Alumni Spotlight | February 2017
KU major: Spanish and Political Science, class of 1994
Current occupation: Professor of Hispanic Theater
Research mentors while at KU: Sherry Velasco and Isidro Rivera
Describe the undergraduate research experience that you had while at KU: I completed two Spanish Honors Theses on Golden Age and Medieval drama at KU during my senior year. I worked with Dr. Sherry Velasco, now at USC, and Dr. Isidro Rivera, still at KU.
Q: What do you think was the most important thing you learned while doing undergraduate research?
A: I learned how to do research using primary and secondary sources, construct a theoretical frame, grapple with literary theory, and edit and revise my own writing at a higher level.
Q: What advice do you have for undergraduates who might be interested in doing research or creative scholarship?
A: I would encourage students to pursue high-impact research experiences because they teach skills like critical thinking, organization, time management, and problem solving...all of which are things that can be applied to any career. I believe that these kinds of mentored experiences also endow students with potential professional networks as well as personal connections that can enrich their careers and foster lifelong learning. Undergraduate research experiences also allow students to learn to formulate better research questions and to express their findings through improved writing skills.
Q: Do you use any of the skills or perspectives gained doing research in your current occupation? How so?
A: My experience led me to change my post-graduation plans from law school to graduate school, and I pursued a MA and a PhD in Spanish. I now work as a professor at a tier-one research institution where I use my experience daily as I produce my own research and mentor students as a faculty member in Hispanic Studies, as Associate Director of the Melbern G. Glasscock Center for Humanities Research, and as Associate Director of Undergraduate Research in the LAUNCH office, a unit of Undergraduate Studies, at Texas A&M University.
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: My advice would be to use the undergraduate research experience for all of the obvious skills mentioned above, but to also move beyond those skills and think about it as a model for how you might impact someone else's life...pay the experience forward and mentor someone else in your field and help him/her grow and develop. Be that person who inspires and sparks creativity in others, and use the knowledge someone helped you obtain to foster growth and passion in those around you.