Student Spotlight – Maggie Dent

Meet UCLA undergraduate researcher Maggie Dent!

Maggie Dent majors in Global Studies and minors in Global Health and is in our Undergraduate Research Scholars Program (URSP). The title of her project is “Gendered Care Work Migration: Nursing and Globalization.” She focuses on what it means to be a care worker in our globalized world. Her best piece of advice is to take your project one step at a time!

How did you first get interested in your research project?

I first encountered the idea of gendered care work migration in my Introduction to Global Studies class during my Sophomore year. It was an idea that stuck with me because I immediately related to the idea, yet I had never had a term to describe the concept. As I looked more into it, I became enthralled with how relevant it was to my everyday life, yet it was so overlooked. Nurses, nannies, cleaners, sex workers: these are all care workers and many of them are immigrant women. As a Global Studies student I wanted to explore how larger patterns of interconnection have fostered the growth of a so-called “care economy” and the ethical dilemmas that come with extracting care from other countries. My interest in Global Health led me to focus on nurses as care workers and how the Global North has come to rely on foreign-born and foreign-trained nurses to run our healthcare systems.

What has been the most exciting aspect of your research so far?

The most excited aspect of my research has been reading the vast amounts of literature on different migration patterns throughout the world. I’ve read articles from the Philippines, Italy, Georgia, Latvia, China, the United Kingdom, and the US who all have something unique to say about care workers migration. I feel like I have learned so much from these authors and truly gotten a global view on the issue. It has been an amazing experience getting to dive so deep into one issue and see the nuances and criticisms it has drawn. Reading others research has made me a better writer and scholar.

What has surprised you about your research or the research process?

One thing that has surprised me is how supportive the research community can be. I was very nervous to embark on my research project because it was such an independent assignment, but actually I have gotten so much help from the people around me and it has made it feel way more manageable. My advisor, the Undergraduate Research Scholars Program, and my fellow students have always been so helpful to me and truly want me to succeed which makes the process not only easier but also more fun.

What is one piece of advice you have for other UCLA students thinking about doing research?

My main piece of advice for future UCLA student researchers is to take your project one step at a time. It can be very easy to get overwhelmed when thinking about a year long research project, but working with your advisor to create a schedule and timeline will really help to break down the process and make it super manageable! Also remember that there are so many other student researchers having the same struggles that you are and you aren’t alone. Reach out to them for help!

What effect do you hope your research has in your field, at UCLA, in your community, or in the world?

I hope that my research can help to shed light on a truly important migration phenomenon taking place around us. Oftentimes care workers are overlooked because their labor is undervalued or deskilled. In fact, they are some of the most important workers in the labor force and they are not recognized for the amazing work that they do. Immigrant women are doing jobs that few native-born workers want, but they are doing it while being exploited, underpaid, and disrespected. I hope that my research will make people think about what it means to be a care worker in our globalized world.

Student Spotlight – Amy Vandyken

Meet UCLA undergraduate researcher Amy Vandyken!

Amy Vandyken majors in Political Science and minors in Disability Studies and Education and is in our Undergraduate Research Fellows Program (URFP)! The title of her project is “Incorporating Accessibility into Critical Media Literacy Curriculum for LAUSD Ethnic Studies courses.” She focuses on how Ethnic Studies educators can fuse both Critical Media Literacy and Accessibility education. Her best piece of advice is to not conform to arbitrary standards of “typical research.”

How did you first get interested in your research project?

During fall quarter of my third year, I took an EDUC 187 titled, “Introduction to Critical Media Literacy.” The class focused on analyzing media representations, questioning the process of “normalizing” dominant ideologies, and creating counter-hegemonic media texts. The class was actually taught by Professor Jeff Share, who is now my faculty mentor (as well as an amazing human being)! Then, this past Fall Quarter, I took DESMA 171: Disability, Design, and the Web, which focused on universal design, assistive technology, and disability justice. I hope to merge the knowledge I acquired in both of these courses and in my outside experiences to develop a mock curriculum/base guidelines on how Ethnic Studies educators can fuse both Critical Media Literacy and Accessibility education in order to question the power of the word, image, and sound bite to represent social injustice.

