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United We Are a Force, and Individually We are W.O.N.


Image Courtesy of Kelly Cartwright, Ph.D.

Women of Note celebrates the unique talents of women of Hampton Roads and seeks to raise awareness of issues women face in the 21st century. We are well aware of the many hats women wear throughout the day as well as throughout their lives and we would like to give women the opportunity to share their experiences juggling these with our community. By sharing our experiences, we hope to inspire others, learn from their perspectives, and foster a dialogue that creates solutions. Today we spot light Kelly Cartwright, Ph.D.

Affiliation(s) (past and present):

I grew up in the Richmond, Virginia area and earned my Bachelor of Science in Psychology, with a minor in Biology, from Virginia Tech. I settled in Chesapeake for a couple of years (where I had my daughter) before heading off to graduate school. I earned my graduate degrees (MA and PhD) at the University of Arkansas in beautiful Fayetteville, Arkansas, which is situated in the foothills of the Ozark mountains. After earning my PhD in experimental (research) psychology, I worked for one year at a very small college in Pennsylvania: Lycoming College. Then, in 1998 I took a position as a faculty member at Christopher Newport University (CNU), and I haven’t looked back! At CNU, I have worked in various administrative roles, and I work with multiple academic programs. Currently, I am a Professor of Psychology, and I’m also a faculty member in the Neuroscience and Teacher Preparation programs. These affiliations reflect my interdisciplinary teaching and research work.


How long have you been (working in/participating in) your field? How did you get into it?

I have been working in this field since 1992 when I began my graduate work. As an aspiring research psychologist, my first work in the field was as a Research Assistant. Then, I taught my first university course in 1995 after completing my master’s degree. It was a huge (150 student) course on Childhood and Adolescent Development. Although I was initially intimidated by teaching such a large class, I quickly discovered that I loved teaching. I now work as a faculty member at Christopher Newport University where I am able to integrate my work as a scientist studying reading, language, and literacy processes with teaching and mentoring students in various fields.


How long have you been working/ living in in Hampton Roads?

I lived in Hampton Roads (Chesapeake) for a couple of years after finishing my undergraduate degree, and I returned to Hampton Roads in 1998, settling in Yorktown, when I started working at Christopher Newport University.


What advice would you give young women going into your field?

Don’t forget to take care of yourself, be flexible, and set boundaries. University faculty jobs offer flexibility in scheduling, which can help you find time to meet parenting obligations, like going to school events or helping with homework. With that flexibility, though, comes a slippery slope. Work hours can – and often do – spread into the evenings, weekends, and early mornings. So, make sure you set boundaries that enable you to engage in self-care as well as undivided family time. My son and I have regularly scheduled “play dates” a few times per week to ensure that we have that quality time together.


Does your gender influence your relationship to your work? In what way?

Probably. I have been afforded many opportunities, resources, and support from colleagues at Christopher Newport University and beyond. That said, I likely spend more time on parenting tasks than my colleagues who do not carry the childcare burden in their families. That can be problematic when those tasks leave less time to do the things needed to advance in the field. On a positive note, as a “mom,” I find that an ethic of care infuses my mentoring and teaching of students. I care about them as individuals, and they thrive with that individualized support.


Have you faced challenges in your field because of your gender or have you found your gender to be an asset? What kinds of challenges or advantages, and how have they affected your life?

Luckily, I do research on children’s (and adults’) thinking, language, and reading. So, being a woman with children, my kid-friendly skills, developed through parenting and years of work with children, have certainly helped me in my work.


Has parenthood impacted your career or shaped your perspective as a professional? In what ways?

My kids teach me so many things. I have critically evaluated research studies on children’s thinking, reading, and language development. I have read works of the great thinkers in my field. And, I have conducted research with thousands of children. But, nothing brings those findings home like watching children’s development unfold in your own kitchen, your own backyard, or when you are sharing bedtime stories with your own little ones. Having children has made me a better thinker and learner myself.



Know a Woman of Note that should be featured? Please email us at Spotlighthrnews@gmail.com

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