Iliana Velez

Iliana Velez, Senior, Communications Studies

What are the benefits of participating in undergraduate research?

Undergraduate research has provided me with the opportunity to conduct research in an area that I am extremely passionate about. By providing me with the necessary resources and continued support, I was able to develop the skills needed to successfully undergo the research process. This opportunity has been a key component in maximizing my potential and making me a strong candidate for graduate school.

What did you research specifically?

I looked at minority students within higher education with specific regards to Latino students. Basically, I was looking for any barriers that were in place that were hindering the Latino student from either going to college or graduating.

What did you enjoy most about your research, or with research in general?

I picked a topic that I was so passionate about so the entire process, as I was told in the beginning, is like you are in a relationship with your research topic. You are going to have a love/hate relationship with it so there are going to be times when you really, really love it and times when you just don’t even want to look at it, and you just want to be done with it, and that is just how it was over the summer when I did my research. It really was that love/hate relationship, and I actually really enjoyed that aspect of it.

What was your biggest challenge in the process of your research and how did you overcome it?

It was staying motivated, finding the motivation to keep going. What really helped me was sitting down with my mentors and explaining to them how difficult it was to continue. They would tell me “you know it is normal, it is challenging… but you will get through it”. And I did get through it. My mentors explained to me the why, the purpose…they kept reminding me of that why and that is what really kept me going.

What would you tell a friend who would like to become involved in research?

I told a friend that it was the best thing that happened to me. I’m graduating in December and before (my experiences in research), I had no idea what I was doing after graduation. I did not feel like I was ready to enter the workforce -there was something missing for me. Research really allowed me to consider grad school, and made it realistic for me. It really is more than the research component, you develop a relationship with your mentors, and with all the students in the program. It becomes like a family.

How do you think you have grown as a student as a professional as a result of research?

My research specifically has allowed me to be a lot more open-minded. Because I care so much about the Latino community, I have always thought that we’re the ones who are not focused on and we are the one’s struggling and going through a lot of things, but after doing research, I realized that a lot of other populations are going through the same thing, it made me more open-minded, and less naive to the fact that there are problems in other communities.