As a student at St. Edward’s University, I set out to review literature about the barriers faced by first-generation college students and came across a variety of articles published by Dr. Nicole Stephens at Northwestern University. Her publications on social class and first-generation students provided insight into the relationship between socio-cultural backgrounds of underrepresented groups and their overall performance and fit in settings of higher education. Her research helped me to explore and submit my own proposed study as an undergraduate researcher.
Based on my research experiences, I felt confident in my decision to pursue a life in academia and continue conducting research of this nature. I applied for the SPUR program in hopes of being paired with Dr. Stephens and was selected to work in her lab at the Kellogg School of Management.
Throughout my time at Northwestern, I have completed a variety of activities including multiple literature reviews focusing on gender disparities in classroom participation, implicit bias within organizations, and the impact of social class on students from tight and loose cultures. Informed by the literature on culture, I was able to create a pre-registration protocol and several manipulations for a new project in the lab, submit to and receive approval from the IRB, and learn how to analyze the data we collected from two pilot studies utilizing SPSS.
Working with the Culture and Diversity lab enabled me to receive mentoring not only from Dr. Stephens herself, but also acquire knowledge from the experiences of other graduate students, post-docs, and lab managers at the university. In addition, my role as a predoctoral fellow provided me with the exceptional opportunity to aid in the design for a new course on diversity and inclusion to be taught at Kellogg by Dr. Stephens next spring and understand the process of curriculum creation and instruction preparation as a professor.
My experience with SPUR has allowed me to engage in my commitment towards representing underserved communities in higher education. I wish to further my future as a researcher and I aspired to work at a postsecondary institution as a Professor of Psychology. I hope that someday, I will be able to pay forward the kindness I was shown by all who have aided me, a high-achieving, low-income, first-generation, Latina in my ambitions and become a SPUR mentor to other underserved students devoting as much time and energy to them as the individuals in Dr. Stephens’ lab have done for me.