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Thursday, October 18, 2018

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Left to right: Bryan Osorio, Alejandro Arias, SDSU education professor Marissa Vasquez, Oscar Duran, Ulises Leal and Anthony Mota Left to right: Bryan Osorio, Alejandro Arias, SDSU education professor Marissa Vasquez, Oscar Duran, Ulises Leal and Anthony Mota
 


Student Research Team Finds Meaning in Work

A group of undergraduates spent two years conducting research and found the experience transformed their education and career paths.
By Kellie Woodhouse
 

Updated 6/1/2018

Many of the San Diego State University undergraduates who conduct research alongside education professor Marissa Vasquez say the experience has set them on a path to become life-long scholars and researchers.

For the past two years, Vasquez has worked with a team of undergraduate students to learn about the experiences of Latino men in higher education. These students are fellows in the Aztec Research Fellowship Program, which offers undergraduates an opportunity to conduct social science research in an effort to increase the pipeline of historically marginalized students who pursue graduate degrees. All four of these student researchers who are graduating in 2018 are pursuing graduate degrees.

The team recently shared their experience as student researchers with the SDSU News Team.

SDSU News Team:
Can you tell us about your research?

Alejandro “Alex” Arias (’18; foods and nutrition major): Our project involves learning more about Latino community college transfer students and the experiences they’ve had leading up to their transfer to a four-year university. The purpose of our study is to gain a deeper understanding of what is helping these Latino students persist, despite the challenges and obstacles they face.

Oscar Duran (’18; social science major): We analyzed and deconstructed the notion of “machismo” among Latino male students. We attempted to re-conceptualize it as a possible form of cultural capital that, when applied to their experiences at the community college and university level, could lead to academic success.

SDSU News Team: What have you learned from participating in this research?


Bryan Osorio (’18; criminal justice major): This project has strengthened my knowledge of what research is. I’ve been exposed to many different aspects of research, such as conducting literature reviews, applying for Institutional Review Board (IRB) approval, and even writing a peer-reviewed article.

Duran: The research aspect of this fellowship has really encouraged me and prepared me for graduate school. Something I had never considered in the past is now one of my ultimate goals: to obtain a doctorate and continue pushing for social change and equity in education. Most importantly, I have found my purpose. I have learned that I am capable of accomplishing great things in life with the right support and dedication.

SDSU News Team: What impact has your research involvement had on your career goals?

Ulises Leal (senior philosophy major): After sharing these experiences not only with students, but also with faculty members, I now want to pursue an advanced degree. I was just accepted into a master’s program at SDSU, which is something I never thought I was going to do before joining this research opportunity.

Arias: I have found my true purpose in life, and that is supporting underserved students in higher education. I initially transferred to SDSU with the intention of becoming a registered dietitian; however, the research, literature, and conversations with Dr. Vasquez left me with no doubt that I wanted to continue to do this type of work for the rest of my life.

SDSU News Team: Describe your interaction with other students in this research group.

Osorio: It’s been really interesting. You are able to meet people who share similar backgrounds and are interested in research. It adds a dynamic that may not be present in your school or major.

Leal: It was great. I was lucky enough to work with students who have a great passion not only for research, but also to create a positive change in order to help students of color.

SDSU News Team: What advice do you have for other students about engaging in a similar experience?

Arias: Find a faculty mentor and get involved in research. I never imagined I would be doing the things that I do now. I took a chance at getting involved with something different and it turned out to be one of the best experiences of my life. The mentorship I have received from Dr. Vasquez has been invaluable. I don’t know who or where I would be without it.

Duran: Find these opportunities and take them. Make the most of every experience as a student. Engage in whatever makes you passionate. Even if you don’t feel qualified, even if you don’t think you belong, even if you doubt yourself, don’t set limitations on yourself. You’ll never know where you will be a few years down the road, but I can almost guarantee it will be a transformational experience. I know it was for me.  

SDSU News Team: Dr. Vasquez, how does involving undergraduate students in your work help you advance what you do?

Dr. Vasquez: Having been a community college transfer student myself, I am passionate about creating opportunities for students to engage in social science research—something that I was personally unaware of as an undergraduate. As a scholar, one of my research strands is focused on better understanding the experiences of transfer students. What better team to engage in this research than successful community college transfer students at SDSU? I’ve found that my students’ personal experiences have strengthened our research design, data collection, and analysis.

SDSU News Team: And, lastly, Dr. Vasquez, what do you enjoy about mentoring students?

Dr. Vasquez: Mentorship is both powerful and transformative. As I reflect on my own academic and professional journey, I’m reminded of the individuals who mentored me and how crucial they were to my success. As a mentor, I am not only responsible for preparing the next generation of scholars, but ensuring that they too are committed to lifting others. I love being a part of students’ growth and development, and my passion grows when I see them giving back to their peers and community.