Alumni Spotlight – Kia Ferrer

Kia Ferrer, MS ’10 in Child Development with a child life specialization, has returned to Erikson to pursue her doctoral degree in Child Development. Ferrer is a Certified Grief Counselor, Child Life Specialist, and founder of Momentos Therapy, LLC, a private child life practice in Chicago. Her cousin Lisa Sanchez-Warren, an Erikson alumna who graduated in 2004 with a master’s in Early Childhood Education, influenced her decision to attend the graduate school. Kia took time out of her busy schedule to answer some of our questions, and share details about her time at Erikson, how her degree influenced her work, and her studies in Puerto Rico.

What made you decide to attend Erikson Institute, and what was your area of study?

I received my Bachelor of Arts in psychology, with a concentration in human services, and a minor in Early Childhood Education from DePaul University in 2008. Being raised by a family of Chicago Public School teachers and having a cousin who was an Erikson alumna, I was aware of Erikson and knew I wanted to work in education outside of the school setting. It was therefore only a small step to consider attending the best graduate school for child development and child life. Two years later, I received my Master’s from Erikson, remained in the city, and worked as a child life specialist at several pediatric settings across the Chicagoland area.

What did you take away from your time at Erikson? Any particular memories or lessons you can share?

I remember the first few weeks in class — it was a very welcoming environment. We were the first class in the new location in 2008, so everything was brand new and there was a fresh, new energy in every classroom. What I remember the most, though, was how approachable my professors were, and how intimate the setting was. I felt free to walk into any of my professors’ offices and ask questions. It felt like a community, and soon became a family.

  • Kia with Dr. Garcia Coll in Puerto Rico.
    Kia with Dr. Garcia Coll in Puerto Rico.

What are you up to now? What does your current research focus on?

Apparently, I couldn’t get enough of Erikson! I just finished my first year of the PhD program in Child Development. Very few people who receive their Master’s with a specialization in Child Life go on to get their PhD; nevertheless, we are in the midst of a period of great change in the demographics of the United States, and the field of child development must take cognizance of these shifts. In order to do so, more research is needed to gain a deeper recognition of the disparities between majority and minority populations, and to better document the indirect influences (such as race, gender, socioeconomic status, etc.) of developmental processes in the fields of education and pediatrics. As a daughter of a CPS teacher who taught history for over 25 years, and a born and bred Logan Square/Humboldt Park Chicago native, I’m interested in the social/historical perspectives of cultural standards across programming for young children in education…and now child life!

I just returned from Puerto Rico, where I facilitated a new child life practicum program through Child Life United and San Jorge Children & Women’s Hospital in Santurce. In addition to supervising the practicum, I completed an independent study with the developmental psychologist Dr. Cynthia Garcia Coll, in which we began a project that aims to critically analyze ethnic and linguistic disparities in professional preparation programs in early childhood education and child life. Right now, I’m continuing my doctoral studies and growing my private practice called “Momentos”, a boutique private practice of Certified Child Life Specialists offering child life services outside of hospital walls, in the child’s home and community.

How did your time at Erikson prepare you for the work you are doing now?

My time at Erikson has taught me about the importance of developing strong, deep connections with others in one’s field. I recently attended a multicultural affairs event at Erikson with professor emerita Aisha Ray (Erikson MEd ’72), as the keynote speaker. I will never forget a discussion with Erikson alumni and professors, young and old, about connection, reflection, and keeping your word in work. That is, following through on your ambitions and commitment to Erikson’s values to empower children.

What would you say to others that might be wondering if Erikson is the place for them?

Not only is Erikson a reputable, remarkable institution, it is also a place where students are given the opportunity to grow personally and professionally through the broad community and connections it affords. These benefits will last a lifetime. I’m proof!