What has been the most exciting aspect of your research so far?

My faculty mentor, Jeff Share, is one of the biggest advocates for Critical Media Literacy education to be a required part of LAUSD’s general curriculum. I am excited to contribute to this work, and push for disability studies to be included in this development. Additionally, it’s been an honor getting to work with so many educators (I want to be a teacher in the future), Critical Media Literacy experts, and Disability Studies experts.

What has surprised you about your research or the research process?

I’ve been surprised with how much autonomy, and in turn, individual responsibility, I have as a student researcher. I honed in on my research question, developed my own research timeline, and cold emailed various experts in the field, with support/guidance from my faculty mentor, but not oversight. It’s been interesting finding a balance between meeting all the deadlines but also recognizing that you can also afford yourself some flexibility.

What is one piece of advice you have for other UCLA students thinking about doing research?

Don’t conform to arbitrary standards of what “typical research.” Also, there will always be people out there who care about your work – make the first person yourself!

What effect do you hope your research has in your field, at UCLA, in your community, or in the world?

Disability/Access is often left to the wayside when it comes to social justice topics – however, it is intricately interwoven with other injustices facing vulnerable communities. I hope for my research to be the first step in my lifelong journey of incorporating disability advocacy and uplifting disabled voices in practice, research, and theory.

Student Spotlight – Steven Bech

Meet UCLA undergraduate researcher Steven Bech!

Steven Bech majors in History and minors in Film, Television, Digital Media and is in our Undergraduate Research Scholars Program (URSP). The title of his project is “The Reactions of East and West Germany to the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962.” His focus is to contribute to the historical narrative of the Cuban Missile Crisis by exploring the narratives of people from different strata and countries. His best piece of advice for those interested in research: Don’t be intimidated.

How did you first get interested in your research project?

As a community college transfer student, I knew I wanted to participate in the History Honors Program before I applied to UCLA. Once I have been accepted, I did not hesitate to fulfill all the necessary requirements to be able to participate in the program and seek out a faculty mentor who was willing to work with me on this project. After dozens of emails and office hours, I was fortunate enough to land in Professor Kevin Y. Kim’s class, a Cold War historian at UCLA. Knowing that I was interested in a research project about any recent conflicts of the twentieth century, including World War II and the Cold War, Professor Kim helped me to develop a topic that has not been explored yet in the existing Cold War scholarship—the reactions of East and West Germany to the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. As an international student from Germany, this particular topic immediately spoke to me as I would not only be able to rely on German primary sources to develop my thesis, but also learn about the upbringing of my parents during these turbulent years of the Cold War. Now, I could finally begin the research process.

What has been the most exciting aspect of your research so far?

What I truly love about my research is the fact that many of the sources that I incorporate in my thesis of this event that occurred in October 1962 are largely unknown to the greater public. I especially get lost in the littlest details that really allow me to put myself in the shoes of the people who lived through these uneasy times, allowing me to see the world through their eyes. Creating something entirely new and diving into a previously unexplored topic can be intimidating at times, but the experience itself and the knowledge acquired by the end of the project is worth the time and effort.

What has surprised you about your research or the research process?

Having worked on this research project for almost a year now, including archival research, I quickly gained an appreciation for the work historians do. When I read any history book today, I look at the words and phrases that the author wrote with great respect. Now that I understand how much work goes into the research and writing process and recognize how challenging it can be to put these puzzle pieces together to create a narrative that is not only true to its core but also entertaining to read, I truly admire those who dedicate their lives to share with the public what has previously been hidden or unknown.

What is one piece of advice you have for other UCLA students thinking about doing research?

The greatest piece of advice that I would like to share with the UCLA community and anyone who is interested in this endeavor is: Don’t be intimidated. In my case, the Cuban Missile Crisis is one of the most studied events in Cold War history, as hundreds of books and academic articles have been written about this international incident. Needless to say, I was enormously overwhelmed when I started out, also because I needed to deal with the challenges of conducting research during a worldwide pandemic. I cannot even count how many times I doubted myself and started to contemplate whether or not I made a mistake by signing up for this program. Fortunately, Professor Kim reassured me time and time again that it is only natural for historians to feel this way, encouraging me to keep going. With his help, I eventually found ways to effectively face this mountain of literature and scholarship and actually enjoy the research and writing process.

