Ph.D. in Childhood Studies 2016 Graduates:
Cyndi Maurer

Rutgers–Camden will confer doctoral degrees to six graduates of its landmark Ph.D. in childhood studies program during the Faculty of Arts and Sciences commencement ceremony on Thursday, May 19. Launched as the nation’s first doctorate in childhood studies in 2007, the program provides an advanced theoretical and methodological study of children and childhood. It prepares scholars capable of innovative research in this interdisciplinary field, as well as policy leaders with new perspectives in child-related social practice.

In a series of portraits, these esteemed graduates share their Rutgers–Camden academic experiences and offer words of advice for others interested in pursuing a doctorate in childhood studies.

Prior Education: University of California, Riverside, B.S., anthropology and B.A., psychology; La Trobe University, Australia
Currently Residing: Martinez, Calif.

Opportunities to Grow
I was interested in learning more about the child perspective, and wanting to support child-centric research. The program gave me opportunities to understand children from a range of disciplines and perspectives and learn about children’s everyday experiences.

A Personalized Path
I appreciate that Rutgers–Camden offers a variety of courses while still allowing students to create a curriculum that works best for them. I was able to take courses on the New Brunswick campus and create my own course for an independent study. The faculty and staff on the Camden campus are knowledgeable and helpful, so I always felt comfortable and excited in learning more.

Dissertation
My dissertation explored how a group of four tween girls (ages 8-10) understood and experienced television in everyday life when hanging out with friends. One key finding from my study was that, before there could be any conversation about television or participation in activities, friendships have to be managed. At this age, friendships become valuable to girls and that was reflected in my study. My study also allowed me to understand the role of a “kid researcher” in child-centric research. One of my participants was well versed in my study and helped to shape my initial design. Through her background knowledge of my project, she was able to help me gain answers to my questions in a unique way. I argue that utilizing children more in the research design and plan would help gain better insight into how children understand the world around them.

The Next Step
I would like to put academic theory into practice that helps to improve the experience of children in the realm of play. The education gained from this degree has helped me to understand how to apply theory into everyday practice. The encouragement of faculty and classmates has given me the confidence to pursue this career trajectory, as unique as it may be.

Advice for Future Ph.D. Candidates in Childhood Studies at Rutgers–Camden
Take advantage of all the classes you can, even when they don’t have direct relevance to your project. Forge your own path and own your project. Attend conferences and workshops when possible, and make friends. And in the words of Mary Schmich, immortalized by Baz Luhrmann, “wear sunscreen.”

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