Focusing research to better understand education issues facing African American youth and foster youth
“SSA students should begin their job search early and take advantage of the opportunities provided by SSA’s Office of Career Services,” says Sean Hudson, AM ’14, who now works as a data and research associate at an early child care and education service and advocacy organization in Chicago.
“I really believe that students should start their job search at the beginning of their second year,” says Hudson, who began his own job search in spring quarter of his final year and wishes he had begun a bit earlier.
“But I would stress that you should be patient if you can afford to and take time in your job search process – not necessarily taking the first job offer you get if it doesn’t fit into your overall career goals,” he adds.
SSA Career Services provided Hudson important support, he says. “They helped me tailor my cover letter to the different places where I was applying for a job and gave me important feedback.”
He also says the various weekend career workshops helped boost his career search skills and provided a chance to talk with alumni in social service jobs.
Professors were also helpful to him, he adds. “They reached out to people working at organizations that were looking for someone with skills like mine.”
“The one thing I wish I would have done more of was informational interviews. That would have given me a chance to meet more people in the research field, learn more about the jobs that are available, and broaden my professional network,” says Hudson.
He explains that he built his own career plans and his work at SSA by thinking strategically. Hudson, who has a bachelor’s degree in social work from the University of Alabama, had an interest in data analysis.
He took classes in data analysis and was enrolled in SSA’s poverty and inequality program of study. He pursued those interests in his field placement doing data analysis at the Social IMPACT Research Center of Heartland Alliance, a Chicago-based non-profit that combats poverty.
One of the interviews he did as he looked for a field placement turned out to be an informational interview of sorts. That contact at the Illinois Action for Children (IAFC) led to his current job.
“I talked with the research director, David Alexander, and because I had just moved to Illinois and so much of the agency’s work deals with the state, he didn’t think the field placement there would work for me,” Hudson recalls.
“But when I came back to interview for my current job, he remembered our previous interview. I had made an impression.” The job he was offered fits his interests and turned out to be exactly what he expected it would be.
Hudson helps design and administer evaluations that help the organization assess and improve their services. For example, he is currently evaluating a new program designed to improve access to oral health services for children in areas where they have little to no access to dentists. He also provides critical research support for the organization’s advocacy and outreach work.
He has also created a community profile sheet that can be used to lobby legislators to continue support for the child care assistance program, which provides child care subsidies for low income working families.
The profile sheet is an advocacy tool and contains information on the economic impact of the child care assistance program, he said. In addition, he is working on a project to examine the population and demographic shift of families who receive the child care assistance.
He is one of the lead researchers on a project with SSA Associate Professor Julia Henly, who has a fellowship to work this year at IAFC. She is part of a research project he and Alexander are leading to better understand the needs of the families impacted by uncertain work schedules.
Hudson said the experience of working as a researcher has helped him decide what his next career steps should be. “Seeing Julie Henly’s breadth of knowledge on child care has motivated me to pursue a Ph.D. The thought that my research can be a catalyst of change excites me more than one may ever know,” he said.
Hudson is preparing to take the GRE and hopes to apply to graduate programs.
“I’d like to focus my research on education issues facing African American youth and foster youth. The end goal is becoming one of the leading researchers in education research,” he says.