What effect do you hope your research has in your field, at UCLA, in your community, or in the world?

Beyond hoping to encourage other students to engage in the research process, I am hoping that my thesis will not only find a place in the existing scholarship and contribute to the historical narrative of the Cuban Missile Crisis, but also encourage other researchers to add to this ongoing conversation. With a primary focus on the key participants—the United States, Soviet Union, and Cuba—in the contemporary scholarship, there is so much more ground to cover from different angles that could significantly change how we view this military standoff. Being part of a new wave of historic scholarship that explores the narratives of people from different strata and countries, the story of the Cuban Missile Crisis is far from complete.

Student Spotlight – David Figueroa

Meet fourth-year undergraduate researcher David Figueroa!

David Figueroa majors in Psychology and minors in Film, Television, Digital Media and is in our Undergraduate Research Fellows Program (URFP). The title of his project is “Buy It All and Then Some: How Social Status Induces Selfishness Under Resource Scarcity.” He focuses on understanding why we observe selfishness even when such behaviors may be detrimental to other people. His best piece of advice to write a research plan, but be flexible with it!

How did you first get interested in your research project?

In March 2020, we saw a panic-buying response to stay-at-home orders and COVID-19. There is a particular case study that surprised me: a man purchased over 17,700 bottles of hand sanitizer across Tennessee and Kentucky. At about $3 a bottle, not including tax, such a purchase would cost over
$50,000. That amount is almost 3 times above the poverty line for a single-person household in the United States. For some, $50,000 is not even their yearly income, let alone funds available to stock up on hand sanitizer. In February 2021, we saw instances of wealthy, white LA residents using vaccine access codes that were meant for Black and Latino communities to get vaccinated for COVID-19. The reason these behaviors are concerning is that they were done when resources were scarce. Hand sanitizer was limited when stay-at-home orders first began, and as we all know, there are currently not enough vaccines for everyone. The question then arose: Within the context of resource scarcity, will high-status individuals act more selfishly than low-status individuals?

What has been the most exciting aspect of your research so far?

The most exciting aspect of my research so far has been being able to collaborate with my graduate student mentor, Lauren Hofschneider, as well as my faculty advisor, Dr. Tomiyama. I had already been working in Dr. Tomiyama’s DiSH lab coordinating one of Lauren’s studies; we already knew each other long before the start of my personal research. However, being able to create an original project and collaborate with those who have supported and mentored you throughout your undergraduate career was an opportunity I could not miss. I am forever in debt to both for taking a chance on my crazy idea almost a year ago.

What has surprised you about your research or the research process?

The most surprising aspect of the research process that I have become aware of was how long it takes to get research off the ground. Hours, days, weeks must be spent learning and researching the literature, waiting for IRB approval, and finalizing your research materials. All of this is not even taking into consideration waiting for funding and other collaborators to be ready as well. It is all part of the process.

What is one piece of advice you have for other UCLA students thinking about doing research?

Plan. Plan for every single step of the process because it will be hard to know where you are going or what you must do without some sort of record to keep you on track. Related to this, is to be flexible with this plan. Sometimes you will find yourself ahead of your schedule and other times something may take twice as long to complete as you had originally anticipated. Write a research plan, but do not write it in stone.

What effect do you hope your research has in your field, at UCLA, in your community, or in the world?

The most fundamental aspect of my current research is understanding why we observe selfishness even when such behaviors may be detrimental to other people. Referring to the two cases that I previously mentioned, some people decided to rely on selfishness to benefit themselves at a huge cost to others whether it be buying all the hand sanitizer or steal vaccine access. If we can understand why some people resort to these selfish behaviors and attitudes, the next step is pinpointing methods of promoting generosity and cooperation to reduce the temptation to buy 17,700 bottles of hand sanitizer across two states.

 

 

 

Student Spotlight – Celine Tsoi

Meet third-year undergraduate researcher Celine Tsoi!

