#UCFGrad Spotlight: Dr. Mom

Photos courtesy of KMD Creations

By Jenna Marina

ORLANDO, Fla. (July 27, 2017) – It’s expected that more than 3,700 students will pass through cap and gown pickup at the UCF FAIRWINDS Alumni Center this week in anticipation of Summer Commencement.

Some dance in excitement. Some are jittery from too much coffee and not enough sleep. Some are snapping photos for social media love. Some simply are there to cross off another to-do on the list.

When Taylor Bousfield ’13MEd strolled up to claim her doctoral regalia as she breastfed her 5-month-old and cared for her nearly 3-year-old while maintaining a Zen-like calmness, the regalia distribution staff took in the scene before them and wondered: is Wonder Woman real?

“Most of the time I’m a mess,” Bousfield said with a laugh.

Bousfield was born and raised in Orlando and attended The First Academy through middle and high school. After earning her bachelor’s degree from the University of Mississippi, she taught for three years in Louisiana before moving back to Central Florida to teach at Lake Howell High School.

She had an itch to further her education, and when a grant opportunity arose to do so at UCF, she took the chance to earn her master’s degree in exceptional student education with a certificate in autism spectrum disorder.

While she was in graduate school, Bousfield learned of a doctoral grant from Lisa Dieker, a UCF professor and Lockheed Martin eminent scholar chair.

“I figured, why not try?” Bousfield said. “We have an incredible education program that has faculty members who are so innovative. Not to mention the opportunity to work with TeachLivE. That is something I wouldn’t have been able to do anywhere else.”

A month after starting the doctoral program, she learned she was pregnant with her almost 3-year-old, Luke.

“He literally went to every single class, one way or another – whether it was in person, in utero or on Skype,” she said. “There’s no way I could have been able to accomplish everything without the support of our special-ed faculty and my chair, Lisa Dieker.”

Bousfield’s interest in special education and teaching was instilled at a young age. Her aunt, Charlotte Day, is the county coordinator for Special Olympics in Orange County. Bousfield said from the time she could walk she was volunteering at events.

She will graduate on Aug. 5 with her doctorate in education, and her children and husband will be in attendance. She hopes that her family’s immersion in her university experience will instill a drive and a passion for education in her sons.

She plans to stay at UCF as a Teach Live liaison as she works with associate professor Rebecca Hines, PhD.

“Taylor will be an amazing addition to our program. Her doctoral work included research methods in TeachLivE that we will use to help prepare future teachers,” Hines said.

Bousfield said her biggest challenge over the years has been balancing her roles as a mother, a wife and a student, but she wouldn’t have traded the experience for the moment when she learned she had accomplished her goal.

“Hearing ‘Dr. Bousfield’ after passing my dissertation defense – with my husband and both of our boys there in the room — was amazing. It’s probably the best moment I’ve had in a while,” she said. “My advice to anyone is find a support system and don’t wait. Don’t put it off. Now is the time. Somehow it will always work out. Don’t put off life for school, and don’t put off school for life.”

 

SVU Agent and K9 Partner Combat Child Abuse

Jessie Holton, '10, and his therapy dog, Primus (PHOTO: Amy Floyd, UCF College of Education and Human Performance)
Therapy dog Primus with his owner/handler, Jessie Holton, ’10
(PHOTO: Amy Floyd, UCF College of Education and Human Performance)

By Sandra Carr
UCF College of Education and Human Performance

Earning his doctorate in education with a concentration in organizational sociology from the UCF College of Education and Human Performance is one of Brevard County Sheriff’s Office Special Victims Unit Agent Jessie Holton’s most rewarding accomplishments.

Before enrolling in college, Holton conducted research within his department and found that law enforcement agents with college degrees are on the rise.

“I noticed a college degree was becoming more accepted when I got into law enforcement, so I decided to attend college,” Holton explains. “The next generation of policing is becoming a lot smarter with a higher education. Getting my education from UCF refined everything and made me a much better person and police officer.”

