Being a single mom is difficult, but throw in a full-time research position at a tier one research university and the difficulty level increases significantly. Just ask Dr. Jamilia Blake, associate professor of school psychology.
Dr. Blake has been part of the Texas A&M family since 2007. She has won numerous awards in both teaching and research and has taken part in more than a dozen publications related to ethnically diverse youth and peer-directed aggression, bullying and victimization in socially marginalized populations.
“I want to give voice to populations that have been marginalized that don’t really have a voice, to bring attention to issues those populations are facing. I think my work has that potential and so I really want to do work that has some impact on ethnically diverse youth,” explained Dr. Blake.
Dr. Blake’s research focus comes from her two daughters, 13 year old Ayanna and 10 year old Layla. She hopes her research not only impacts, but also improves their future.
“Psychologists have been studying implicit bias for years, and it’s good that we’re finally talking about this nationally and examining how it impacts diverse student’s school experiences. I’m interested in uncovering more – thinking about interventions and prevention strategies we can do to address implicit bias.”
While Dr. Blake has been extremely successful both professionally and personally, she’s the first to admit that balancing work and life is not always easy.
“If I had to give advice to someone, I would tell them there’s nothing wrong with being ambitious and there’s nothing wrong with setting a goal and working toward it. However, you should make that decision for yourself. You decide what goals you want to work toward and you decide when enough is enough. You can’t be everything to everyone. I don’t think we tell people that enough, especially parents.”
She credits her social support system and her faith with keeping her grounded and keeping her focused on her family.
“I want to do good work and I want to make my kids proud. At the end of the day, when I’m on my deathbed, my papers aren’t going to hold me. That’s not what I want my accomplishment to be. I want it to be love – I want to be visible and present for my kids.”
She knows that it is easy to check out and get lost in her thoughts about research but she also knows how important it is to be present. One policy Dr. Blake has established is making evenings about her daughters. When they’re awake and at home, she spends as much time as possible with them.
“That means I have to fall back on some of my commitments. It means I have to be very thoughtful about the projects that I start, how much time I commit to new projects and what I agree to take on. It means sometimes I have to say no to work demands so I can be with them.”
Dr. Blake’s Research
Just because Dr. Blake has to set boundaries for work commitments does not mean her work has suffered. One of her most publicized studies involves the causes and effects of bullying at school and its impact on victims. Her research found that how parents handle bullying situations could have significant effects on children.
Her longest-standing project is research looking at discipline in Texas. For three years, Dr. Blake and her colleagues have focused on disparate discipline with black females.
“I’ve had this path of serendipity. I tend to find these areas that really interest me even if it is not a hot topic. That’s how I got so interested in the discipline experiences of black girls. I started reading the literature and everyone at the time was talking about black boys being overdisciplined and I wanted to know about black girls. The same is true for my work on students with disabilities bullying experiences.”
Dr. Blake has also examined other literature that showed African-American males are at an increased risk for being disciplined and suspended. She and her fellow researchers worked to develop recommendations for school-based mental health professionals to reduce the negative experience at school for African-American males.
Another study focused on the implications of using meaningful tools for the assessment of bullying as well as the need to adopt more empirically-based methods of assessment in schools.
“I want to keep doing the work that feels good to me. Some of my most well-received work has been the work that some people discouraged me to do, but I felt like it had to be done. I want to continue to do projects that are meaningful to me even if they are not the projects everyone else values or the work that gets heavily cited.”