Kayla Neal ‘23 is an OUR Scholar, a scholarship program partially supported by generous donors to Purdue’s Office of Undergraduate Research, and we were able to interview her about her research project and involved with the OUR Scholars program.
OUR: What did you research and why?
Kayla: I worked with Dr. Amanda Case who works in Counseling Psychology in the College of Education here at Purdue. The Launch the Future Project works with the Downtown Boxing Gym which is a youth program in Detroit, MI. When I first looked into research, I knew I wanted to work with educational inequity as this has always been something that was important to me as an education major, and the Launch the Future Project specifically works to combat the barriers in STEM fields within marginalized communities by revealing the way that the DBG’s STEAM lab has impacted students’ efficacy, interest, and career aspirations for STEM. My wonderful mentor Dr. Amanda Case has been mentoring me since Spring 2020, and she has consistently worked to push me to be the best researcher that I can be. I always feel so comfortable on our team because even though new things are challenging and Dr. Case likes to push me into doing new things, I know that in every task I am handed, with it comes a team of supporters who are always willing to assist me in whatever ways I need.
OUR:How long have you been conducting research?
Kayla: I have been conducting research since the spring semester of my freshman year, so for about a year now.
OUR: What have you learned from it?
Kayla: As a result of conducting research, I’ve become more aware of the staggering inequity that exists in the education system, and I’ve grown in my desire to combat these inequities. I’ve learned more about myself in this process, specifically in regards to the areas that I feel I need to grow in in order to be more successful in my undergraduate research career but also as an aspiring educator.
OUR: How did you get started in research?
Kayla: I am a part of the Honors College here at Purdue, and for education honors students, they have a pathway that they suggest we take in order to get started in research which are courses EDCI 210/211 that you take as a freshman with Dr. Nadine Dolby. This course spends the first semester diving into what it means to be an undergraduate researcher in education, and we spend this time trying to decide what kind of research we were most interested in to find a faculty mentor. Dr. Dolby helped me discover Dr. Amanda Case and her research which happened to line up well with my own interests, and after contacting her, she welcomed me onto her team for the semester to work on her projects with her. At the end of the semester, I found that I had more I wanted to learn from working with the team and more to give to the team in efforts, so I applied to be an OUR Scholar so I could continue to have a structured way of continuing my undergraduate research experience.
OUR: Do you think doing research has benefited your college career?
Kayla: I definitely think doing research has benefited my college career because it has broadened my horizons in terms of what I should expect to gain from my education. I entered college knowing that I would gain a degree out of it and maybe some relationships and cool experiences, but with doing undergraduate research, I’ve found that some of the experiences that college has to offer can span beyond simply receiving a degree and developing relationships. In exploring my field in the manner that I get to, I have found new reasons to love the profession that I’ve chosen, but I have also found reasons not to love my profession that have encouraged me all the more to join it in pursuit of educational equity that I have become much more educated on since being involved with Dr. Case and her team of undergraduate/graduate students.
OUR: How does research support your future goals?
Kayla: As an aspiring educator, I have become much more devoted to research-based practices of teaching, and I’ve become more aware of the ways that research has played a huge role in the development of educational practices. My future goals have always focused on being the best educator that I can possibly be, and I think the more I come to know my field, the more I realize I do not know about my field. Research has made me more aware of this, but it has also instilled in me a desire to continue in this pursuit to become the best teacher I can for my students, this requires me to be vigilant and flexible in regard to the new discoveries that are constantly being made in the field that could assist me in better supporting my students in the future.
OUR: How has being an OUR Scholar impacted your research?
Kayla: After completing my education honors courses, I knew that I wanted to continue doing research, and my mentor recommended that I look into the OUR Scholar program at the end of the spring semester. I began in the fall, and it has been so cool to get to be in a community of researchers of a vast variety of fields and get to learn from their feedback and from giving them feedback on their work. I have found the work that we do in the GS/IL undergraduate research courses to be so invaluable in teaching me the research skills that I wouldn’t necessarily be learning without the structure of a course. The tasks of the course are not very demanding, but they require consistent reflection on my research experiences, which I’ve learned is the best way to get the most out of my research experience.