Doing research as an undergraduate taught me to empathize with the vulnerable population I interviewed, to understand their life stories and the struggles they encounter in a shelter, and allowed me to give them a microphone so that their voices could be heard.
Paulina Aguilar Delgado is a senior criminal justice major with an interest in victimology. She was born and raised in Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, México. We asked her to share the details of her recent research and discuss its potential impact.
During the 2021 spring semester, in the midst of the pandemic, my mentor introduced me to the Adrian Tinsley Program for Undergraduate Research (ATP), from which I obtained a summer research grant. I remember looking at the requirements and the application process, and vividly remember feeling overwhelmed by the idea of conducting research. Even though it felt as if it was too much for me, I decided to embark on the adventure. My project involved virtually interviewing homeless female trauma victims who resided in a shelter in Phoenix, Arizona, with the purpose of analyzing the care provided at the shelter through a gender-specific and trauma-informed-care approach.
Previously, my education at BSU had been focused on the classroom environment: understanding concepts and engaging in thorough and deep discussions with my classmates and professors. These things have always been key to my learning process. However, formulating my own questions and having the chance to ask them directly to participants of a study has been the highlight of my college career. Doing research as an undergraduate taught me to empathize with the vulnerable population I interviewed, to understand their life stories and the struggles they encounter in a shelter, and allowed me to give them a microphone so that their voices could be heard.
ATP opened its doors for me in the summer of 2021, and it allowed me to prove to myself how much I can contribute to my field of study, as well as defeating the fears that come with the idea of doing research. I discovered myself enjoying every step of the process and finding that as a society, we need to prioritize the needs of trauma victims who live both in shelters and on the streets, especially by acknowledging their obstacles and providing them mental health support and resources. Being part of the project also brought with it the responsibility to communicate and advocate for these vulnerable populations. Additionally, I had the pleasure of working as a peer student-mentor for another group of student researchers who conducted further research on homeless women in summer 2022. I published my research article in BSU’s Undergraduate Review, and I am continuing this important work as the foundation of my honors thesis.
I am certain that my research will open many doors for me as I move forward in my career. Likewise, I’m sure it will provide a strong foundation as I pursue my career in law. BSU has made me realize the rewards of hard and engaging work. As a student, doing research represented a door-opening opportunity. As a person, I feel that interviewing homeless female trauma victims was a privilege.