Two SURP Interns Discuss the Broad Research at EHD and their Future Plans

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 School of Education and Human Development 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 Nancy Deutsch, Ph.D, an associate professor and Youth-Nex. The research project entitled “Who Builds the Village? Examining Youth-Adult Relationships Across Contexts and Time” examines after-school programs and schools as important settings for the formation of youth-adult relationships.

McKenzie Stokes attends the Virginia Commonwealth University as a double-major in psychology and African American studies with a minor in nonprofit management and administration. Her research interests consist of non-traditional or unique familial structures, and how they impact social and cognitive development, as well as higher academic achievement.

Question: How have your research interests changed since starting SURP?

Stokes: I believe that SURP has already broadened my own research interests. At first I was primarily interested in family structure and how it relates to academic achievement, but this is now expanding into how children and adolescents develop socially and emotionally! The more I dig into my research project and meet with faculty, the more I am learning about how broad educational science is. I am surrounded by people that have a variety of professional interests and are exploring research topics are really unique and groundbreaking. 

Question: How is SURP helping you think about your future?

Stokes: I am still in the midst of deciding exactly what I want to do following the completion of my undergraduate career, but SURP is helping me to sort through some possible trajectories. Having the opportunity to meet with faculty, mentors and just so many different people with backgrounds in Psychology, Education and more is very helpful. Being surrounded by so many diverse people in terms of age, degree type, and profession is encouraging. I am starting to grasp how interdisciplinary the field of educational science is, which truly excites me.

Natalie Marks attends Syracuse University as a psychology major with education studies and music minor. Her research interests include adolescent identity formation and development, interpersonal relationships, and the intersectionality of gender, race and class.

Question: What work are you doing in SURP and how does it fit your interests?

Marks: I’m doing a lot of transcribing interviews right now on my research project. In the project, the youth pick a VIP or a person that’s significant in their lives other than their parent. I’m interested in understanding more about the gender of that VIP, and how that relationship impacts the types of social support received. For instance, if a male participant chooses a male VIP, what kind of support is he receiving compared to the support received with a female participant and VIP? I’m also interested in the family structure, in terms of traditional and non-traditional homes and how that relates to forming friendships and peer bonding. I’m looking forward to seeing how my SURP project allows me to explore these interests.

Question: What are you looking forward to most with SURP?

Marks: I think that the GRE support is going to be really helpful for me. It is really awesome to have an instructor in a classroom setting where I can ask questions directly to a GRE teacher. It’s in a smaller classroom setting, not like 40 kids where one may feel a little intimidated to ask a question. I’m looking forward to the progression of the GRE class in hopes of it improving my GRE scores.

Marks and Stokes are the first group of SURP interns interviewed in the 2016 series. For more information about SURP, please visit our website or email