Fellowship enables Ph.D. student to pursue non-traditional career path and meet high expectations
Photo of Cagla Giray
Cagla Giray
September 13, 2018

As an only child, expectations were set high for Cagla Giray’s future career. Giray is from Ankara, Turkey, where her parents are professors at Lokman Hekim University.

Giray’s college career started at Bilkent University, where she received her bachelor’s in psychology. “During my undergraduate, the emphasis was on either clinical or cognitive psychology practices and I couldn’t envision myself as a clinical psychologist,” Giray says.

It wasn’t until her third year in undergrad when she worked in the Developmental Psychology Lab (Bil-Ge Lab) as a lab coordinator that she found her interest in applied research with co-parenting and divorced families. However, in Turkey, they did not offer a developmental psychology major at that time.

When researching universities to further her education, she came across a short research film on remote acculturation and Americanization conducted by Dr. Gail Ferguson from the University of Illinois College of ACES. The film explained how people in their home country orient towards American culture. Giray resonated so much with this phenomenon that she contacted Dr. Gail Ferguson and asked if she was seeking a Ph.D. student. Giray was accepted into the Department of Human Development and Family Studies’ joint M.S. and Ph.D. program. Giray moved to the United States in 2015 and obtained her M.S. in 2016. She is expected to defend her Ph.D. dissertation in December 2018.

Giray is a recipient of the Clareta Walker Fellowship. “My work supported by this fellowship led me to find my passion for international development and serving refugee and immigrant children in the U.S. and developing countries,” Giray says. “Currently, I’m completing my degree and seeking a job opportunity in an international development agency, policy-focused research institute or consulting.”

Giray is very grateful for Mrs. Walker’s generous gift. This fellowship shed the light on her career path and led her to find her passion for bridging research, outreach, and policy for children and families globally, she says.

Giray has already accomplished a lot in her career. With support from the Clareta Walker Fellowship, Giray, Dr. Aaron Ebata, and Dr. Angela Wiley initiated STEP: State of Extension Programs for Refugee and Immigrant Families in the U.S. project to identify extension program efforts for refugee and immigrant children and families.

Giray interned at Save the Children, an international non-profit humanitarian organization in Washington, D.C. She has been published twice. Her first published article, Harmony in the Home looked at the effects of parental childrearing disagreement on early childhood adjustment in Turkey. Her second publication in the Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology was from an international project she designed and implemented called Co-parenting with an AmeriTurk for her thesis and dissertation.

Giray believes that fellowships are important, especially for young emerging scholars, because fellowships give them access to the necessary resources, both educational and monetary, and allows them to translate their ideas into actions. The Clareta Walker Fellowship afforded her experiences and enabled her to pursue her career passion. Giray is grateful to her parents for being loving, open-minded people who have supported her through all her experiences and accomplishments.