Triple major combo leads to research project that improves lives

Majors: Law & Society, Applied Behavioral Science, and Spanish

Describe your research in a few sentences that we can all understand:

My project looks at collaboration within community task forces addressing human trafficking in the Midwest. Since these teams can be comprised of government officials, non-profit organizations, law enforcement officials, first responders, and even concerned citizens, I am trying to discover if these different professions view collaboration in the same way when working on the task force. I want to know if the similarities or differences in the perceptions of collaboration within a task force have implications for how the task force addresses human trafficking.

What is the most exciting part of doing research?

I would say that I love collecting data! My project uses qualitative data that I collect through a series of interviews with members on anti-human trafficking task forces. Being able to ask questions to people working in a field that I am passionate about has been really exciting! But, I would say the most exciting part of doing research is getting to see patterns develop across the data, especially when they are not the patterns that I thought I would find.

 Research is so dynamic, and I keep discovering that I have new questions every step of the way.

What did you learn by participating in the Undergraduate Research Seminar? 

In participating in the Undergraduate Research Seminar, I learned that presenting your own research is nerve-wracking, but so energizing. Since it allowed people to ask me questions on my research, I was better able to understand how to present my research in the future to provide stronger connections between my findings and the background literature in both human trafficking and collaboration.

I also learned a lot from hearing the other presenters. Every field has different protocol for conducting research and hearing how the other presenters conducted their own research helps me better understand their passions and how these different research techniques complement each other in academia.

Give your research advisor a shout-out:

“My amazing research advisor and mentor, Dr. Shannon Portillo in the School of Public Affairs and Administration, has pushed me to keep asking questions and seeking new opportunities to grow. She was also the person who encouraged me to apply for the Undergraduate Research Award that made this project possible. She constantly reminds me to keep moving forward. Thank you!”

Why should other students enroll in the Honors program?

I’ve gained so much from being in the Honors program. If you have the opportunity, apply. Tell your friends to apply too. The Honors program makes it possible for you to shape your KU experience to whatever you want to accomplish.

The Honors program continues to provide me countless resources at KU. It has connected me to scholarships, undergraduate research, more challenging and engaging courses, and has given me many opportunities to connect with amazing individuals who have become mentors to me."

Why did you choose your major (majors)? And how do they complement each other? 

I am a triple major in Applied Behavioral Science with an emphasis in Community Health and Development, Law and Society in the School of Public Affairs and Administration, and Spanish.

"In many ways, I chose my majors because I wanted the perspectives that they could only provide when combined. I am passionate about public policy and advocacy work, and these three majors prepare me to engage in those fields."

Law and Society looks at the policies themselves and how their application affects different groups of people. Conversely, Applied Behavioral Science looks at how those groups of people react to factors in their environment, such as the implemented policies, and provides a way to naturally observe the effectiveness of these policies and point to problems that still need to be addressed. Finally, one of the best ways to understand the perspectives of others is to understand their language. My goal is to learn more languages in the future, but at the moment my Spanish major allows me to work toward fluency in Spanish.

What has been your favorite class at KU? And why?

My favorite class was ABSC 311: Building Healthy Communities with Dr. Vincent Francisco in the Department of Applied Behavioral Sciences, because it was one of my first exposures to the Community Tool Box and action-planning steps that help a wide-spread community intervention succeed. It is how I decided that I wanted to pursue a Community Health and Development path.

What is the benefit of being in the KU College alongside students studying sciences, arts and humanities?

I would say that the benefit of having so many different students studying different fields is that I never feel like my learning is occurring inside a vacuum. I have constant access to new perspectives that challenge me to think outside of the box. It allows me to gain a breadth and depth of knowledge.

What do you want to do when you graduate?

I want to work in public policy and advocacy after I graduate by working with governmental and non-governmental organizations to achieve sustainable solutions to inequality in our society. Everyone deserves a voice, and I want to work to help make that possible.

What would you tell your freshman self?

I’m actually only in my second year at KU, but if I could go back and have a conversation with my freshman self, I would remind myself to stay in the moment. It is so easy to stress out about the what-ifs and lose sight of what is happening in that moment. It’s great to make plans, but as I have discovered in research, some things are simply outside of your control. All you can do is stay in the moment and work towards solving the problems at hand.

What motivates you?

I have had many people and experiences in my life that motivate me to work diligently in my research, coursework, extracurriculars, and at my job; however, one of the greatest motivations in my life has continued to be service to others. Everything I do, I do with the intention that the knowledge I gain or the products that I produce can help others. I think that serving others should be the primary motivation of any venture.