Ph.D. in Childhood Studies 2016 Graduates:
Leigh-Ann Brown


Leigh-Ann Brown and family

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.

Leigh-Ann Brown
Prior Education: Immacualta University, B.A., international business with a French concentration; San Francisco State University, M.A., special education
Hometown: Collingdale, Pa.
Currently Residing: Rutland, Vt.

Finding the Right Fit
Interested to continue my thesis work in special education, I sought a program that would allow me to closely examine the familial relationships that influence receipt of special-education services. I found the Department of Childhood Studies to support my research interest while introducing me to faculty that would enhance my understanding of the multiple factors influencing childhood.

Extended Support Network
I have been fortunate to experience this journey with an educational cohort and professors that have supported me academically, professionally, and socially. The support extended beyond the childhood studies department as Rutgers–Camden provided a small supportive climate across departments.

“Interpretations of Normal: Exploring Family Life of Children with Diverse Abilities”
Through this work, I met many family members of children with complex medical, behavioral, and/or cognitive needs. From them I discovered that families are greatly influenced by the term “normal” and use this as a point of reference in defining themselves and their child. This then led to an exposition of the ways in which they and their child were indeed normal, descriptions of how they created their own normal, and, most importantly, a portrayal of how they and their child were “beyond normal.”

The study adds to the scholarship that reveals diverse childhood experiences. It is my hope that the stories of the families lead to social acceptance and understanding of families’ lived experiences.

Furthermore, it highlights the importance of story to assist practitioners in understanding the unique needs of families and, most importantly, includes suggestions from the families.

The Next Step
I am currently an assistant professor of special education at Castleton University. I would like to continue to work in higher education. Stemming from my dissertation work, I hope to extend my research to include the voices of people with diverse abilities, particularly analyzing their access to recreational opportunities.

Final Thoughts on the Ph.D. in Childhood Studies at Rutgers–Camden
Embrace the experience…You’ll love it when it’s finished!

Posted in: Student Achievement

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