Student Highlight: Tameka Parker

Tameka Parker and Dr. Pamela Garner
Tameka Parker and Dr. Pamela Garner

Tameka Parker (class of 2016, childhood studies minor) is using her undergraduate degree to further her education, work and research experience. As a freshman, Parker began working with New Century College professor Pamela Garner, assisting Garner with a variety of research projects. For Tameka, this opportunity has given her a firsthand look at research and a more in depth understanding of her field of study.

Parker’s first assignment from Garner was to analyze court briefs regarding cases of corporal punishment. Parker’s task: determine how each case used childhood development research in the case arguments. In that one assignment, Parker worked directly with her two primary areas of interest: childhood development and prison psychology.

Parker found the work fulfilling, and received helpful guidance from Garner during their weekly meetings to discuss the project and Parker’s discoveries.

Parker said, “It was great. I was getting firsthand research experience. It was good to see that it’s not as intimidating as I thought…I’m pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoy it and almost crave it. I look forward to finding the next bit of information.”

Following her first research assignment, Parker is now working with Professor Garner to collect data about the expression of emotions in books written for young children. As part of her current work, Parker uses a coding system to itemize the types of emotions visible in 85 English language children’s books. By compiling a range of information about each book, the research team (which also includes New Century College dean Lisa Gring-Pemble) hopes to discover insights into what and how emotions are discussed with children through literature.

Professor Garner said, “As a parent, you are looking for these books to help discuss emotions with your children. We want to know what messages do these books send to kids about emotions.”

In addition to coding the different data collected from each book, Parker reviews other related academic publications, summarizing the research and viewpoints expressed in each book or article. Garner and Parker anticipate that collecting all relevant data for this project will take between 12 and 18 months. While other students might find such detailed working draining, Parker enjoys the details and critical reading.

Parker said, “This is not a lot of work for me and it’s all information that I would want to investigate anyway, just because it’s so interesting.”

In addition to improving her data collection and research skills, Parker’s work with Garner has helped her ability to manage many aspects of her student life. Parker said, “I know I’m taking concrete skills away from this. I’ve become much better at organizing and delivering information, managing my time and making connections with others.”

Reflecting on Parker’s contribution to her own research in the past 18 months, Professor Garner said, “ Tameka has been great assistance in my work—she pays careful attention to detail, which is critical with this type of analysis. As an undergraduate, she is doing literature reviews, coding data and conducting statistical analysis of the data collected. Not many undergraduates have the opportunity or drive to directly support this type of research. I’m glad Tameka’s with us on this project because I think it will be a great learning opportunity for her.”