By Sherron Lumley
Urvasi Graham’s passion and enthusiasm for her work and advocacy for early learning programs is clear. She is currently an Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health Consultant through Child Care Aware of Northwest Washington’s Holding Hope Program and the Opportunity Council in Bellingham, Wash.
She’s also a co-chair of the Child Wellbeing Task Force for her county, while at the same time growing her private practice, Urvasi Graham Infant Family Specialist Consulting. She’s just been offered a 15-month position in the Advanced Clinical Training program at the Barnard Center, which she plans to accept, and all this just a few years since graduating from the College of Education in 2018.
Graham earned her Master’s degree in Early Childhood Education in the Inclusive Education Program, which she discussed in a recent alumna interview:
College of Education (COE): Could you describe your experience in the online Early Childhood Education program?
Urvasi Graham (UG): “The whole program was incredible. I loved it. The program offered more tracks and different programs, greater flexibility and better affordability than other schools I considered. I was able to keep working fulltime while attending virtually. We also did a great amount of hands-on experiences while learning theory, strategies and techniques. The concept was to get out in the field to try them, rather than waiting until the end.”
COE: What was it like to be an online/remote student?
UG: “I was very busy with my personal life, and the faculty were all very supportive and responsive, understanding we are complex people with complex lives, yet still holding us accountable. The cohorts are kept intentionally small in graduate school, and there was so much access to faculty, which was very different from my undergrad experience vying for faculty attention in a room of 300 students.”
COE: What about technology, PSU services, and student life?
UG: “There were no problems with the platform or glitching, and although at first I missed the deadline to apply, PSU got right back to me and it was seamless with funding and financial aid. I did not have to be on campus often, but I had a chance to meet other students in the program in person doing trainings at the Helen Gordon Childhood Center. It felt like we knew each other and I’ve been comfortable building relationships online ever since.”
COE: Are you doing what you thought you would be doing, or did you find a new direction?
UG: “When I wrote my thesis, I was focused on lead teachers in classrooms. Now what I do is similar, but expanded to include early learning programs, their owners / directors, the teachers, and the children and their families directly. One of the things we are working on is lowering the expulsion rate in children from families of color by introducing emotional and social development at an early stage, getting children kindergarten-ready. I work with early achievers providing mental health support for children in a holistic approach. This is a newer program with 15 mental health consultants in the state. It just began two years ago and it is still in a pilot, but we are seeing results-based evidence.”
COE: What would you say to someone thinking about applying to the Early Childhood Education program?
“My advice for anyone considering this program is that you will have so many great skills to enter the workforce. You become the best teacher you can be. You are supported through your journey with people doing it alongside you, making sure you are learning and growing. And you will develop self-awareness of your own biases, learning that your way may not be the best way for a particular family.”
What does the future hold for our College of Education alumna Urvasi Graham? She plans to continue to build her private practice and is interested in advocacy for Early Learning Programs with a focus on accessibility, equity, inclusion, and affordability.