Celine Tsoi majors in Psychology and Political Science and minors in Musicology and is in our Undergraduate Research Fellows Program (URFP). The title of her project is “Correlation of personality, relationship satisfaction, and music tastes.” She hopes that her project will encourage interested individuals to pursue this field. Her best piece of advice to not give up and just follow your heart!

How did you first get interested in your research project?

I have been trying to find an intersection between music and psychology since I read Oliver Sacks’ Musicophilia. When I was developing my research question, I was in an Intimate Relationships class and I came across a popular article on relationship satisfaction and music taste. So, I decided to test this in an academic setting and expand it to include personality!

What has been the most exciting aspect of your research so far?

My research is still going on, but the most exciting part is when IRB gave me the green light! And I thought to myself – woah this is real, I’m doing research!

What has surprised you about your research or the research process?

Gathering participants was tougher than I thought it would be, especially when I am just starting and don’t have a list of previous participants. I think I sent 15 emails, posted on all social media platforms and group texts, and I got only around 100 participants. I was also surprised by how relatively pleasant the IRB process was. I don’t know what I imagined but the comments are really helpful, and the process was very fast, too.

What is one piece of advice you have for other UCLA students thinking about doing research?

Don’t give up! There are going to be a lot of obstacles in your way. For me, I asked two professors to be my mentor before my current mentor is willing to take me. There are also times when I felt it would be impossible to get my target number of participants, but other people are always there to help and support you! If you want to do it, just follow your heart 🙂

What effect do you hope your research has in your field, at UCLA, in your community, or in the world?

UCLA, surprising, does not have a lot of research on music psychology. So, finding like-minded individuals have been hard for me. But I hope by getting my research out there, other interested individuals will be encouraged to pursue this field!

 

Student Spotlight – Daisy Ramirez

Meet fourth-year undergraduate researcher Daisy Ramirez!

Daisy Ramirez majors in Psychology and minors in Education and Disability Studies and is in our Undergraduate Research Scholars Program (URSP). The title of her project is ” Relationships Between Sleep Disturbances, Depression, and Academic Achievement in Latinx Youth: Moderation by Generational Status and Family Conflict.” She hopes to bring light to the different educational trajectories Latinx students undergo based on their generational status. Her best piece of advice is to find a topic you’re interested in and go for it!

How did you first get interested in your research project?

As a first-generation Latina college student, I faced many challenges throughout my educational experience. Growing up I resented my up bring because I had little to no resources at home. My immigrant parents were not able to assist me in academia and I was forced to figure everything out on my own. At a young age, I assumed that later generations (second/third generations) were more fortunate because they had a “head start.” However, I later learned that this is not necessarily true. According to the immigration paradox, first-generation students display higher academic achievements than those of later generations because of the strong desire of obtaining better economic and educational opportunities. All in all, my identity sparked my research topic, and I am also looking into other variables, such as sleep disturbances and depression, which may also influence Latinx youth’s academic achievements.

What has been the most exciting aspect of your research so far?

I have enjoyed every aspect of my research project! I have analyzed an extensive amount of literature on a variety of different variables and I am also learning how to use the Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS). However, if I had to pick one aspect, then it would be running statistical analyses because I am able to see the results from a sample of 1,271 Latinx students aged 9-10 across the United States.

What has surprised you about your research or the research process?

With this being my first independent research project, I was surprised at how difficult it was to settle on one research question. The task of identifying and tackling a novel topic was difficult because I tried combining multiple topics into one. With the support from my mentor Blanche Wright (M.A) and faculty mentor Dr. Anna Lau I was able to combine my ideas into one concise topic.

What is one piece of advice you have for other UCLA students thinking about doing research? Find a topic you’re interested in and go for it! I was extremely intimated at first because I did not think I was good enough, but the research field is a learning process. Enroll in research methodology classes, coding courses, and apply to any program/lab you’re interested in!

What effect do you hope your research has in your field, at UCLA, in your community, or in the world?

I hope my research brings light to the different educational trajectories Latinx students undergo based on their generational status. I also hope it encourages other first-generation students to strive in all aspects of their life, but especially within the education system!

Student Spotlight – Helya Salarvand

Meet third-year undergraduate researcher Helya Salarvand!

