Alumnae/i Feature

Tamia Hargrove ’19 Explores Cleft Palate and Craniosynostosis Research

“I experienced the joy of learning while at Simmons,” recalls Tamia Hargrove ’19, now a Research Specialist at Boston Children's Hospital. “I didn’t drag my feet when it came to doing homework. I would often go beyond the assignment, reading about studies and accessing the research database. I enjoy my free time, so the fact that I was using it for academic stuff was definitely a change.”

Hargrove double-majored in psychology and information technology (IT), a combination she hadn’t planned on when she arrived at Simmons. “Originally, I came to Simmons for web design — Simmons was one of the few schools in Boston that had a four-year degree program for web design & development — but moved to Computer Science. I had a hard time with math, so Professor Nanette Veilleux advised me to try IT, which has less math and is more hands-on. It was perfect for me!”

During a lull of IT classes one semester, her faculty advisor suggested she take a few classes for fun.Hargrove was skeptical. “I thought, I’m not paying for fun,” she says. “But after taking a psychology class in high school, I had always wanted to learn more. I took a class at Simmons and loved it even more, enough to pick it up as another major. I’m very glad I did because I loved it so much!”

While at Simmons, Hargrove  interned at Boston Children’s Hospital in the Department of Critical Care. The Department of Critical Care offers workshops for medical staff about different topics, along with open sessions to express concerns and share advice. “Most of the workshops  focused on difficult conversations with families —  challenging diagnoses and surgeries. They hired actors for the medical staff to work with, acting out a conversation and then talking about what could have been done better. It was hard to remember that it wasn’t real — the actors were really good.”

Upon graduation, she looked for jobs in User Experience — a marriage of IT and psychology — but found it difficult to break into the field without an advanced degree. “I thought, maybe if I get some experience doing regular research, I can move from a research role into a User Experience research role. That’s how I found my position at Boston Children’s Hospital,” she says. “I love it here. In my opinion, I’m in the best department in the hospital. The management really cares about employees, beyond productivity. And being around people who are passionate  about their work is super inspiring!” 

She has been working with a surgeon to research children born with cleft palate and craniosynostosis. “I’ve met kids who have gone through major surgeries by the time they were two years old,” she says. “I meet with them in person, along with the parents, to tell them about the research study.” The past two years have been spent gathering data, before entering the analysis stage.

“It’s been rewarding to work with the kids,” she says. “I never realized how much surgeons deal with, beyond their basic job responsibilities. They have to be therapists, but also not make promises they can’t fulfill. We’re often working with parents before their kid goes through major surgery. It’s nice to think that the research I’m doing will provide them some sort of comfort or at least information that will ease some of their worries.” 

Hargrove reflects on how her time at Simmons has helped her, even now as a business owner, in collaboration with another Simmons alumnae, Paloma Vasquez. The birth of their business, High Tarot Vibrations, was conceptualized during their time at Simmons. “Going to a women’s-centered college boosted my confidence,” says Hargrove. “I didn’t realize it until my third year, but I was speaking up in class and making more connections with people. I’m a pretty shy person, but the environment encouraged me to speak up more. I felt comfortable at Simmons.”

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