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Institute for Health Care Policy and Aging Research
Veronica Vargas
Project L/EARN Alumna - 2013
Veronica Vargas
Cigar Use among U.S. Latinos: An Examination of Cultural and Sociodemographic Factors
Shawna Hudson, Ph.D.
Professor and Research Division Chief
Family Medicine and Community Health

Veronica Vargas is a rising junior at Rutgers University where she studies Public Health with a minor in Sociology. After receiving an email about the program, she immediately knew she wanted to be a part of Project L/EARN, which aligned with her academic interests and her desire to gain experience conducting social science research. Veronica says, “the best things about Project L/EARN was all the support that I received from my peers, both academically and emotionally. It was refreshing to be around like-minded people that wanted to pursue advanced education and cared so much about their education. This program has also given me confidence in my abilities as a student and has made me feel like I have the skills needed to pursue higher education.”

Veronica believes the most challenging part of Project L/EARN was learning how to manage her time wisely and to conceptualize statistics and research within a few weeks. However, she says the most important thing she gained was finally mastering all the things she had learned during the previous academic year but could never fully understand. She states, “I think what helped me the most was learning in a close-knit, small environment that allowed to be put into practice what I was learning and allowed me to see how it all related to the real-world.”

This summer, Veronica studied cigar use among Latinos with her mentors Dr. Shawna Hudson and Dr. Dan Gundersen. She has enjoyed the time with her mentors and sees them as role models in how they developed their careers out of what they love. She appreciates that they are easy to relate to, very knowledgeable, and more than willing to support her. After Project L/EARN, she is now seriously considering obtaining a PhD – she would like to be involved in research in some way. In encouragement to future interns, Veronica says, “I want them to know that they are much more capable than what they think. Take the program one day at a time and find support from the other interns.”

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