Tori Foster, a Ph.D. student in educational psychology, hopes to have a positive impact on students’ lives by improving their educational and learning experiences.
Ph.D. in educational psychology (area of emphasis: school psychology)
University highlights, achievements, awards and scholarships:
I am currently in my fourth year of study and have benefited greatly from the diverse range of educational and training opportunities available at UGA. My coursework has provided me with a strong foundation in the areas of psychology, education/instruction, research and professional practice (including ethics, school law and best practices in school psychology). Beyond that, my practical experiences have allowed me to apply my knowledge and to generalize my skills to settings outside of the university. As a practicum student at Gwinnett County Public Schools, local private practices, and the Georgia Network for Educational and Therapeutic Support, I have evaluated students’ psychological and academic functioning, presented assessment results and recommendations, consulted with teachers, implemented evidence-based interventions and conducted individual and group therapy in school and clinical settings. I have worked with a wide variety of students (aged 5-22) presenting with a broad range of concerns (difficulties related to learning, attention, social-emotional functioning and behavior). In the coming year, I will also have the opportunity to extern with the Department of Neuropsychology at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and to provide teachers in local public schools with consultative support.
Guided by my adviser, Scott Ardoin, my research interests focus on reading behavior and intervention. Both my thesis and dissertation have involved the investigation of children’s eye movement patterns (using eye tracking) as indicators of specific behaviors that underlie the process of “reading” as we know it. Because I entered the program with little research experience, I have grown from and truly enjoyed studying at a strong research university like UGA. I’ve had the privilege of presenting my work at annual conventions of the National Association of School Psychologists, and my research has been published by both NASP’s and APA’s peer-reviewed school psychology journals.
I received my M.A. degree in December 2012 and was admitted to doctoral candidacy spring semester. This past fall, I was selected as a recipient of the Louise McBee Award, an award presented by the Athens Area Psychological Association to a female doctoral student in each APA-accredited training program at UGA.
This semester, I received a Dissertation Grant Award from the Society for the Study of School Psychology. The grant will cover the costs of my dissertation research, which will investigate the eye movement patterns of adult basic education students and elementary schoolchildren.
I am clinic coordinator for the UGA School Psychology Clinic, an in-house training clinic where school psychology graduate students provide comprehensive psychoeducational assessment services to families of preschool and school-age students. As the coordinator, I communicate with parents and other stakeholders, gather information about the referral concerns for each case, complete scheduling and other administrative tasks, and supervise graduate student clinicians. I have also worked as a graduate research assistant to my adviser, Scott Ardoin, for the past four years. My work on two IES-funded research projects has primarily involved data collection, training undergraduate and graduate students, conducting reading assessments and interventions in local elementary schools, and writing manuscripts.
Family Ties to UGA:
I’m somewhat of a Yankee, so I’m proud to be the first family member to study at UGA.
I chose to attend UGA because…
UGA’s school psychology program has a great reputation and legacy; the program has consistently been recognized as one of the nation’s top programs in terms of research productivity, and many of the “celebrities” in our field have ties to UGA. Although I admittedly was a bit intimidated by the breadth and depth of the curriculum/requirements when I applied, I knew it was my top choice after seeing how other programs paled in comparison. I also chose UGA because of my “fit” with the program. During my interviews with faculty and students, I was struck by their sincerity and hospitality, and I easily envisioned myself in the program. Collegiality becomes incredibly important when you’re going to spend five years working with others!
My favorite things to do on campus are…
… walking around North Campus, tailgating on Saturdays and cheering on the Dogs (complete with barking) at Sanford Stadium. Let’s be honest, though: I spend most of my time in Aderhold Hall.
When I have free time, I like…
… reading, cooking, playing the piano and singing, traveling, spending time with family and friends, and exploring downtown Athens. I love taking advantage of the culinary and music scenes, and I know I’m going to miss this town so much when I graduate.
The craziest thing I’ve done is…
… attempting to catch trout with my bare hands in the middle of winter. From 2008-2009, I taught in rural South Korea through the Fulbright U.S. Student Program, and barehanded fishing was an event at my county’s annual Sancheoneo (Mountain Trout) Ice Festival. My brother visited, and he and I tried our hands at it (bad pun) but emerged with only freezing limbs. My homestay father caught three fish, stashing two in his shirt and one in his mouth.
My favorite place to study is…
… Hendershot’s Coffee on Prince Avenue — great coffee, great atmosphere and great music (live and recorded). I’ve put in a lot of dissertation writing time there.
My favorite professor is…
… my mentor, Scott Ardoin. Since our program follows an “apprenticeship” model and I am a research assistant in his lab, I entered the program specifically to work with Scott. He is an esteemed researcher in our field and a valuable resource but also remains down to earth and good-humored. Scott has taught me so much (and challenged me) during the past four years, and I’ve never felt a lack of support from him. He makes himself available and looks out for his students’ best interests, and I respect him as a professional and a person.
If I could share an afternoon with anyone, I would love to share it with…
… all of my family members (both living and those who have passed away). My parents live in Pennsylvania, and my brothers and their families are in Nashville, Texas and Washington state, so it’s hard for all of us to get together, and I’ve missed seeing my nieces and nephew grow up. I’d also love for my Korean host family to be there, since it’s been years since I’ve seen them. It might be selfish to list so many people, but since this is hypothetical, I’m going to go with it … and also state that we’d be enjoying live performances by performers including Chopin, the Dave Brubeck Quartet, Wilco and Whitney Houston.
If I knew I could not fail, I would…
… audition for a Broadway musical. During college, I was an English/theatre and psychology double major, and I did a summer program with the American Theatre Wing (the organization that sponsors the Tony Awards). I got to attend the Tonys dress rehearsal, participate in mock auditions and take master classes and workshops with directors, agents and actors like Liev Schreiber, Jonathan Groff and Marian Seldes. I’ve moved on to a more practical career path, but singing on Broadway (or being the voice of a Disney princess) will always be a dream of mine.
If money was not a consideration, I would love to…
… travel more. I spent a semester in London and lived in South Korea for a year, and I’d love to spend more time abroad. Two of my travel goals are visiting all of the continents and traveling on the Trans-Siberian Railway.
After graduation, I plan to…
… complete postdoctoral training, pursue state licensure and work as a psychologist in a school or private clinical setting. No matter where I am, I hope to have a positive impact on students’ lives by improving their educational and learning experiences.
The one UGA experience I will always remember will be…
… times spent with friends and colleagues — late nights in the office, happy hours, dinners, celebrations, study sessions, program potlucks, tailgates, farewells and cohort bonding (including that time we wore eye black and blasted “Eye of the Tiger” on the way to our written comprehensive examinations). I’m lucky to have formed a great support network here at UGA, and graduate school would have been entirely different without these experiences.