”Through the ARC/SC/UC LEADS program, I have a much better understanding of the department and the work that goes on in a lab, and I am definitely more confident in my interest in the (psychology) program as I’m sure this is an environment I can really thrive in,” said Brandon Patallo, a senior undergraduate student in Psychology from Hunter College in New York. This summer, UC Santa Barbara’s Graduate Division made a huge impact on 13 scholars’ lives, helping them to reach their personal, academic, and professional goals through the Academic Research Consortium (ARC)/California Pre-Doctoral Scholars Sally Casanova (SC)/UC LEADS program.
Each year, the UCSB Graduate Division identifies outstanding scholars nationwide from different disciplines to be immersed at an environment where they can learn, grow, and get a taste of what it is like to be a graduate student, especially at UCSB. This year, the program welcomed 13 scholars. They came from Morgan State University, Hunter College, DePaul University, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, California State University-Northridge, Rice University, as well as a few UC schools, such as UCLA, UC Irvine, UC Riverside, and UCSB.
The program provided a unique and valuable experience to these scholars as they were matched individually with UCSB faculty and graduate student mentors to receive training and to conduct research. During this seven-week summer program, the scholars were able to explore their fields of interest and further develop their knowledge and skills to prepare for graduate studies in the near future.
Intensive but Meaningful
In order to be able to fully focus on research while at UCSB, the ARC/SC/UC LEADS program generously provided housing, meals, and a living stipend to scholars. With these amenities taken care of, the 13 scholars were able to focus on their full schedules, which included working daily with their faculty advisors and mentors.
In addition to working with their mentors, the scholars attended GRE preparation classes twice a week and program workshops once a week. The workshops addressed important topics, such as living as a graduate student, applying for graduate school, finding funding, working with faculty advisors, strengthening presentation skills, and building a digital reputation. In addition, scholars had to do GRE homework, write a personal statement draft, and prepare for their research colloquium at the end of the program.
Was the program tough? Maybe. But was it meaningful and worthwhile? Absolutely. Marzieh Tousi, a chemical engineering scholar from UC Riverside, said, “I have met some of the most amazing faculty members in my major, and I also now have a big picture of how interesting and challenging it is to study and do research at UCSB.” Marzieh added that the program not only made it possible for her to do research in a lab she was interested in, but she was also paid to do what she loves.
Motivation and Goals
When scholars were asked what motivated them to join the ARC/SC/UC LEADS program, they all mentioned that they wanted to gain a hands-on experience in conducting research at UCSB – a university many of them have considered as their top choice for graduate school.
"I was looking to be a part of the best program that I can find, and UCSB is rated very highly for my intended graduate major, material science and engineering,” Marzieh of UC Riverside said. “Some of the most well-known professors are at this university and it’s a privilege to work under their supervision.” Her goal was “to get a better understanding of what it is like to do research in one of the best universities in the nation and to get to know some of the faculty who could potentially be my principal investigator.”
Paulina Nava, an art history and Latin American studies scholar from DePaul University, said she chose a summer program at UCSB “specifically for its impressive collection of Chicana/o art archives and its Chicana/o studies program.” Her goal was to “gain some research experience in art history methodologies.” She added that she is “very grateful” to the program because she gained a valuable opportunity “to see what it’s like to work with a faculty mentor who is interdisciplinary and who applies theory into an art context.”
Aside from research experience, scholars were motivated to come to UCSB to network with the institution and faculty members, and to enhance professionalism. Temitope Adoeye, a psychology student from Morgan State University, said she joined the program "to not only gain additional research experience but also to network with institutions I am interested in applying to.” Brandon Rose, a current UCSB undergraduate scholar studying cell developmental biology, said that he applied to the program to “get close to my faculty mentor.” While Temitope’s goal was to "make connections with faulty members who could place a face to [her graduate school] application,” Brandon specifically wanted to “improve [his] scientific communication skills when addressing an educated but general audience.”
The ARC/SC/UC LEADS program has made a tremendous impact on these scholars’ academic and professional lives. Temitope Adeoye from Morgan State said she benefited a lot from the workshops the program offered. In addition, she appreciated the many useful resources offered throughout the program. "Besides the information shared within the workshops, the faculty members and students presenting serve as wonderful resources as well! Dr. Victor Rios was able to connect me with faculty in the School of Education, Chris Vestuto from GRE prep has offered to continue to assist with my GRE preparations, and presenters also offered their contact information to assist with personal statements and the application process,” said Temitope.
