Rutgers University Website
Project L/EARN
General Information
Program Overview
Contact Us
News and Events
Grad School Roll
Alumni Information
2014 Program
Program History
Institute for Health Care Policy and Aging Research
2014 Program » Research Methods Instructors:
Theresa Simpson
Senior Instructor

Doctoral student, Rutgers University, Department of Sociology


Theresa Simpson is an alumna of the 2003 Project L/EARN class. She is the only intern in the history of the program to have transitioned directly into the instructor's role the following year.  In May 2004, Theresa received a joint Bachelor’s of Science degree from University College of Rutgers University and the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy, where she majored in Public Health and minored in Statistics.  Under the guidance of Dr. Dorothy Gaboda, she completed a summer research project about racial and ethnic disparities in willingness to utilize Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs). During the next academic year, Drs. Dorothy Gaboda and Jane Miller served as academic advisors for her senior thesis about maternal health status and Pap smear compliance.  

Theresa co-instructed with Dr. Dawne Mouzon for several summers and they brought their vast experience and varied perspectives to the program, as well as developed an archive of teaching materials, grading rubrics, and other resources, which will ensure the high standards of the program for future L/EARN cohorts. As a result, they were Co-recipients of the Alington Memorial Founders Award for many longstanding and fundamental contributions to the design and implementation of Project L/EARN.

According to Theresa, as a consequence of Project L/EARN, her senior year at Rutgers was "very eventful and exciting." She presented a poster about her summer research project at the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students (ABRCMS) in San Diego, where she networked with representatives from a myriad of universities and bonded with her fellow Project L/EARN classmates. She also had the opportunity to serve as a student assistant for Dr. Jane Miller's Research Methods course during the fall 2003 semester, and as an intern for Dr. Dorothy Gaboda at the Center for State Health Policy during the 2003/2004 academic year.

Theresa worked full-time as a Research Assistant at the Center for State Health Policy from September 2005 - August 2007.  In this capacity, she worked on a project examining the effects of demographic, health, and employment factors on parental eligibility and take-up in New Jersey FamilyCare.  This paper, co-authored with Dr. Jane Miller, Dr. Gaboda, Collen Nugent and Dr. Joel Cantor was published in the American Journal of  Public Health in February 2011. 

After completing one year of graduate work in the demography program at Princeton University, Theresa entered the prestigious doctoral program in medical sociology at Rutgers University in the Fall 2007. In September 2010, she was awarded the Matilda White Riley Term Paper Award for the most outstanding term paper, for her first qualifying paper. The paper addressed racial differences in parents’ valuation of children’s achievement in organized activities. Her dissertation is about racial differences in the impact of teen motherhood on self-concept, educational attainment, and substance use.

Theresa says that, "Project L/EARN has expanded [her] educational and career opportunities more than [she] ever imagined prior to entering the program.”  Yet another cohort of interns has benefited from the experiences of alumni returning to give back to the program.  Theresa is a prime example of the exponential nature of the impact a training program like Project L/EARN can have.

Brittany Battle

Doctoral student, Rutgers University, Department of Sociology


Brittany Battle joined the Project L/Earn family last summer as a course instructor. In 2009, Brittany graduated cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology (Law & Society concentration), Black American Studies, and Women’s Studies from the University of Delaware (UD). During her time at UD, she was a research associate on a university-funded project examining the experiences of Black students, faculty, and staff at the university. After graduation, Brittany served as Project Director for a grant funded by the First State Community Action Agency and Delaware United Way examining community violence in two low-income neighborhoods in Wilmington, Delaware.

!n 2012, Brittany earned a Master of Arts degree in African American Studies from Temple University. While at Temple, she served as the graduate assistant and summer program course instructor for the Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Program, which is a research program training underrepresented undergraduates for graduate level study.

Brittany is currently a Ralph Johnson Bunche Fellow in the Department of Sociology at Rutgers University – New Brunswick. She is the Director of the Multi-Generational Mentoring (MGM) Program in the Sociology Department, funded by a minigrant from the National Science Foundation. The program matches graduate student mentors with undergraduate student mentees interested in pursuing graduate education or a professional career in the social sciences. Next year, Brittany will also serve as an advisor to an undergraduate research assistant through Rutgers’ Aresty Research Assistant Program. Brittany’s current academic interests are American social policy, family court and child support policy, and cultural conceptualizations of fatherhood and the family.

