To Student Viktor Shoemaker, Research Teaches You Much More Than Your Topic

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

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.

To psychology student Viktor Shoemaker, research is a continuous process of learning new things and trying to apply that knowledge to improve the world around us.

“Whether your contributions are small or large, they can have ripple effects that, overall, make the world a better place in the end,” he shared.

Though he had brief experiences with research in his previous Valencia College psychology classes, he expanded his research skills during an Honors Research Process class with Professor of Psychology Melonie Sexton. From there, with the help of his faculty mentor Professor of Psychology Sean Jennings, he focused on an area of research where he felt like he could contribute an interesting idea to the psychology field.

Pairing Viktor with both Melonie and Sean — who both hold doctorate degrees — was an intentional decision, and one that helped Viktor hone his skills as he learned from others familiar with scholarly and scientific research. His mentor, Sean, specifically holds a doctorate in clinical psychology, a degree Viktor wishes to pursue.

“My research at Valencia was a combination of social psychology, gamification and technology,” Viktor explained. “Specifically, I studied how people’s desire to present themselves in a positive way to others can influence their progress in self-help apps. This is important in determining whether these types of games can actually help people achieve their desired results, or if people are more likely to lie than be honest.”

Viktor, who plans to graduate from Valencia this summer and transfer to the University of Central Florida in the fall, explained that “Research has a way of teaching you a lot more about your subject than you actually end up writing about in your culminating paper, just during the process itself.”

Research has taught him how to be a better academic writer and helped improve his time-management, problem-solving and public speaking skills, as well as how to foster good relationships with the people he works with — all important skills he’ll need as he eventually pursues a master’s or Ph.D. in clinical psychology.

“On a more practical level, because I plan to go to graduate school eventually, having done research will make me a more competitive applicant when the time comes,” he said. “Beyond that, research’s primary benefit to both me and everyone else, as well, will always be the knowledge learned throughout the entire process.”

To nominate a student doing great undergraduate research or for questions about Valencia’s undergraduate research initiative, contact Melonie Sexton, professor, psychology, and coordinator of undergraduate research, at UR@valenciacollege.edu or 407-299-5000, extension 5632.

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