Alumni Spotlight | April 2018
KU major: Latin American Studies, Class of 2015
Current occupation: Journalist
Research mentor while at KU: Peter Haney and Bartholomew Dean and Nina Kinti-Moss
Describe the undergraduate research experience that you had while at KU:
A: I wrote a research paper in my senior year on the difficulties faced by Ecuadorian Kichwa speakers in the American immigration legal system. I depended entirely on the help of Peter Haney, Nina Kinti-Moss and Bartholomew Dean. I spent too many hours in Watson working on that paper -- but it paid off, as I got it published in the KU undergrad journal.
Q: What do you think was the most important thing you learned while doing undergraduate research?
A: My experience working on that project helped immensely in both of my post-graduation jobs: One, as a caseworker at a shelter for refugees in Austin, Texas, and two, as an immigration journalist at the Texas Observer.
Q: What advice do you have for undergraduates who might be interested in doing research or creative scholarship?
A: Go for it. I thought I wouldn't get the research award. I felt like I didn't have a lot of experience honestly -- I felt pretty unqualified. But then I got it and it worked out really well.
Q: Do you use any of the skills or perspectives gained doing research in your current occupation? How so?
A: Yes! By just giving myself time to research the project deeply, I learned things that ended up being more useful than I ever could have anticipated. Namely, knowledge of the working of our immigration court system.
Q: Many undergraduate researchers are making decisions about what to do after they graduate from KU. Having been in those shoes, what do you know now that you wish you’d known then? Do you have any advice?
A: I mean, I'm speaking from a place of relative privilege here. But, I just kind of insisted on finding a job that aligned with my values. It was at a shelter for immigrants and refugees, and it didn't pay squat. I know that may not work for everyone. But what happened was by doing that I met really interesting people and did really interesting work, and when I decided to pursue a career in journalism -- a field I took zero courses in, by the way -- my experience at that shelter turned out to be the key. I had in-depth working knowledge of an important system, and that both impressed the editor who first hired me as an intern and later as a staff writer, and gave me a topic I could credibly write about. That said, none of that was a coherent plan. I just didn't want to go into some job I hated (once more, I just want to recognize that taking a very low-wage post-college job may not be an option for all).