The details of her research project from her tenure as a participant in the CIC's Summer Research Opportunities Program during the summer of 2001 may be a little hazy in Veronica Orozco’s memory.
But the eight weeks that the California native spent on the University of Illinois campus working one-on-one with a psychology professor impacted Orozco's future significantly.
“Having participated in SROP definitely solidified my idea of going to graduate school," said Orozco, who was appointed as an assistant professor of psychology at Adelphi University in New York.
One of the main goals of SROP is to increase the number of underrepresented students who pursue academic careers. Orozco was entertaining the idea of heading to graduate school and possibly a career in academia when she first learned about the program. Her SROP experience cemented and increased her desire to work toward that goal.
The eight weeks were concentrated and intense, what she believed to be a close approximation to the graduate school experience. In addition to developing a research proposal, Orozco spent her time developing her networks within the department and with other students.
When it came time to apply to graduate school, Orozco believes that her SROP experience gave her a boost. “It gave me something more to talk about in my interview,” she recalled. “Not only was I talking about wanting to do research, but I could say, ‘I want to do research and this is what I’ve already done.’”
Orozco elected to pursue her graduate studies at Ohio State University, completing her master’s degree and her Ph.D. in counseling psychology in Columbus. She continued her tour of CIC member universities – a coincidence, she maintains – by spending a year as a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Michigan. Orozco’s field offers a diverse array of opportunities. She plans to teach as well practice in a clinical setting, all the while conducting research.
“Why I was drawn to it is because of the opportunity to do the clinical work, and the opportunity to work in academia. I liked that freedom,” she said. “Ultimately it's very exciting when it all comes together.” And it might not have happened that way, if it hadn’t been for eight weeks over the summer of 2001.
“I think the real powerful message about SROP is that it has set the more than 11,000 students mentored through this program on a trajectory of research and scholarly success,” said Yolanda Zepeda, former CIC associate director of academic and international programs. “It exposes them to a whole new set of experiences and opens up a world of research that they weren't aware of before. The research is a hook but it sets them on a course that can change their lives.”
Zepeda underscored the value of collaboration in providing a range of opportunities for students, “CIC universities offered Veronica the programs and resources she needed at each point in her educational career: SROP at Illinois, leading to graduate work at Ohio State and capping off her education with a post-doc at Michigan. That’s success.”
Orozco attended the 22nd annual SROP conference at Michigan State as an honored guest, joining more than 500 undergraduate participants. While at the conference, she co-facilitated a research roundtable for students in addition to presenting her own research on the resilience of Latino college students. She also was one of several SROP alumni who were recognized for completing their doctorates.
“I wanted to participate. It's a way not only to give back but a way to interact with students. I was at their state at one point,” she said. “It was to relay the message that it can be done.”