He also received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in criminal justice from UCF and has been assisting child-abuse victims with his 4-year-old pooch, Primus, a Puggle (pug-beagle mix), in his law enforcement agency’s therapy dog program, The Qualter Project, for the past two years.

Holton is a Marine Corps veteran and suffers from PTSD after serving two tours in Iraq and one in Afghanistan. Besides being his crime-fighting partner, Primus is also Holton’s personal therapy dog. He wakes him up and provides comfort whenever he’s experiencing a nightmare in the middle of the night.

He realized that therapy dogs like Primus could also make a difference with child abuse victims, so he started conducting research about Florida child abuse statutes and wrote a grant proposal targeted at fighting child abuse for UCF Professor Elizabeth Mustaine’s child abuse and society master’s course.

Holton found legislation permitting therapy dogs during child abuse victim interviews, but wasn’t aware of any law enforcement agency actually putting the law into action. Mustaine supported Holton, and had the entire class focus on drafting a grant proposal for the therapy dog project.

After the grant proposal was created, BCSO Sheriff Wayne Ivey assisted Holton with implementing The Qualter Project therapy dog program into the Special Victims Unit department in 2013, which is named in honor of Lieutenant Mike Qualter, who was an advocate for child victims. The therapy dog program, a first in the U.S., puts children at ease and has seen the disclosure rate of child abuse victims increase from 36 percent to 82 percent.

Holton has taken his mission further by initiating the Paws & Stripes College. The educational program provides women inmates with an opportunity to train shelter dogs in becoming child abuse victim therapy dogs.

The Qualter Project is expanding and will be assisting law enforcement agencies throughout the U.S. with its free training center, which is slated to open in September 2015. The BCSO facility will feature kennels, 40 dogs from the Paws & Stripes College, a classroom, Eastern Florida State College’s vet-tech school, and a homey area with a kitchen, bedroom and viewing room.

Holton wanted to take his career to the next level by working toward his doctorate in education with a concentration in organizational sociology. The program provided a customized, practitioner’s degree, which helped him develop the Law Enforcement, Academic and Direct Engagement Research System (LEADERS) Initiative through his dissertation in practice. The program analyzed a problem and worked with the law enforcement agency and others to figure out which solutions are plausible. Holton wants his project to grow beyond BCSO.

“I want to develop a full-time research and development unit,” Holton says. “I also wish to create a liaison between academia and law enforcement and then spread an idea. I would like to have multiple LEADERS Initiative sites in different cities throughout the entire country with the same work-group concept.”

UCF has made a difference with Holton’s therapy dog program and other projects.

“The Qualter Project and other programs wouldn’t be a reality if it wasn’t for UCF,” he says. “Students seeking a college degree from UCF should go for it. The Marine Corps laid the foundation for my work ethic and me striving to succeed, and UCF provided the higher education tools and plan. I love UCF and it will always be a big part of my life.”

This story was posted Aug. 5, 2015, on UCF Today. It has been slightly edited in accordance with AP and alumni association style guidelines. See original article. 

Strength in the Saddle

Alumna ensures disabled horseback riders get the therapy they need

5-30-15-Lauren-and-Whitey
Lauren Parslow, ’14, shares a quiet moment with Whitey, one of the horses that provides therapy,
through Freedom Ride, to physically/mentally disabled children and adults.
Lauren Parslow, ’14 | Volunteer Coordinator, Freedom Ride

By Angie Lewis, ’03

“Horses mirror our emotions,” Lauren Parslow, ’14, says. “What we feel, they will feel.”

And, that’s what makes them especially well suited as animal partners in helping children and adults cope with physical and mental disabilities, and post-traumatic stress, while improving their interaction skills and building their confidence.

Parslow, who’s been riding and working with horses since she was 5 years old, works as the volunteer coordinator for Freedom Ride, a therapeutic horseback riding center in Orlando. She loves everything about her job, because it allows her to make a difference in the lives of others every day.

