College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences

CAHSS Alumni Impact: Melissa Powell Callaghan PSY '13

Melissa Callaghan (Powell), PSY '13, finishes Ph.D. at UC Irving and starts post-doctoral fellowship at Harvard University

Melissa Callaghan (Powell), a 2013 CSUMB Psychology graduate, just finished her Ph.D. degree in Education from UC Irvine and has started a post-doctoral fellowship at Harvard University.

As a CSUMB psychology major, and a McNair and UROC Scholar skillfully mentored by Dr. Jennifer Dyer-Seymour, Melissa conducted undergraduate research at CSUMB, UCLA, and Stanford University on a range of subjects including how children use sarcasm to bully or defend against bullying, how young adult’s decisions are affected by their cultural values, and how children use private speech to persist through challenging tasks.

In her first year as a doctoral student in the School of Education at UC Irvine, Melissa received a prestigious $138k National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship. With the motivating mentoring of Dr. Stephanie Reich, Associate Professor of Education, Melissa focused her dissertation, and numerous first-author papers and conference presentations, on developing and testing the effectiveness of preschool educational apps. Check out Melissa’s blog “Educational apps designed for kids: Avoiding missed opportunities” at While at UC Irvine, Melissa mentored 10 undergraduate researchers, TA'd numerous education courses, and served in a leadership position with UC Irvine’s Diverse Educational Community and Doctoral Experience (DECADE) program where she revised and led a mentoring program to ensure incoming Education graduate students were guided to successfully progress through their doctoral program. As a DECADE leader, Melissa also sat on UCI's School of Education’s admissions committee and graduate steering committee, voicing the requests of doctoral students to faculty leaders of the Ph.D. program.

As a Harvard University Postdoctoral Fellow, Melissa will be on the ground floor of a $30 million educational initiative to “Reach Every Reader.” Supported by Dr. Priscilla Chan and Mark Zuckerberg, co-founders of the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, Harvard will partner with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Florida State University to use a unique combination of cutting-edge education, neuroscience research, and learning technologies to ensure that, through individualized assessment and interventions, every child is reading at grade level by the end of the third grade. As pointed out in the Reach Every Reader link ( “Reading is essential for learning. A student who fails to read in first grade has a 90% probability of reading poorly in 4th grade and a 75% probability of reading poorly in high school, with implications for success later in life. Too many reading interventions are too late or too haphazard to change these outcomes.” Melissa will be working with her mentor Dr. Elizabeth City, Director of Harvard’s Doctor of Education Leadership Program, and with digital learning tool developers and educational assessment teams to design digital literacy tools, improve design features that align with children’s learning abilities, and assess effectiveness.

Submitted by: William D. Head, Ph.D., Professor EmeritusSchool of Natural Sciences, CSUMB