Claim your curiosity.

Nicole Humphrey

Student Spotlight | November 2015

Department: I am double majoring in political science and public administration.

Describe your work in a few sentences that we can all understand:  My research explores how social equity is utilized at the local government level. Through semi-structured, narrative interviews with local elected officials and chief administrative officers, I investigate their perspective and use of social equity when resolving community conflicts.




Q: Who mentors your project?

A:  My mentor is Dr. Shannon Portillo, Associate Professor in the School of Public Affairs and Administration.


Q: What surprised you about doing research?

A: I was surprised at how much control I could have over my education when conducting research. Research is unique because it provides you with the opportunity to decide what you want to learn and what skills you want to develop. Through conducting research I have been able explore literature that is specific to the concepts I find most interesting, improve my writing, and learn qualitative research methods. Research has made school much more enjoyable for me because I have been able to decide what I will learn.


 Q: What do you like most about your research?

A: I like that my research focuses on local government and that I’ve had the opportunity to conduct interviews with local officials. People generally focus on state and federal government, when local government has the most influence over their day-to-day lives. I enjoy being able to explore a level of government that is often overlooked and attempt to make it more equitable.

Q: What advice would you give to a friend wanting to get involved in research?

A: Find a community and mentor that will support you in the development and execution of your research project.

Coming up with a research project is difficult when you have no prior experience and completing that project is even more difficult. My sophomore year, I was accepted into the McNair Scholars Program. McNair gave me the support I needed to complete an independent research project and provided me with opportunities to share my findings.

In addition to McNair, I have a phenomenal mentor. Completing a research project can be an intimidating process for many students because there are so many large tasks that need to be completed. As an undergraduate student that had little experience completing the research process, this was very overwhelming. My mentor, Dr. Portillo, is great at taking these large tasks and breaking them down to manageable goals, so that I can see the progress I am making each week. I really didn’t know a lot about qualitative research methods when I started this project last spring. Dr. Portillo spent a lot of time teaching me about these concepts and helping me to develop as a researcher.


Q: How do you spend your time when you’re not working on your research?

A: When I’m not working on research, I like to hangout with my dog, Watson. I named him after the library.

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