The Summer Undergraduate Research Program (SURP) is a rigorous 10-week internship program funded by the U.S. Department of Education Institute of Education Sciences as part of the Virginia Education Sciences Training (VEST) pre-doctoral fellowship program.
SURP provides undergraduates from underrepresented populations with valuable research and professional development experiences under the guidance of UVA Faculty. Interns are mentored by faculty and graduate student researchers while conducting research, attending workshops, taking GRE preparation courses, and presenting at a professional conference.
The Curry School of Education is continuing a Question and Answer series with this cohort's SURP interns that will be released throughout the summer. This series will highlight the SURP program, and the interns' experiences, interests, and the research.
The interns highlighted here are working primarily with Lauren Molloy Elreda, Ph.D in Youth-Nex. The project they are working on is titled "Influences of Classroom-level Social Settings on Language and Content Learning in Linguistically Diverse Classrooms" and focuses on classroom-level mechanisms through which learning and development are believed to occur with English language learners (ELLs) with fluent-English speakers.
Athena Gordon attends Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, Washington, and is majoring in Sociology and English with an emphasis in nonfiction writing. She enjoys working with students to promote an inclusive and positive learning atmosphere.
Question: What has been most valuable in working with your mentors?
Gordon: It's really meaningful to hear our mentors discuss how they started as an undergrad, proceeded to grad school, and became a professor or researcher within education. I find that it's really valuable to have that one-on-one connection with the mentors here. We can ask them questions live, and don't have to wait for them to answer via email or otherwise be constrained by technology. SURP has provided that face-to-face connection to mentors, where we can dialogue about life goals and careers in the field of education science. Everyone has been so friendly and welcoming, sharing tips and strategies that I could not get elsewhere!
Question: How has SURP helped you plan about your future?
Gordon: Going into SURP I was thinking of applying directly to Ph.D programs, mostly because I was afraid that if I didn't apply immediately, I never would. After talking to a lot of the SURP mentors, I think I have more confidence in waiting a couple years or exploring other research-related options. Through SURP I've also seen first-hand that there can be strong leaders who don't necessarily have a Ph.D. This further assures me that I can still be in a research setting and conduct important research even if I don't have the highest academic degree.
Jasmin Brooks attends the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a dual major in Psychology and Sociology. Her research interests include how the socialization of race and the internalization of stereotypes and discriminative experiences can impact the academic achievement and student motivation of African-American youth.
Question: What has been your mentoring experience in SURP?
Brooks: In my family or at my home institution, I do not have anyone I can connect with about grad school, talk to about research or map out next steps for getting a Ph.D. SURP has been invaluable in helping me to answer those questions, and providing mentorship that goes above and beyond the typical assigned duty as a faculty. My Curry mentors have helped me see behind the scenes of research, and connected me with others I can ask questions to. SURP has helped me make connections and I know that is important for getting into grad school.
Question: How have your plans for the future changed as a result of SURP?
Brooks: I would definitely say my passion for research has almost been born from this program. When I came into SURP it was mostly because I wanted to do therapy — get into a clinical psych program — and in order to do that you have to have research experience. The role I saw for myself in psychology was as a clinician, but SURP made me realize that in order to have an effect as a clinician you have to know where to begin, you have to know the research that goes into making certain practices, and you have to be able to connect it to. SURP helped me develop a passion for research that goes beyond just needing it for grad school! I do see myself actually going into academia now, which I definitely didn't see before coming to SURP.
Gordon and Brooks are the fourth group SURP interns interviewed in the 2017 series, and you can read more about the other interns on our alumni website.