Whether she's researching the phenomenon known as helicopter parenting or teaching classes as a certified Pilates instructor, Katie Lowe (see above image) is committed to helping people — young and old — successfully adapt to life's changes. A PhD student in human development and family studies, Lowe takes a holistic look at her own life, balancing the challenges of higher education with a healthy lifestyle.
Lowe is the 2012 recipient of the Ruth Hathaway Jewson Dissertation Award from the National Council on Family Relations and also received the Van Scoyoc Fellowship from the Center for Families at Purdue. Beyond her studies, Lowe has spent much of her "free time" teaching cycling and Pilates boxing, kickboxing, strength-training and cycling classes in Purdue's Division of Recreational Sports. But her favorite might be the Pilates classes she's taught for four years to her lunch-hour ladies group in the College of Veterinary Medicine, who may secretly hope that she won't graduate and leave Purdue.
A career, however, likely teaching at another university, is calling. "My dissertation will focus on what parent involvement looks like during college," Lowe says. "I'm also looking to connect parent involvement to student outcomes, both including academically and in social developmental outcomes."
College is typically the time when young people make a cleaner break from parents. But now "we have an extended adolescence in the Western world called emerging adulthood," says Lowe, who points to the delay of marriage, extension of college education, and postponement of workforce entry as demographic and cultural shifts explaining the now gradual transition into adulthood. "These changes have spurred a maintenance of connections to parents in emerging adulthood that may pose challenges for renegotiating the type and level of parent involvement during this time."
In teaming up with the University Residences Parent Association (URPA), Lowe plans on monitoring the progress of freshmen along with the involvement of their parents across the first year of college. Through three online surveys with both parents and students, she'll assess questions like Are parents involved at the "right" levels?; How is parental involvement linked to students' development of autonomy?; and How are changes in parental involvement associated with changes in students' outcomes across the first year of college?
Initially, Lowe will put a lot of work into the recruitment of new students and parents, using as many social media outlets as possible and emailing new students coming to Purdue next fall. She's confident that the information collected in the groundbreaking research can be used to improve URPA programs, as well as generally how Purdue handles parents' presence in the college realm. "It's about giving it back to the community from where you got it," Lowe says. "There's a huge surge of parents calling advisors, and we need empirical research on how this involvement is linked with student's academic and developmental outcomes to best inform University policies and procedures on how to handle this situation." Lowe's quantified outcomes could give the advisors better advice for the parents, along with determinants of success for young adults. "People grow up quite a bit from the ages of 18 to 25," she says. "I enjoy looking into family and school factors that influence youth academic achievement across the development spectrum — from early adolescence to emerging adulthood."
She might leave a legacy of exercise in Rec Sports, as well. Lowe has taken on apprentices in Pilates and cycling, essentially training the trainers. She developed a Pilates Instructor Training program for Rec Sports. "It's a lot of work, but very rewarding," she says. "I wouldn't be true to myself if I'm not doing something I love."