Helya Salarvand majors in Gender Studies and is in our Undergraduate Research Fellows Program (URFP). The title of her project is “(Re)Locating Pride: Borders, Space, and Policing at Los Angeles Pride.” She hopes that her project can support the rethinking and reshaping of Pride so that all Queer people can feel welcomed, safe, and celebrated. Her best piece of advice to hit the ground running!

How did you first get interested in your research project?

The initial seeds of my interest in research regarding Pride were planted during my attendance of several Pride events in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and New York. I was mesmerized by the scale of these celebrations of Queer love, joy, survival, and resistance. That mesmerization was also coupled with a subtle sense of disconnectedness which only grew as I got older and mended my lesbian identity with my Iranian identity and radical politics. I was compelled to examine why I felt disconnected from mainstream Queer spaces and that is a small bite of what my research is trying to chew off.

What has been the most exciting aspect of your research so far?

The most exciting aspect of my research has been learning about Queer history. Though my research ultimately maps the evolution of Pride and LGBT liberation from its radical, anti-capitalist, anti-police origins towards neoliberal, homonationalist, and homonormative ideals, I found myself really intrigued and touched by these Queer histories. I’m also excited by indications that there is a genuine interest in the Queer community now to shift back to the radicalism which ignited the movement, signified by boycotts of Pride events sponsored by mammoth corporations and military entities. Last year’s LA Pride was conceptually relocated as an All Black Lives Matter March (which also received intense criticism due to their initial invitation of police) so it’s exciting examining the greater impacts of that conceptual relocation too.

What has surprised you about your research or the research process?

There are a few discoveries in my research that took me aback, the first being that police have never been absent from Pride. Though Pride is a commemoration of the Stonewall Riots, the most notorious successful violent uprising by Queer and Trans people against police, the first Los Angeles Pride (which occurred on the one year anniversary of Stonewall) required police “protection”. Though police were reluctant to extend their labor, the official permitting of Pride required their presence at the event. Something else that surprised me was learning about the Alpine project or “Stonewall Nation” which was literally an attempt at Queer settler-colonialism in California. This project sought to establish a gay separatist community in Alpine County and it would’ve entailed a relatively small group of Queer people moving to the rural county (which had a population of 430, 367 of them unregistered voters), recalling the county government, and replacing it with an all-gay party.

What is one piece of advice you have for other UCLA students thinking about doing research?

Hit the ground running! As a transfer student I felt at a disadvantage not having established rapport with any professors at the university yet. Once you have your research proposal, send that and a bit of information about yourself to any professor you might be interested in working with. Having a healthy relationship with your mentor is the most important part of this process so don’t settle on a professor you don’t vibe with!

What effect do you hope your research has in your field, at UCLA, in your community, or in the world?

The aim of my research is to highlight the harm that is done by the exclusivity of Queer spaces (namely LA Pride). I want to suggest that Pride as we currently know it does not serve our community but aids in the corporatization and militarization of the Queer identity. I hope that my research can support the rethinking and reshaping of Pride so that all Queer people can feel welcomed, safe, and celebrated regardless of religion, race, ethnicity, ability, class, or gender-identity. Our spaces need to prioritize Queer people rather than corporate interests, police or profit.

 

 

Student Spotlight – Louisa Edwards

Meet fourth-year undergraduate researcher Louisa Edwards!

Louisa Edwards majors in Studio Art and minors in VAPAE and is in our Undergraduate Research Scholars Program (URSP). The title of her project is “The Sky.” Her project will focus on the natural phenomena of the sky and how information including binaries are permeable. She hopes that her project is generous to the viewer and can give to and receive from people in the ways that they need. Her best piece of advice to just do research as it is a great opportunity!

How did you first get interested in your research project?

