Rhonda became part of Project L/EARN her senior year as a Sociology major at Livingston College in Rutgers University. She originally had been interested in the program to gain concentrated skills, training and a general knowledge of research. Rhonda planned to pursue a master’s degree in school psychology, but after spending the summer working with Drs. Lawrence and Antoinette Farmer, then decided to pursue a dual degree combining a Ph.D. in Sociology with a M.S.W. instead. The doctoral degree allows her to contribute to research in the field and impact the thoughts of policy makers, while a role as a school social worker allows her to have immediate impact on individual adolescents as well.
The opportunity to discuss her goals and motivations with the Farmers over the course of their many one on one and two on one mentor meetings facilitated their ability to provide education and career guidance specific to Rhonda’s aspirations and concerns. Coincidentally, this illustrates one of the key benefits of the program: there are critically few minority students pursuing careers in health and mental health related fields. It is imperative that they are stewarded in concert with their goals and desires such that their impact and effectiveness are maximized. Following her internship, Rhonda states that she does not believe she could have received the opportunity to create a rapport with faculty this intense nor the hands-on experience elsewhere. “The experience I have received this summer is invaluable. This is a rare opportunity, one that should be taken advantage of to the fullest.”
Rhonda’s research project focused on the differential roles of three factors: human capital, maternal depression and social capital on children of different racial/ethnic backgrounds who all share the experience of existence as minorities in the United States.