Thomasina Anane
Teaching Assistant

Graduate Student, Johns Hopkins University


Thomasina Anane is an alumnus of the Project L/EARN 2012 cohort. She recently graduated from Johns Hopkins University (’14) where she majored in Public Health and Sociology. She is now a Global MBA candidate (’16) at the Johns Hopkins Carey Business School, with a concentration in Healthcare Management. During her summer as an intern, Thomasina worked on a project exploring the impact of goal striving stress and socioeconomic status on mental health in African American and Whites. During the academic year, Thomasina continued working with Dr. Mouzon on a project titled “Intersectionality and the Stress Paradigm: Understanding Race, Class, and Gender Differences in Exposure to Chronic Stressors” which was presented at the Annual Meeting for the Society for the Study of Social Problems (SSSP) in August 2013. Thomasina, under Dr. Mouzon’s guidance, also completed her Public Health Honors Thesis entitled: “Race, Nativity Status, and Socioeconomic Variations in the Association Between Goal-Striving Stress & Mental Health.”

After thoroughly enjoying her position as a teaching assistant the first time, Thomasina came back this summer as a teaching assistant for the second time to help this summer’s interns adjust to and thrive in the often demanding and challenging nature of Project L/EARN. She found her experience this summer especially rewarding and very fruitful.

As a teaching assistant the second time around, she found herself much more confident and ready to focus her efforts on making sure this summer’s cohort felt prepared to take on the challenge the summer presents while encouraging the interns to take advantage of the many resources they have around them to help them overcome any hurdles they may encounter during the summer. Thomasina reflects, “Last summer was challenging for me while figuring out the ropes of being a TA. However, coming in this summer, taking what I learned last year, I felt very prepared for my role as a TA. I learned this year that I truly love what I do as a Project L/EARN TA and through my time with the interns at the Institute or at the floor lounge of Easton for reviews, this year’s cohort has taught me so much about myself and where I see myself in the future. Wherever I go and in whatever I end up doing, I’ve learned that it must include helping others in the same capacity I’ve been able to do as a TA with Project L/EARN. Seeing the interns in and out of their element and seeing the growth firsthand has made the job so worthwhile!”

To this year’s interns: I am so proud of you all! See – you didn’t get sick, faint, or for some reason not show up for your presentation (I told you so!). I’m going to miss you all so much and your quirks, inside jokes, and hearing “TomTom” all the time! You all have accomplished so much this summer and I’m so excited to see and hear about all your rewarding accomplishments and endeavors going forward!

Veronica Vargas
Teaching Assistant

Senior, Rutgers University


Veronica Vargas  is an alumna of the Project L/EARN 2013 cohort. She is a rising senior at Rutgers University majoring in Public Health with a minor in Sociology. Her research interests include health disparities, minority/immigrant health, and social determinants of health with a focus on neighborhood effects on health. Last summer she worked with Dr. Shawna Hudson and Dr. Daniel Gundersen exploring cigar use among the Latino population. During her academic year internship at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, she continued to strengthen and expand the research skills she developed in the program by aiding her mentors with various projects. In addition she served as a research assistant as part of the Aresty Research Center for Undergraduates, under the guidance of Dr. Marsha Rosenthal (Institute for Health).

This summer was Veronica’s first time as a teaching assistant, and her first experience teaching in general. Although it was a short period of time for Veronica’s transition from intern to T.A., it was easy for her to relate to the interns and provide support from a distinct angle. She found it fulfilling to be able to help the interns through a stressful summer. Veronica enjoyed her experience as a T.A. because it enabled her to reflect on her experiences as an intern and give as much advice as she could to make this year’s cohort experience as pleasant as possible. “After experiencing what Project L/EARN did for me as a student, I felt indebted to the program and wanted to comeback this summer to encourage a new cohort. It was exciting to see the interns develop research skills and find greater confidence in themselves in a matter of weeks. To the 2014 Cohort: I will miss seeing you all on a daily basis! I am proud of each and every one of you and hope to see where this summer experience will take you in the future. ”

A project of the Institute for Health, Health Care Policy and Aging Research, and Rutgers University

© 1997-2015 IHHCPAR, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey. All Rights Reserved
Facebook Page LinkedIn Page