An interest in the ways systems of space, time and persona are formed and organized has long been evident, in my practice. The investigation of the sky is a continuation of ideas about the dichotomy day/night. On the New Year of December 2018/January 2019, in the Mojave desert, I danced as the sun/moon moved from one side of the Earth to the other. Cradled in darkness, and kept alert by the 50’ degree air temperature; the night moved through a small sea of bodies. I watched the sun slip away in the West, and emerge in the East. This experience of watching sunset/sunrise, for the most part uninterrupted, got me hung up on the oppositional view of these two transitionary periods. At this point, I was most interested in how this experience of sunset/sunrise related to the concept of a mirror. When we look in the mirror, we see a reflection and we presume it exists as a replica of what is being reflected. However, it is a reversed version. Fascinated by this, I created a diptych of painted tapestries, that hang facing each other with about 5 feet between them creating a portal like effect for the viewer, that suggests dusk/dawn as mirrors of each other rather than opposite transitions, subsequently challenging the dichotomy of day/night. Branching off this idea of multiplicity, I began creating schedules of activities that defined time-period specific identities. I was interested in the multiplicity of identity, which often (falsely) feels unmoving and stubborn. The aim of this exercise was to single out this stimuli and culture that created my identity in five year periods. The most direct way I could track the influence of the world around me in congruence to my identity, while simultaneously exploring time, was by using the rigid format of a calendar; A calendar is both profoundly personal and distinctly public.” Additionally, I began to document my dreams; In doing so, I realised I was living as much while sleeping as I was while awake. It became important for me to incorporate my dreams into these drawings, as a part of my daily life. After exploring how my surroundings and the microcosm I existed within had influenced my identity I wanted to think about universal elements that shape the reality of all human beings. Thus, I was led to focus, once again, on the sky.

What has been the most exciting aspect of your research so far?

The most exciting aspect of research is also the most difficult. Recently, I have been thinking about the limitations of my imaginary. Earning to make art objects that do not add to the colonial and capitalist agenda, from the ground on which we stand, is nearly impossible. In this entirely interconnected world we live in, what actions can take that are benevolent; humans are harmful; existence is violence. So what is left? I want honesty but not despair. At times find myself very frustrated and at times very driven by this predicament. The main blind spot I am encountering in this project as with countless other artworks, is about the aestheticization of nature and how by aestheticizing something you are enforcing a certain gaze of and control over said form. I mean, how do you say I love you to a living thing? You can of course, but it is really only self serving. Nature as framed as separate from humans (which it is not) would be better off without the human hand. In doing this project about the sky, I find myself avoiding discussing the sky as a ploy to muddle this issue. For the most part, I only talk about things surrounding the sky and when discussing or using the motif of the sky directly I earn to make it evident that this is from and for a human perspective. I suppose, I have never decided on if I am entirely on board with humanism and this research project is throwing this debate right at me.

What has surprised you about your research or the research process?

The amount my project has transformed in so little time has been exciting, nerve-wracking, and surprising. When I proposed this project in Spring 2020 I felt I had a definitive idea of how it might take shape. It has been difficult to be okay with not following my agenda to a T when the project is taking me in a different direction.

What is one piece of advice you have for other UCLA students thinking about doing research?

I am not sure I have any advice, really, other than to do it! It is a great opportunity; when I applied, I thought I had no chance of getting this opportunity. I would definitely recommend applying even if you think your project is petty or not doing enough to change the world. If it is important to you and you are keen to commit the time, apply!

What effect do you hope your research has in your field, at UCLA, in your community, or in the world?

I hope that the work I make is generous to the viewer. I hope it can give to and receive from people in the ways that they need. I hope they feel understood, or confused. I hope it is interesting and curious. If the sky could be proud, I would want the sky to be proud.

Student Spotlight – Daniella Efrat

Meet third-year undergraduate researcher Danielle Efrat!

Daniella Efrat majors in Political Science and minors in Public Affairs and Labor Studies and is in our Undergraduate Research Fellows Program (URFP). The title of her project is “Immigration Related Retaliation Facing Undocumented Low-Income Workers: An Archival Review.” She hopes to shed light on an under researched topic and aid scholars and policymakers in understanding the experiences of undocumented workers. Her best piece of advice is to reach out to professors and students doing research in your field of interest!

How did you first get interested in your research project?

In 2020, I interned at the California Labor Commissioner’s Wage Unit, a unit that ensures that workers are getting paid what they were promised by their employers. Many of the claimants I interacted with were undocumented and expressed hesitance to go forward with their wage claim. They were afraid because their employer threatened to retaliate against them by calling immigration authorities if they were to assert a claim. Despite the fact that it is illegal in California to retaliate against undocumented employees, many claimants still expressed this fear.  I became interested in gaining a deeper understanding of the profile and experiences of these claimants by conducting an archival study of all immigration-related retaliation wage claims in California since 2013.

