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Imani suit coat, small smile, Duke stone behind her.
Imani Hall

Imani Hall is a Senior majoring in Neuroscience, minoring in Psychology, and getting the Child Policy Research Certificate. Her interests lie in supporting individuals with diverse learning needs as she has first-hand experience with seeing her parents become her sister’s number one advocate for her learning disability.

Imani’s independent research project focuses on just that: examining the importance of parental involvement for children with Autism spectrum disorder in the implementation of child policies.

During her time at Duke, she has worked closely with Dr. Megan Golonka and has since formed a great relationship with her beyond the advisor-student status. She hopes to continue working in a field that aligns with her passion: supporting children to grow and flourish.

Read on to learn more about Imani Hall, her research, and what she plans to do next.

NAME: Imani Hall

MAJOR: Neuroscience

MINOR: Psychology

CERTIFICATE: Child Policy Research


Title of her independent study: Examining the Importance of Parental Involvement for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder in the Successful Implementation of Child Policies. 

Q&A with Imani Hall

What is your thesis/study about?

My study is about Parental Involvement and Child Policy. Specifically, I focus on examining the importance of parental involvement in the successful implementation of child policies.

What inspired this project?

In my personal experience, I have observed the vital role of advocacy in supporting individuals with diverse learning needs. Seeing my parents advocate for my younger sister, who has an Individualized Education Program (IEP) for a learning disability, has been particularly impactful. I have also witnessed my sister's ability to self-advocate, a skill that not all students possess.

Working at Duke's Center for Autism and Brain Development has further opened my eyes to the challenges faced by parents of autistic children*. While these parents are often their children’s greatest advocates, many may not have the necessary knowledge or support to effectively advocate on their behalf.

Recognizing the importance of this issue, I am inspired to explore ways in which we can better support and empower parents of autistic children in their advocacy efforts. By shedding light on their challenges and proposing recommendations for assistance, we can work towards creating a more inclusive and supportive environment for these families.

Note: I use identity-first language when referring to autistic individuals. You can read more about what that means and why I use it here.

What did you enjoy most about this project?

One of the most rewarding aspects of this project was fostering connections with parents of children with autism. I appreciated the opportunity to listen to their perspectives and incorporate their valuable suggestions for enhancing the system for future generations. Additionally, I am thankful for the ability to provide compensation to participants in the form of a $50 Amazon gift card for their time and insights.

What challenged you the most?

I encountered the most significant challenges during the IRB process. Dr. Golonka provided valuable assistance in ensuring a smooth process, although there are several steps involved in successfully completing an IRB submission. Through this experience, I gained valuable insights into the research process.


Imani with the research scientist Megan Golonka who mentored her during her independent study.

What are your next steps after graduating?

I am currently exploring different opportunities for my next career move. I have been accepted as a teacher with the Teach For America Corps and am also actively interviewing for positions in the neurotech industry. I am in the process of determining which path aligns best with my career goals and interests and will make a decision based on that assessment.

What is your dream job?

My ultimate career goal is to work with children who have developmental-behavioral disabilities to assist them in achieving their full potential and leading fulfilling lives. Whether I pursue a path in medicine, clinical psychology, education, or another related field, my passion lies in supporting children to grow and flourish.

What’s the best advice you’ve received?

four women holding Duke class of 2024 sign on top of Duke chapel
With friends atop Duke Chapel.

The best advice I have received is it doesn’t matter how well you do, just that when you go to bed every night feeling like you’ve tried your hardest and given it your all.

What has your experience at Duke and/or as a Child Policy Research student taught you about yourself?

I have discovered a passion for engaging in meaningful conversations and fostering connections with others. Whether it be forming strong relationships with mentors like Dr. Golonka, engaging with study participants, or networking and developing a sense of community within the certificate program, I have found great joy in building these connections. While I may have tendencies towards introversion, I thoroughly enjoy discussing shared interests and passions with others.

What will you miss most about Duke and Center for Child and family policy?

I will miss all of the incredible connections that I have made. I have met the most amazing people here from all over the world, and I love that I get to see them all on a daily basis.

What is your motto?

My motto is “I choose to be happy.”


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