Robyn Barrios, a psychology student from UCLA, specifically found the GRE resource helpful. Robyn said, "The ARC program has prepared me to apply and excel in a graduate program by giving me firsthand experience with research and enrolling me in a GRE program that would have otherwise been a serious financial challenge.”
In addition, scholars emphasized how their knowledge, skills, and expertise have been strengthened through the program. Brandon Patallo of Hunter College said, "I’ve specifically gained experience with SPSS and furthered my understanding of regression analysis. I’ve also gained a lot of insight on disseminating research and community engagement.” Daniel Vong, a computer and electrical engineering student of UCSB, also shared how the program has influenced him as a researcher. "The program has impacted me very positively by providing the knowledge and skills of research. I have gained clean room nanofabrication experience, which will allow me to make nanoscale items to conduct research with. Weekly group meetings have enhanced my oral presentation skills,” said Daniel.
The ARC/SC/UC LEADS program also helped the scholars to start thinking in detail about their futures. Jennifer Walker, a bioengineering student from Rice University, said, “The ARC program required us to prepare a statement of purpose. Because I’m only going into my junior year, I had never fully contemplated what I wanted out of my graduate school experience. Therefore, this exercise greatly helped me realize what I want and therefore will help me decide what my next steps should be.”
Brandon Rose of UCSB shared how this program helped opened doors to consider graduate school in the near future. "Before applying to the program I never really considered graduate school. I have always wanted to attend medical school. This program has inspired to strive for a much more competitive and unique program. I am now preparing myself for an M.D./Ph.D. program. If I get into an M.D./Ph.D. program it will be because of a path that began with my acceptance as a scholar here in this program at UCSB,” he said.
During the seven-week period, it was not always easy for the scholars to excel in every aspect. Some of the scholars mentioned that doing homework for the GRE class was the most challenging task throughout the program. Brandon Rose of UCSB said, “The homework for the GRE class was nearly impossible to do while working full time. Typical days for me were scholarship meetings in the morning and work in the lab until about 7 to 8 p.m. By the time I got home I usually had to work out to release stress and eat dinner. By then it would be around 9 p.m. and I didn’t have the time to do the GRE homework to the best of my ability. However, the class was very helpful and the books will help me prepare for the GRE and my score will definitely be better than if I didn’t have these resources."
In general, the majority of the scholars mentioned that balancing their time was the most challenging. One scholar, Daniel Vong of UCSB, said that he was "so absorbed” in his research that he would “often forget to eat meals.” Paulina Nava of DePaul University said that "the biggest challenge this summer has been balancing life and work. It’s important to work, but it’s also important to take breaks. I have gotten better about this, but it is a work in progress.” While balancing time was challenging for most scholars, Temitope’s biggest challenge was “to develop autonomy to complete project(s).” Nevertheless, at the end of the program, Temitope happily said, "Though overwhelming initially, I am proud of my work and feel I will be better prepared for the independence and responsibility I may experience in graduate school."
Scholars not only have developed knowledge, skills, and expertise, they also developed friendships through this program. In fact, Brandon Patallo said, "the biggest challenge I faced this summer was coming to terms with the fact that I have to leave soon!” Although the program kept the scholars busy during the seven-week program, they were able to spend some time to enjoy leisure with new friends they have made through the program. For example, Daniel Vong hiked the Seven Falls, Paulina Nava visited Los Angeles to see the artwork and the environment she had read so much about, and other scholars went together to see a Los Angeles Dodgers game and visit the Knott’s Berry Farm amusement park. Some scholars mentioned how they really enjoyed the local activities, such as going to the Fiesta on State Street and hanging out at the local pizza place with the entire scholarship group.
Overall, these 13 scholars said that they now all feel prepared to apply at a graduate school and succeed as a graduate student. And they all promised that UCSB will definitely be at the top of their list.
For more information about these scholars and the projects they worked on, click here to see their abstracts from their final colloquium presentation.