A World of Opportunity

Argentina on map

This is part one of a three-part series about McNair Scholars who participated in a 2013 Summer Research Service Experience in Argentina.

As a teenager, DePaul senior Daisy Gonzalez couldn’t have imagined conducting a comprehensive research project in a foreign country. Even the idea of college seemed far-fetched. “Had it not been for my three older brothers, my parents wouldn’t have known of the resources that exist for minority students to be able to go to college,” she recalls. The daughter of Mexican immigrants, Gonzalez’s educational goals were inspired in part by one of her brothers, a DePaul graduate. When Gonzalez enrolled at DePaul after a few years at community college, the sociology major seized every opportunity she could—including becoming a McNair Scholar.

Funded partly through the federal government’s TRIO program and partly through DePaul, the McNair Scholars program aims to prepare students from low-income and/or first-generation families, as well as other groups underrepresented in higher education, for doctoral work and faculty careers. “I dreamed of earning a PhD in sociology,” Gonzalez says. “When I saw there was a possibility for someone like me to become a professor, I couldn’t let the opportunity pass me by.”

The competitive program is academically rigorous, with an optional study-abroad research component that Gonzalez eagerly pursued. In June 2013, she joined two other McNair Scholars, as well as four Arnold L. Mitchem Fellows, on a Summer Research Service Experience (SRSE) in Argentina. Before departing, the group spent two months engaged in preliminary study, such as literature reviews, proposal development and a qualitative research certification course, while also learning about Argentinian culture.

Once they arrived in South America, Gonzalez and her fellow scholars tackled a whirlwind itinerary with stops at multiple universities to introduce their research projects, lead focus groups and conduct surveys. “It felt amazing to be able to collect my own data and finally put everything I had learned in the classroom into action,” Gonzalez asserts. “Being able to work with two Argentinian women on my research team was the best, because they had a lot of personal insight into the research I was conducting.” Gonzalez’s research focused on the efficacy of sociodramas, a form of group therapy, to facilitate discussions about discrimination. Sociodramas are exactly what they sound like—dramatic skits intended to study or resolve group issues that may be difficult to express verbally. Gonzalez analyzed video archives of sociodramas and participated in a sociodrama in General Roca, a city in the Rio Negro province. The video below gives a taste of that experience.

This sociodrama brought together 170 participants of different ages, genders, races, cultural identities and sexual orientations to role-play issues pertaining to discrimination. The feedback session that concluded the experience, led by Fabio Lacolla, a psychology professor at the University of Buenos Aires, was equally important to the resolution process. “It is through role playing and the process by which the coordinator leads the group that people get engaged,” Gonzalez explains. Last month, Gonzalez returned to Argentina to continue her work on sociodramas with Professor Lacolla.

Graduate school once seemed like an impossible dream, but Gonzalez knows now that it’s within her reach. “The SRSE experience has provided me with more than I could have ever imagined,” Gonzalez says. “It pushed me out of my comfort zone and gave me insight as to what a faculty mentor-mentee relationship looks like.” With the confidence, skills and knowledge she’s gained, Gonzalez is well-equipped to realize her ambitions.

Coming up next week: Read about McNair Scholar Ricardo Camacho’s efforts to study white privilege in Argentina.

 

Image courtesy of iStock Photo.

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