This is part two of a three-part series about McNair Scholars who participated in a 2013 Summer Research Service Experience (SRSE) in Argentina. McNair Scholars come from low-income and/or first-generation families, or from other underrepresented groups in higher education. Funded partly through the federal government’s TRIO program and partly through DePaul, the competitive program prepares students for doctoral work and faculty careers. Read the previous entry here.
Between July and November 2013, Ricardo Camacho presented his research on racial and social privilege in Argentina at four different conferences. For the senior psychology major, the topic of privilege hit close to home. “DePaul was out of reach for someone like me,” he recalls. “I had no source of funding to attend college, but I applied because my mentor and teachers believed in me, and they explained the importance of simply applying.” To Camacho’s surprise, he was awarded several prestigious scholarships and grants, which together have made his college career possible.
When it came time to formulate a research question for his SRSE trip, Camacho considered his own life experiences. “I understand how privilege and race determine how we see ourselves and our role in society,” he explains. A native of Chicago’s Southwest Side, Camacho had never left the country before his June 2013 research trip to Argentina as a McNair Scholar. “I had arrived at something that had seemed impossible,” Camacho says, and he wasted no time diving into his research, meeting new people and learning about the culture. “I was an outsider looking into their world, but I quickly became a part of their lives,” he marvels. “Whether it was in an academic setting or personal living space, their acceptance meant the world to me.”
Camacho implemented an online survey to gather data on Argentinians’ perceptions of white privilege. Nearly 200 participants responded to his survey, which was based on Peggy McIntosh’s 1988 essay, “White Privilege and Male Privilege: A Personal Account of Coming to See Correspondences through Work in Women’s Studies.” When Camacho analyzed the results back in Chicago, he encountered a few setbacks. “The results suggest that respondents had difficulty understanding some of the questions posed by McIntosh’s conceptualization of privilege,” Camacho explains. However, like a true researcher, he took this obstacle in stride. “It ended up sparking new questions to be asked,” he says. “Argentina’s rich history of socioeconomics and social construct has made privilege, access and identity a very complex subject.”
Throughout the entire process, Camacho never relinquished his belief that he could succeed as a scholar, and he credits the McNair Scholars’ mentor-mentee system with reinforcing that mindset. “I had individuals helping me every step of the way,” he says. “I had the support I needed to do what I loved.” As Camacho wraps up his senior year at DePaul, he’s amazed at how far he’s come. From the first stages of preliminary research to exploring a new country to presenting his findings in front of attentive audiences, Camacho has enjoyed this preview of life as a graduate student. “I grew as an individual, researcher and student through this experience,” he affirms. “It showed me another world.”
Coming up next week: Learn how McNair Scholar Vierelina Fernández’s perspective changed after spending time in Argentina.