Monica Kerr '19, Psychology

Monica Kerr '19, Psychology

On-Campus Research Opens Doors for Future SuccessMonica Kerr

Monica Kerr began her higher education journey at two other colleges before transferring to NVU. Living relatively close to campus in Woodbury, Vermont, made the shift a convenient one, too — she could commute to classes and continue to work. But her decision proved to be more than simply convenient; it opened new doors.

Small Campus. Big Research.

Monica’s psychology classes connected her with Gina Mireault, professor of Psychology. Gina also runs the Infant Laughter Project on the Johnson campus, and approached Monica to work with her as a research assistant. 

“This experience with Gina really opened up things for me and changed my experience. I don’t know if that would have happened at a bigger school. It would have been harder to pick me out, I think.”

The Infant Laughter Project began in 2007 when Professor Gina Mireault shifted her own research to infant laughter. Along with a team of undergraduate research assistants over the years since, the project has carried out multiple studies on infant behavior. The study Monica worked on had set out to learn whether infants younger than 8 months of age are capable of “social referencing” — in other words, do the parent’s emotions impact the infant’s behavior? 

Earlier research assistants had collected data on the behavior of 30 infants and had completed some initial analysis. Monica was hired to work with Gina to analyze the data and then develop a poster to present those findings at several conferences. Their analysis uncovered that, at 6 months of age, the infants were “captivated by the parent affect but it did not influence their behavior.” So, something happens between 6-8 months of age!

And something happened through this experience for Monica, too. “It played a role in helping me to get my internship and then job at Laraway Youth and Family Services,” Monica said. 

Monica currently works as a Behavioral Interventionist, working one-on-one with students with behavioral challenges to help them alter their behavior to be more positive. Laraway staff “were really interested in my work on this project in my interview. Important characteristics for the job I have are patience, determination, work ethic, attention to detail — and I demonstrated each through my work with the Laughter Project.”