Valencia College has developed an undergraduate research initiative — based on nationally recognized models — that expands opportunities for students to partner meaningfully with faculty members to pursue a specific course of research. As most community colleges only offer undergraduate research as a very small boutique opportunity for a few students, Valencia has become a leader in community college research. Last year, hundreds of Valencia students worked in one or more modalities of research. This is vital for students exploring STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) -related professions through transfer, both to better discern their purpose and pathway, and to have experiences comparable to their peers at the university to which they transfer.
With this initiative underway, we share with you the success of our students’ undergraduate research through a bi-monthly series — Spotlight on Undergraduate Research.
“Research for me is one of my many purposes in life,” exclaimed student Daniela Gonzalez, who is passionately researching effective ways to promote diversity in the workplace, academia and everyday life, as well as how minority populations can overcome perceived barriers in education and the workplace and use it as a motivation to succeed in life.
“By conducting research, I am not only gaining more academic knowledge, but also it allows me to give back to my community,” she explained. “Unfortunately, discrimination in the workplace and academia is something that is still present in our society. However, research allows me to understand the motives behind those situations to help victims to overcome adversity.”
Daniela was introduced to research by her Valencia College mentor Melonie Sexton, professor, psychology, who saw her interest in workplace diversity and possibly pursuing a Ph.D.
“She suggested that I do a service-learning course first to fulfill my curiosity and to see if it was truly something that I was interested in,” Daniela said. “After my service-learning experience with the nonprofit business, Dress for Success, I realized that I definitely wanted to do more research on this topic. It was then that I decided that conducting research was a perfect fit for me.”
And now Daniela is reaping the benefits of research including traveling to many conferences around the United states to develop her personal and academic skills and networking with graduate school recruiters who are helping her to pursue her dream of earning a Ph.D. This past summer, Daniela spent eight weeks working on a research project at the University of Pennsylvania. As a senior at UCF, she is currently talking to professors from both Vanderbilt University and Cornell University as she explores her research opportunities as a future doctoral student.
“Finally, research has allowed me to have a support system,” she concluded. “By conducting research, I had the opportunity to gain amazing friends, mentors and advisors, which I called family. Research requires time and dedication, but it is worth all of the hard work.”
For questions about Valencia’s undergraduate research initiative, contact Melonie Sexton at UR@valenciacollege.edu or 407-299-5000, extension 5632.