“I can see the changes in the riders, their physical and mental health improving, and their overall quality of life improving,” she explains. “I also love that I get to work with the things I am most passionate about: children and horses.”

Freedom Ride is a PATH (Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship)-accredited riding center, which provides therapeutic riding lessons that help its mentally and physically disabled participants gain core strength, posture and balance.

In addition, the non-profit organization also provides hippotherapy, a form of occupational therapy in which a therapist uses the movements of a horse to engage sensorimotor and neuromotor systems to create functional change in a patient. It also offers a military program to help veterans increase self-awareness, enhance coping skills and learn more effective ways to interact and move forward within the community and with loved ones.

Parslow originally majored in forensic science at UCF — until she took chemistry, which was extremely difficult for her. During her struggle, she was also working at the YMCA, which led her down her new path.

“I realized how much I enjoyed working with children,” she explains. “I did my research and knew I didn’t want to become a teacher, so I took the early childhood development track. I loved every class and gave 100 percent every day.”

While pursuing her degree in early childhood development and education, Parslow interned with Freedom Ride for four months to gain the hands-on experience required for her major. Now employed with the organization for almost one year, she ensures they have enough quality volunteers to care for the horses, facility, and work the classes alongside the riders.

“I think my education degree helps me offer my expertise on our riders and their behaviors that the other staff may not understand,” she says. “I’m able to offer insight into why children do certain things and not others, or what they respond to best.”

3-31-15-Lauren-and-Jasper-2
Jasper & Lauren

Horsin’ Around Q&A

Q. What advice do you have for current education students at UCF?
A. Enjoy what you’re studying! You’re going to be guiding future generations. A degree in this field is EXTREMELY important. I wish more people would understand that. The first eight years of life are most important. So many milestones are reached in that time frame. PLEASE enjoy what you are doing. There has to be passion for what you want to do or it will affect future generations.

Q. Describe a typical day at work.
A. The first thing I do when I arrive at work is greet all of my staff members and volunteers. We have a small staff, and we always ensure our volunteers have a great time. We’re a family, and I want to make sure that they feel that way. Throughout the day, I enter the volunteer hours into our database, work on the monthly volunteer newsletter, ensure that we have enough volunteers each day, visit the horses and riders, and am thankful that I have a job I enjoy. There are days where we may not have enough volunteers, so I’ll need to work a class, which I thoroughly enjoy! I’m always asking the other staff members if they need anything done, and I will do it if they need the help. My days go by quickly, but I always come to work with a smile on my face and leave with a smile!

Q. What’s the last thing you Googled?
A. “Trucks for sale.” Living on a farm is tough without a truck!

Q. What one thing drives you absolutely crazy?
A. I’m a firm believer that if someone says they’re going to do something, they should do it. I don’t like seeing people, or myself, get their hopes up only to have them crushed.

Q. Last book you read?
A. PATH Instructor Manual. I’m going to become a riding instructor!

Q. If someone wrote a book about you, what would the title be?
A. Happy-Go-Lucky, or something along those lines. I’m always, always happy. I always have a smile on my face and enjoy life to the fullest.

Q. What’s the hardest thing you’ve ever done?
A. The hardest thing I’ve ever done was to beat depression and anxiety. Before attending UCF, I was a very anxious and depressed teenager. I sought help from a psychologist and her dog, and overcame my depression and anxiety. Those two things are very hard to beat and overcome, but I’m glad I did. I think that’s why I’m such a happy and thankful individual.

Q. Best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
A. Worrying never changes the outcome. How true is that?!

Q. What’s something you learned in the past week?
A. I’ve learned that sometimes you have to step up and take care of things when no one else is willing to help. It’s difficult, but it can be done!

Q. What’s something most people don’t know about you?
A. I’m easily intimidated, and I do NOT like confrontation.

More Info

See how Lauren and Freedom Ride are helping others:

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