Mentorship and Mentoring Research is Key for Two SURP Interns

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 U.Va. 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 research.

The interns highlighted here are working primarily with Drs. Nancy Deutsch, Winx Lawrence, Joanna Williams, and Valerie Futch at Youth-Nex at the Curry School of Education. The research project entitled “Young Women Leaders Program” examines the processes that contribute to the program’s success in promoting healthy growth in girls and examining longitudinal outcomes for girls five years after program participation.

Virnaliz Jimenez attends the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a major in Psychology and a minor in Hispanic Studies. Her research interests involve child/adolescent psychopathology, intervention programs, poverty, and race.

Virnaliz JimenezQuestion: How has SURP helped you discover new research interests?

Jimenez: I am really interested in intervention programs, especially with adolescent youth. So working at Youth-Nex and with my mentors has helped me understand how interventions are implemented and what variables researchers are looking at. I have also learned what the literature says and how researchers are using that as a guide for their research. I am building new research interests because I see how different faculty and students look at the same research questions and tackle different topics. This project has really helped me build my research interests and see what route I would prefer in the future! 

Question: What parts of SURP have been helpful for you?

Jimenez: All the faculty and graduate students we interact with are so helpful and genuinely interested in our development. I’m very comfortable talking with the SURP graduate student coordinator, Justin. Erik, the SURP faculty advisor, is very free about the way he teaches and really good at bringing up conversations and sparking discussions. He is a great resource and everyone is very comfortable talking to him. This is benefiting me in the long run because we talk a lot about things like balancing work and personal lives, and I will definitely take these skills I am learning with me.

Amber Williamson is originally from Aiken, SC and is currently a Psychology major at the College of Charleston. She would like to create a non-profit organization that promotes educational achievement and leadership skills in at-risk youth in an after-school setting.

Amber WilliamsonQuestion: How has it been like working with your mentors?

Williamson: The mentors have been extremely helpful with data analysis and things like that. My graduate student mentor taught me how to do the syntax in cleaning and organizing data. This syntax work has really helped me structure everything within the database. We built like six different data bases, so they have been really helpful with that. I just don’t know what we would have done without them!

Question: How has SURP impacted your future goals?

Williamson: I am researching how relationship quality affects mentees’ program perceptions. I actually want to start a non-profit with mentoring relationships, so this work even impacts how I would design the program. Should I recruit people who are already mentors? Should they go through training? Should they be paired up with somebody in the community who is goal-oriented? I’m learning more about the value of research and what qualities should be in a mentorship program, and I definitely will use this in the future!


Jimenez and Williamson are the fourth and final group of SURP interns interviewed in the 2015 series; also see Connolly and Denese, Alexander-Brookings and Metelus, and Brown and Lopez-Cancel.
For more information about SURP, please visit our website or email