María Gandarilla Ocampo, a 3rd year doctoral student in social work, came to Washington University to earn a PhD, but she plans to leave with much more.
Chancellor’s Graduate Fellow Gandarilla Ocampo has taken advantage of countless opportunities at WashU – from entering (and winning) the Skandalaris Center Humanists’ start-up pitch competition to taking on a leadership role within the Graduate and Professional Advisory Council and serving on the Liberman Advisory Committee. “There are amazing programs and opportunities within the university and I continue to try to grow and learn through as many of these offerings as possible, to maximize my WashU graduate school experience,” said Gandarilla Ocampo.
Gandarilla Ocampo’s research focuses on child maltreatment epidemiology, specifically child maltreatment mandated reporting policies and their role in bringing families – particularly families of color – to interact with child welfare systems. She is studying how these policies are implemented in practice and how they impact outcomes and child-family experiences. Gandarilla Ocampo is currently a research fellow for Evident Change (formerly National Council on Crime and Delinquency), a research assistant with PACT-STL (Parents and Children Together – St. Louis) and a research assistant at the Center for Innovation in Child Maltreatment Policy, Research and Training at the Brown School. She is a Roma and Raymond Wittcoff Scholarship recipient, and her work has been published in three peer-reviewed journals articles since arriving at Washington University; several are currently under review.
Gandarilla Ocampo maintains a highly-organized and detailed calendar, allowing her to make time for professional development outside of her research and teaching responsibilities. She is a member of the inaugural Pivot 314 Fellowship cohort, a year-long program offering graduate students curated programming on professional development and leadership skills along with an internship opportunity at a start-up. She is also a founding member (along with Autumn Asher Blackdeer, a fellow Chancellor’s Fellow), of an informal BIPOC support group for doctoral students within the Brown School. Gandarilla Ocampo describes herself as a “regular” at the Center for Teaching and Learning, attending ongoing coaching workshops, participating in their teaching citation program and a graduate of EPIC interdisciplinary program. “This was an accessible way for me to learn more about pedagogical conversations and to help prepare me for a future of teaching,” said Gandarilla Ocampo.
While Gandarilla Ocampo wears many hats and juggles numerous responsibilities, she credits the Chancellor’s Graduate Fellowship Program as the community that keeps her centered. “The fellowship has not only connected me to amazing opportunities and resources, but it has provided me with an inclusive community – it’s like having a family here in St. Louis, since I came here not knowing anyone,” stated Gandarilla Ocampo. She enjoys working with other Chancellor’s fellows as people from different disciplines bring different perspectives to the graduate school experience and to the work they do as individuals.
As for what is next, academia is her long-term plan and maintaining research is a top priority. “I want and need to work in a position that allows me to continue research that impacts child welfare policy and works towards strengthening families and preventing child maltreatment. This is vital,” said Gandarilla Ocampo. “In the meantime, I plan to absorb as much knowledge as possible and tap into the bounty of opportunities at my fingertips during my time here at WashU,” she confirmed.