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Paulina Velez Gomez - Human Development and Family Studies

I am from Medellin, Colombia (South America). I have a bachelor’s degree in Psychology that I obtained from Universidad CES (Medellin-Colombia) in 2007. I came to Texas Tech University as a Fulbright Fellow in 2010 to pursue a master’s degree in Human Development and Family Studies. I graduated from the Masters program in August of 2012 and started my doctoral degree in the same department in the fall semester. My interest in the area of Human Development arose out of my participation in an intervention project aimed at providing interdisciplinary aid to both children and teenagers with emotional disorders from Itagüí Municipality (Colombia) in 2007. Most of these children lived in poverty and suffered from abuse or maltreatment, which made them a high-risk population. That was when I realized that in addition to working from a disease-intervention approach, it was also important to develop preventive programs that could promote healthy development and well-being from an early age. I chose a graduate degree in Human Development and Family Studies because this program is focused on delving deeper into the understanding of social, cultural and historical contexts in which individuals develop, and the application of research findings to programs and policies that enhance the lives of individuals and families. My research interests are focused on issues related to social and emotional development during childhood and adolescence. The project on which I will be working for my dissertation is a cross-cultural comparative study on adolescent psychosocial development and well-being. The project aims to understand the normative psychosocial development of adolescents in Colombia by taking into account contextual characteristics of Colombia. This will be the first longitudinal study conducted in Colombia on early adolescence positive development. The project is part of an international research collaboration that I have helped to establish between Universidad CES (Colombia) and the Department of Human Development and Family Studies at Texas Tech University. My long-term goal for this project is that it may serve as the research basis for developing effective and culturally sensitive prevention and intervention programs for the well-being of adolescents in Colombia. The support that I have received from Texas Tech University has been vital for financing my graduate studies. In 2010 I was awarded with a scholarship from my department and a Graduate Incentive Scholarship. For the academic year 2011-2012, I was awarded with a scholarship from the College of Human Sciences and with the Health and Social Services Fellowship from the Graduate School. In 2012, I was awarded with the Helen DeVitt Jones Fellowship, which will allow me to help finance my doctoral studies. I want to share with my country all of the experience and knowledge that I have obtained here. When I return to Colombia, I plan to work not only in academic and research fields, but also in the official sector and with non-governmental organizations. Within these organizations, I hope to design and conduct programs that can promote healthy development and well-being of children and youth.