Two SURP Interns Describe How They are Preparing for Grad School at U.Va.


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 Curry School of Education 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 Patrick Tolan, Ph.D, a professor, and Joanna Lee Williams, Ph.D., an assistant professor at the Curry School of Education and Youth-Nex. The research project entitled “Positive Development of Adolescents” examines how adolescents develop in healthy and effective ways, including a focus on inner-city youth with prominent emphasis on family and neighborhood influences and individual stress and coping.

Alaysia Brown attends the University of San Diego and is a Psychology major and English minor. She is a McNair Scholar with research interests that include parenting styles and family structures and how they differ culturally and across contexts.

Alaysia BrownQuestion: What kind of skills are you building or working on in your project?

Brown: I have never worked with qualitative data before so that is something I am building on in my current project. I get to code and examine people’s stories, which is very interesting. The research is about race, so of course being a woman of color that is always of interest to me. I am starting to make a codebook and work in qualitative statistical software, which is something I have never done before. For me, it is a whole new way of analyzing data!

Question: How do you think SURP has impacted your future goals?

Brown: It has definitely widened my eyes about educational psychology. I used to think that research just involved testing, and I didn’t know much of the psychological part behind it. SURP has really helped with sharpening my skills that will make me more marketable in graduate school. I understand having a growth mindset and being able to be open to new information. The program is definitely also preparing me for the process of graduate school!

Beverly López-Cancel attends the University of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras Campus with a dual major in Psychology and Modern Languages. Her research interests include emotional learning, children and youth positive development, and interpersonal relations among cultural minority families and their social inclusion.

Beverly López-CancelQuestion: What has been the most impactful in terms of the work you are doing?

López-Cancel: I like the whole collaborative vibe you can get in the work environment here at the Curry School of Education. When I think about doing research, I tend to think that it is more individual work, but that is not the way in SURP. Here, it is really collaborative, social, and always helping each other. I really appreciate this environment and I know that all my mentors have my best interests in mind.

Question: What part of SURP has been most beneficial for you?

López-Cancel: I believe the whole SURP experience is very meaningful and beneficial for me. But the faculty lunches really help me understand what the researchers’ journeys have been, and how they were inspired to become educational researchers. For me it is very enlightening, because I really get to connect to how life and community experiences can influence your research interests and how you can then contribute to society in general. It helps me articulate what my path will be and what steps I should take in the future!

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Brown and Lopez-Cancel are the second group of SURP interns interviewed in the 2015 series; also see Alexander-Brookings and Metelus.
For more information about SURP, please visit our website or email CurrySURP@virginia.edu