Two SURP Interns: Connections Have Changed Their Experience at UVA

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 Jason Downer, Ph.D at the Curry School of Education and the Center for Advanced Study of Teaching and Learning {CASTL). The research project entitled "Creating Opportunities for Relationships (COR)"developed and evaluated online professional development resources that aim to reduce disparities in discipline practice by specifically targeting and fostering teacher's capacities and skills to interact more effectively with students from different racial, ethnic, language and economic backgrounds.

Jasmin Castillo attends Fordham University where she majors in Psychology. She is interested in developing school- and community-based prevention and intervention programs for students who might otherwise fall into the school-to-prison pipeline.

Question: What are your research interests and how has SURP helped you discover these?

Castillo: My research interests are related to the school-to-prison pipeline, authority, teacher and student race, and implicit bias. Although I am not working on a research study specific to these interests, I am using data that examines the educational attainment expectancies that teachers have of their students. I'm looking at how that's moderated by the teachers' and students' race, the race match, and the amount of times that teachers issue exclusionary discipline to students of certain ethnic backgrounds. My SURP work is directly connected to my research interests because exclusionary discipline, or time away from instruction, is one of the things that feeds into the school-to-prison pipeline.

Question: What skills are you building in SURP?

Castillo: I'm definitely getting better at networking with people because with SURP I'm meeting a lot more people than I thought I would. SURP does a really good job of connecting people to the interns, so you don't have to go out there and find them yourself. That's been really helpful for me. For example, I've never really been interested in politics, but on our DC trip I connected with people during our meetings on the hill and at IES. I learned a lot of about educational policy, and starting to see how I really do need to take policy into account when designing my research questions or thinking about how policies affect different groups of people. I would not be able to make these connections without SURP.

Archie Matta Jr. attends the University of Guam with a major in psychology and a minor in biology. He is interested in understanding individual differences in learning and cognitive styles, academic motivation, and hierarchical social interactions, particularly in terms of disparities among cultures, socioeconomic status, and social influences.

Question: What SURP experiences have helped you think about your future goals?

Matta: Coming into SURP my interests were mostly in cognitive psychology, and I didn't really know how it would fit in educational science. However, in the program I've been able to explore these connections more and have gained insights on how the two fields converge. For example, during on DC trip I met someone at IES who was in the division for cognitive psychology, had a degree in neuroscience, but was doing work in education. This was just a very eye-opening thing for me! As we've connected after the trip, she has been a great resource for planning my future.

Question: How has SURP changed you?

Matta: In so many ways both academically and personally. SURP has provided me with more research experience, a better understanding on how to get into a graduate program, and much more. Personally, I have got to build more autonomy and the sense of "I can do this." I now have a better understanding that research and graduate school is all about persistence. As I face of adversity, I know this is all a big learning process to get me successful into my career.

Castillo and Matta are the second 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]