Melina Knabe awarded O’Shea Fellowship

The Educational Psychology department is proud to recognize Melina Knabe, a current PhD student in the Human Development area, as the recipient of the 2023 Michael Vincent O’Shea and Harriet Frisbie Eastabrooks O’Shea Fellowship.

Working with Dr. Haley Vlach in the Learning, Cognition, and Development Lab, Melina’s work focuses on the intersection of cognition, education, and child development. Melina reflects on her work and what receiving this fellowship means to her:

I study how cognitive processes, such as memory, support early word learning in mono- and bilingual children, and how we can apply basic psychological science findings to the development of educational materials.

Receiving the O’Shea Fellowship is a tremendous honor and an opportunity to dedicate myself fully to research. In addition to pursuing other ongoing work, the fellowship provides the time and resources to work on my dissertation. My dissertation examines how bilingual children learn new vocabulary words from different bilingual storybook formats, such as books that include code-switching. Code-switching– the phenomenon of mixing languages within or across sentences – has often been considered harmful for bilingual children’s language learning. This belief has led to the prevalent “one-parent, one-language” policy; the recommendation that bilingual caretakers should only speak one language with their children and refrain from mixing languages. My dissertation challenges this predominant view: By drawing from research on how children learn, I predict that code-switching can support vocabulary learning in certain bilingual learners. Ultimately, this work will inform the development of storybooks tailored for bilingual children, thereby supporting the academic flourishing of one of the fastest growing student populations in the United States.

In addition to dedicating time to my research, the fellowship will enable me to focus on applying for academic positions. My goal is to become a professor who is guided by the Wisconsin Idea, improves language learning through rigorous science, and teaches and mentors students in developmental science. I am deeply grateful to the department for its unending commitment to research excellence and student support; a commitment that I and many others have benefited from greatly.

Congratulations to Melina for this achievement!