My name is Mary Smith and I am current junior from Greensboro, North Carolina majoring in Psychology and Management and Society with a minor in Public Policy. My main interests lie in how social science research can be applied to effective policy-making. Specifically, I am interested in how research findings in psychology and sociology can influence education policies. My time as an internship with the Center for Health Equity Research (CHER) has complemented my other experiences and contributed to furthering my career goals. While at CHER, I have had the chance to work with Phenesse Dunlap, MPH on the MAPSCorps Nash and Edgecombe project.
CHER, a part of the Department of Social Medicine in the UNC School of Medicine, works to improve health outcomes in undeserved communities. The multidisciplinary team of researchers and community partners strives to eliminate the causes of health inequalities through a variety of projects. MAPSCorps Nash and Edgecombe is one part of Project Grace, a larger community-based participatory research collaboration tackling a number health issues in the Upper Coastal Plain region of North Carolina. The MAPSCorps program aims to improve access and awareness of community resources among residents in the Rocky Mount area. High school youth in the area go around their community mapping and cataloguing “assets” – businesses or organizations that provide the community with some good or service. The students also have the chance to participate in a positive youth development (PYD) program teaching them a number of important skills and fostering positive growth.
This past semester, I have been working on developing the curriculum to be used in the PYD program component. In this ongoing project I have spent time thoroughly researching and compiling information about PYD programs. As I have reading up on the different PYD programs, I have been able to refine my researching skills, especially searching for literature. It has been amazing to see how vast the existing research is on PYD and how many angles can be considered when designing curriculum. This has been a great supplement to my other research experiences, and it has furthered my knowledge of what goes into curriculum design. Considering my future goal of becoming involved in education research, it has been helpful to have the opportunity to learn so much about considerations for effective curricula.
Through the Gil Internship, I have been able to not only solidify my interests in social science research but also expand my research skills. I am extremely grateful to have had this opportunity, and I am very thankful to have the support of Dr. Buzinski and the team at CHER. I know that the skills I have learned this past semester will prove to be invaluable as I move on in my career.