Interns Discuss How SURP's Hands-On Experience Reshaped their Thinking on Grad School

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 Khara Turnbull, Ph.D at the Center for Advanced Study of Teaching and Learning (CASTL). The research project titled "Understanding the Power of Preschool for Kindergarten Success (P2K)" is working closely with preschool programs to measure and observe critical contributors to school readiness.

Taqiyyah Elliott is a rising senior and Political Science major with a minor in Women's Studies at Xavier University of Louisiana. She hopes to develop and run a non-profit organization that focuses on educating and empowering low income minority youth, contributing to their progress politically, socially, and economically.

Question: What has been the most valuable from SURP so far?

Elliott: The ability to increase my social capital has been invaluable so far! SURP provides access to so many mentors who I can contact and who put me in contact with other people — it's like the snowball effect! I really appreciated it because I come from a small community as far as collegiate experience, and those resources can be limited compared to a school like UVA. I think it's a blessing to be able to have so many people surrounding me with so many different experiences who are able to give me insight into future careers.

Question: How has SURP helped you plan for grad school?

Elliott: SURP has helped me recognize different paths to getting to my goals, and that it's okay if I don't go straight into a doctoral program. After talking to different grad students and hearing about the rigor and time investment of grad school, I'd rather do it while I'm young. SURP has also exposed me to more types of grad school programs too. One grad student connected my interests to sociology while another pointed out curriculum and instruction connections. With this help, I'm now thinking about an interdisciplinary program that encompasses all my interests. SURP definitely helped me begin to narrow down where I should be looking, and I now know education is for me.

Kelly Garrett attends Howard University with a major in Psychology and a minor in Human Development. Her research interests include studying the impact that poverty has on the educational, behavioral, and social outcomes of children.

Question: What are you enjoying most about SURP?

Garrett: Working hands-on with data in my research lab is unlike anything I've done before. I am watching videos of children and coding what they say into data. It's really interesting to be hands-on with the data and experience what researchers do every day. It's exciting because there are so many different aspects of their data and measures I can touch on within the study as a whole.

Question: What SURP advice has helped you plan your career?

Garrett: My mentors seem genuinely happy to help me and the advice I've gotten on my career has really made me rethink the things I want to do. Before SURP, I thought I wanted to go straight into graduate school in a clinical psychology program. But throughout this program I've met people who have taken years off or had different trajectories. Before I came here, I looked down upon the idea of taking a year off, but now that I see people who took a year off and are actually in the field carrying out their research. That's inspiring to me! It makes me feel like I can take a year off and still be successful in whatever career I want to pursue.

Elliott and Garrett are the third group SURP interns interviewed in the 2017 series, and you can read more about the other interns on our alumni website.

For more information about SURP, please visit our website or email [email protected]