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Inside the mind of researcher Shauna Tominey

I’ve always enjoyed working with children so while the rest of my classmates found jobs working in coffee shops to pay for college, I worked in child development centers. I found that I loved spending time with young children and getting to know their families.


Shauna Tominey joined the College of Public Health and Human Sciences as an assistant professor of practice and parenting education specialist in August 2016. In her current role, she serves as principal investigator for the Oregon Parenting Education Collaborative.

As an educator and family service professional, she blends practical experience with research to develop and test programs aimed at promoting self-regulation and social and emotional skills for children and the adults in their lives.

What made you decide to get into this field of study? Is there one specific moment that inspired your career path?

I initially went to school to study music. I wanted to be a composer, but thought it was probably a good idea to have a back-up plan. So, I double-majored in music and psychology.

I’ve always enjoyed working with children so while the rest of my classmates found jobs working in coffee shops to pay for college, I worked in child development centers. I found that I loved spending time with young children and getting to know their families.

I went on to pursue graduate degrees in family life education and human development and family studies. Along the way, I had the opportunity to work as an early childhood educator and parenting educator. Having a chance to work in the field inspired the HDFS research I conduct today, which is translational in nature.

My personal life also had a profound impact on my career path. Being part of a military family, I’ve had the opportunity to live in different states and to get to know families in many different contexts. In all of the places I lived, I saw the same shared value – parents and caregivers who want their children to thrive. What I came to realize was that despite that shared value, families are not given the same chance at success.

Together, all of these experiences – educational, personal and professional – fueled my interest in developing and supporting programs that help children reach their potential and give parents the strategies they need to be the kind of parents they want to be.

What does your current HDFS research entail?

My current research focuses on promoting positive social and emotional outcomes for children and families. I have two related streams of translational research: 1.) developing, implementing and testing programs that promote self-regulation (e.g. The Kindergarten Readiness Study/Red Light, Purple Light) and emotional intelligence for children and the adults in their lives (RULER); and 2.) increasing access to and studying the impact of parenting education (Oregon Parenting Education Collaborative OPEC).

What’s next for you?

In my new role at OSU, I’m excited to support parenting education efforts in Oregon. This includes a partnership with OPEC, which aims to expand access to parenting education opportunities for all Oregon families. It’s the norm in our society for most expectant parents to take birthing classes, but once parents bring their baby home, they are often left on their own.

Historically, parenting education classes have only been available to families mandated to take classes, but OPEC is working to change that. All families can benefit from support, and there are now parenting education hubs across many Oregon counties offering free and low-cost parenting education opportunities to families across the state and in Siskiyou County, Calif.

Making parenting education available is an important step, but it’s only one piece of this puzzle. Shifting society’s views to give parents due credit for how hard they work and destigmatizing participation in parenting education is another challenge, which I look forward to tackling collaboratively. In addition to supporting OSU’s parenting education efforts, I also look forward to continued intervention work promoting social and emotional skills for children and families in Oregon and beyond.”

What is the best advice you’ve ever received, and who gave it?

Follow the ‘platinum rule.’ I participated in a workshop on stereotypes and biases several years ago and through this workshop was introduced to the platinum rule, which stands in contrast to the golden rule. The golden rule is much more well known: ‘treat others how you want to be treated.’ The platinum rule instead states that we should ‘treat others how they want to be treated.’

What advice would you give to current students and recent alums?

Value everyone for their strengths. Many of us enter this field to help others and in doing so sometimes focus too much on what others are missing ­– their deficits, rather than what they bring to the table. By identifying and building on strengths, we can better support the children and families we aim to serve.

What are your favorite activities outside of work?

Outside of work, I love spending time with my own family, taking walks, creating anything such as writing, art and music, and collecting and playing musical instruments.