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Emma Hart

Class of 2020
Majors: Child Development & Public Policy

Emma Hart standing with Bernard Van Leer Foundation signEmma Hart, a junior double majoring in Child Development and Public Policy, was drawn to the research focus at Vanderbilt. Passionate about education, Emma wants to focus on researching improvements to early childhood intervention to optimize development for all children. As a Peabody Scholar, Emma was able to explore this type of research through her summer internship with the Bernard van Leer Foundation in the Netherlands.

Emma has been a Peabody Scholar since the Spring semester of her sophomore year. Through this program, Emma was able to immerse herself in Dutch while interning for the Bernard van Leer Foundation (BVLF). The foundation’s mission is to give every child a good start to life, with an emphasis on children’s first 1,000 days. BVLF partners with government, nonprofits, foundations, and local groups to fund scalable, sustainable, research-informed programs for babies, children, and their parents. Their work aligned perfectly with Emma’s personal goal to “optimize child development so all children can thrive rather than just survive.”  While interning, Emma worked on many projects including creating an ethics in human subject research policy, providing child-development informed program assistance, and creating internal resources on child development.

While in the Netherlands, Emma had the opportunity to apply her human-centered design skills by creating and facilitating a design workshop for her team to help them identify the structure and content of an in-development, keystone document. The document would serve representatives across the globe when implementing their Parents+ program. Emma focused the workshop on interviews she conducted with different country representatives about what they hoped the document would include. Emma’s use of a human-centered design approach to this problem stems from her involvement with Design for America (DFA) at Vanderbilt. DFA is a student organization with a main focus of “immersive design thinking with communities, not for them, in order to solve challenges at the local level”.  The workshop was very successful among those participating, much of which she attributes to having focused explicitly on the experiences of those the document would be serving- a key principle of human centered design. Designing with, not for, is a philosophy Emma aims to apply to all areas of her work and life, especially her research. Emma is very grateful for the knowledge she’s gained in her child development classes that allowed her come to BVLF with strong foundational knowledge she was able to build upon.

Outside of her internship, Emma was able to explore lots of Netherlands, traveling on weekends and after work. She also had the opportunity to go on weekend adventures to various places in Europe including Paris, London, and Brussels. Emma loved the freedom she had to explore what she found exciting, like spending a day at the Centre for the Developing Brain in London, and found herself growing through the experience of traveling alone. Emma advises anyone who might be interested but hesitant about going abroad by themselves, “if you have an inkling that you could benefit from travel, go! If there’s nothing available that really speaks to your goals and missions, make something. Don’t be afraid to reach out to people and push your comfort zone to create an experience that works for you”. She reflects that what made her experience so meaningful was taking every opportunity she could to immerse herself, both at work and in her travels.