of federally funded studies. Immediately after finishing the course, I began working for the Center of Excellence for Research on Returning War Veterans in Waco, Texas where I learned to assess and diagnose veterans who were just returning from combat in Iraq and Afghanistan. I knew that I ultimately wanted to work with both children and adults, and this job opportunity allowed me to hone my assessment and diagnostic skills. I currently work at the San Francisco VA Medical Center where I coordinate a study looking at the effects of a small-scale clinical intervention for veterans with post traumatic stress disorder.

Most recently, I have been awarded a Fulbright Grant to study in New Zealand for one year, where I hope to merge my interests in helping at-risk children with my interest in trauma research. I will complete my research at the University of Canterbury under the supervision of Dr. Gail Gillon and Dr. Marleen Westerveld in the departments of Education and Psychology. My project will focus on the interplay between mental health, physical health and educational outcomes in young children who survived the earthquakes in Christchurch. Specifically, I plan to explore physiological reactivity, family stress, child behavior, language development, and emergent literacy skills in young children who were affected by the earthquakes.