What has been the most exciting aspect of your research so far?

I have very much enjoyed analyzing the data and identifying trends to aid me in developing a main narrative for my study.

What has surprised you about your research or the research process?

I have been surprised by how individually driven the research process is. The success of your research depends on how much you are willing to put into it. I enjoy the independence of research, and I have found that I am much more motivated to work on my research project because I know it is something that reflects my efforts.

What is one piece of advice you have for other UCLA students thinking about doing research?

Reach out to professors and students doing research in your field of interest! While it may seem intimidating, you might be surprised how many people are willing to share tips and their experiences with those who are interested.

What effect do you hope your research has in your field, at UCLA, in your community, or in the world?

My research project is the first archival study examining immigration-related retaliation claims in California. I hope that my research will shed light on an under-researched topic and aid scholars and policymakers in understanding the experiences of undocumented workers to help them conceptualize better policies to address these problems.

Student Spotlight – Zoe Reinecke

Meet fourth-year undergraduate researcher Zoe Reinecke!

Zoe Reinecke majors in International Development Studies and minors in Education and is in our Undergraduate Research Scholars Program (URSP). The title of her project is “Non-Governmental Organizational Responses to the Educational Needs of Refugees in Kenya During the COVID-19 Pandemic”. She wishes to inform of ways in which policy can be leveraged to improve the educational experiences of refugees. Her best piece of advice is to go for it! She recommends finding a mentor you respect and who is invested in your research and your future.

How did you first get interested in your research project?

During the summer of 2018, I had the privilege of working with refugees and victims of human trafficking in Europe. Upon returning to the United States, I continued to grapple with how to strategically decrease one’s vulnerability to human trafficking. I was unsettled by the harsh reality of the systemic and perpetual nature of human trafficking. When one person was able to leave human trafficking, more times than not there was another individual that replaced them. I turned my attention to strategic ways to decrease the vulnerability of refugees to trafficking. Education emerged as a necessary factor.

At UCLA, I pursued opportunities within my coursework, internships, and research projects to engage with refugee education in greater depth. These experiences eventually led to working with organizations in Kenya, which informed my focus for my honors thesis. Further, as the world continues to suffer from the impacts of the coronavirus, I knew I needed to investigate how the coronavirus has impacted the educational experiences of refugees in Kenya and how non-governmental organizations are responding to the changing educational needs of refugees.  To gain a greater understanding of the educational realities of refugees in Kenya during the coronavirus pandemic and non-governmental responses, I am conducting semi-structured interviews with non-governmental organizations, teachers, and refugees.

What has been the most exciting aspect of your research so far? 

Throughout the last six months, I have enjoyed witnessing my research evolve and change. Although stressful at times, it is ultimately exciting to allow existing literature and conversations with scholars and community members inform my work. Additionally, it has been exciting to meet incredible individuals, in Kenya and the United States, through my research.

What has surprised you about your research or the research process? 

Before pursuing my research, I had never worked on the same research project for the same amount of time as I am with this project. Inevitably, this has meant that it has been a learning experience. I have been surprised by how often I am adjusting my project, something that I had not allowed myself to do in other research projects. I have also been surprised by how much I have enjoyed the research process, which has informed my decision to pursue a graduate degree.

What is one piece of advice you have for other UCLA students thinking about doing research? 

If you have any desire to do research, I encourage you to do it. UCLA offers many opportunities to conduct your own research or work with others. These opportunities are much harder to access and participate in after graduating. You will meet incredible individuals who are eager to invest in you and your future. Also, research is a great way to improve your writing and critical thinking skills. Ultimately, research is an exciting process and you will learn a lot if you are willing to invest in the project.

What effect do you hope your research has in your field, at UCLA, in your community, or in the world? 

I hope that my research will provide policy suggestions for non-governmental organizations to better meet the educational needs of refugees during the COVID-19 pandemic. Furthermore, I hope that these insights will extend beyond the pandemic and translate into more efficiently and effectively delivering education to refugees.