All four of the Western New Mexico University students who were accepted to this summer’s BUILDing SCHOLARS program are women and psychology majors.
The research-intensive training program is funded by the National Institutes of Health and reserved for undergraduates motivated to become biomedical, social, behavioral or health science researchers. In addition to coursework and mentoring activities, students will conduct research at one of the program’s 10 partner institutions, which reserve positions for BUILDing SCHOLARS graduates to later pursue their Ph.D. degrees.
“BUILDing SCHOLARS is meant to catch students right at the beginning of their college careers and help them focus their interests as juniors and seniors in order to be more prepared for grad school,” said Dr. Jennifer Johnston, a WNMU psychology professor.
The WNMU students who received the scholarship, which includes tuition for 30 credit hours and a living stipend, are Jazmin Castillo, Andrea Chavez, Susanna Wollard and Saramaria Ortega.
Castillo is working toward a minor in women and gender studies. The sophomore is native to Silver City. “I wanted to focus on social media and addiction, specifically to learn more about the correlation between social media and drug and alcohol use,” she said.
Chavez wants to go into research psychology and is interested in expanding psychology for queer and indigenous people.
Wollard is a freshman who would like to be involved in research on health disparities. She is originally from Albuquerque but now lives in Texas.
Ortega, who lives in northern New Mexico and is minoring in digital forensics, hopes this research experience gives her the perspective she needs to decide on a career path. “When I saw the opportunity, it called to me. I wasn’t expecting to get accepted,” she said. “At first, I was just trying to wrap my head around moving myself and my toddler, and leaving my husband behind after my acceptance. A lot of times you limit yourself because you think you can’t do it. I applied because I figured I had nothing to lose, only to gain. As a young mother and a student, I want to be able to show other women that you can accomplish anything you set your heart out to do even if you think you can’t do it.”