Teamwork is the Foundation for Graduate School for Two SURP Interns


The Summer Undergraduate Research Program (SURP) is a rigorous 8-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 Curry School of Education has launched a new Question and Answer series with the SURP interns that will be released throughout the summer. This series highlights the SURP program, and the interns’ experiences, interests, and the research.

The interns highlighted here are working with Nancy Deutsch, Ph.D, an associate professor, and Valerie Futch, Ph.D, a research assistant professor at the Curry School of Education and Youth-Nex. The research project entitled “Who Builds the Village? Examining Youth-Adult Relationships Across Contexts and Time” seeks to better understand how after-school programs and schools are important settings for the formation of youth-adult relationships.

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Gloria Selva is a rising 4th year at Florida International University majoring in Psychology with a minor in Education. Her research interests include exploring the relationships between children/adolescents and adults as well as exploring the school-to-prison pipeline. She also works as a research assistant examining issues such as intimate partner violence and other issues amongst minority college students.

Gloria SelvaQuestion: What led you to participate in SURP?

Selva: I wanted to understand other methods of doing research. I think you should always expose yourself to different perspectives. My research at my home institution focuses on health disparities and cultural identities, so it’s a little bit different. With this program, I like the fact that I can explore different avenues in education,  especially because they align exactly with my research interests, which focus on adolescents.

Question: What skills have you been working on in your lab or during project work?

Selva: Mostly working in a team. I think, as a research assistant in school, you learn how to do your part, even though you’re a part of a larger team. But you really don’t get to interact as much because you’re doing things separately. I like the fact that when I’m here, and especially in the lab, we do things separately, but we always end up working together with professors, graduate students, post-docs, etc. We see how the parts go together right away, as opposed to over time.

Question: What aspects of SURP are you taking back to your home institution?

Selva: All the interactions! Just getting to meet people and seeing how they got to where they’re at now. I think when you’re in your home institution you kind of take those things for granted. You don’t think to ask your professor about their resume, or ask anyone you interact with how they got there. It is eye opening to see, you know, what they did and if it parallels with what you want to do.

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Bianka Charity is a rising 4th year at Spelman College where she is a Psychology major and Comparative Women’s Studies minor. Her research interests focus on exploring the ability for adolescent youth to develop positive and motivational relationships. She volunteers at a local secondary school in Atlanta, Georgia where she mentors middle aged girls on self-esteem, wellness and academic achievement.

Bianka CharityQuestion: How has SURP has helped you discover your research interests?

Charity: When I think about the experience that I’ve had in college and also the experiences I’ve had in growing up, it seems as though I’m destined to go into the education field, even though I’m a Psychology major. I think one of the goals that I set for myself in participating in SURP was to just really become clearer in exactly what I want to do, or become more aware of what I need to be doing. And I think that one of the things SURP has allowed for me to do is reflect on my life purpose and I think that it lies closer to education than in anything else. 

Question: What has been the most meaningful in working with your faculty and graduate student mentors?

Charity: I think overall they are just as interested in our success as we are in our own success. I think everyday they strive to give us everything that we need to be successful as potential applicants, and as people in general. I find being in the lab everyone is about their business and they are very knowledgeable of what they’re doing.

Question: What do you think has been the most beneficial aspect of SURP?

Charity: I think the most beneficial aspects of SURP have been all the learning and getting a little taste of what it will be like in graduate school. This opportunity has given me a really good idea of what to expect. I’m so grateful for the opportunity to learn about each person’s story and how they got to where they are now. It’s really inspiring and it gives me motivation to keep going.

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Charity and Selva are the second SURP interns interviewed in this series. Read more about Choy and Monjaras-Gaytan.

For more information about SURP, please email CurrySURP@virginia.edu