Doctoral Student & Graduate Research Assistant, Boston College Lynch School of Education
Networking with faculty and alumni has been a key element of Kyle Demeo Cook’s career—which started on the path to becoming a classroom teacher but shifted to work at the policy level.
"I have literally obtained all of my jobs because a faculty member or Boston College graduate has connected me to them"
As an undergrad, Demeo Cook was inspired by Professor Rebekah Levine Coley’s Social Issues and Social Policy course. She began seeking opportunities to focus her work on early childhood education. “The class really helped develop my interest in social and educational policy and drove which classes and internship experiences I sought,” she says. “Dr. Coley brought in a guest speaker—the campaign director for the Early Education for All Campaign for Strategies for Children—the week the class talked about early childhood education.”
The guest speaker, who Demeo Cook spoke with after class, connected her with a yearlong internship at the organization during her undergraduate senior year. “I was thrust into the early education policy scene in Massachusetts,” she recalls.
Demeo Cook’s interest in how research impacts the policy process was heightened—so she enrolled in the Educational Research, Measurement & Evaluation (ERME) master’s program. “The program provided me with a strong foundation in quantitative and qualitative research methods,” Demeo Cook says. These skills complemented the part-time role she had taken with Strategies for Children while pursuing her master’s degree.
“My internship experiences while at the Lynch School were integral in my career development and to connecting me with professional opportunities,” she says. In fact, Demeo Cook was hired full time as the early childhood field director by Strategies for Children upon graduating from the ERME master’s program.
“My experience there as an intern coupled with my master’s degree in education research made me a really good candidate for the job,” she says.
Demeo Cook used the skills she honed as a student at the Lynch School to help influence and shape education policy. “I worked directly with early educators to support their participation in the legislative process and advocacy efforts for funding high-quality early education in Massachusetts,” she says. In addition to strengthening her policy experience, she traveled across the Commonwealth visiting a diversity of preschool programs to broaden her knowledge of early childhood development in the state.
Though well versed in education policy in Massachusetts, Demeo Cook wanted to broaden her impact. As the research associate for the Education Development Center, she worked on a variety of quantitative and qualitative research projects related to education policy issues across the Northeast. “Ultimately, I got to help start an Early Childhood Research Alliance consisting of researchers and policy makers in New England and New York,” she says.
Her interest in K-12 education policy and the connection between research, policy, and practice soon called her back to the Lynch School. “When I was applying to doctoral programs, I was primarily looking for two things: a program that focused on child development within a school of education and faculty who were doing research related to early childhood education policy and practice,” she recalls. Demeo Cook spoke with former professors and other BC alumni, who helped inform her decision to return.
“My primary reason was to work with Dr. Coley and Dr. Eric Dearing, who both do research related to early childhood education policy issues,” she says. “Both had continued to provide me with insight and mentorship while I was working professionally. Since my research interests align directly with their work, they continue to mentor me as a doctoral student.”
As a Ph.D. candidate in Applied Development and Educational Psychology, Demeo Cook has continued to build upon her professional network and collaborate with other Lynch School alumni. “While interning for the University-Based Child and Family Policy Consortium, I have had the opportunity to work with Dr. Joan Lombardi on a series of webinars to connect graduate students and early career professionals across the country to issues related to international child policy,” she explains.
Dr. Coley, a steering committee member for the consortium, referred Demeo Cook to Dr. Lombardi, M.Ed. ’73, an international child development and policy expert.
“In my experience, alumni are always willing to connect and share advice with other alumni,” Demeo Cook says. “The collaborative environment that starts while at the Lynch School definitely carries over as students graduate and work professionally.”