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IRiSS celebrates social science interns of the year

Jun 9 2020

The end of Spring Quarter marks the end of another successful year of IRiSS's RA internship program, a collaboration between the Stanford Institute for Research in the Social Sciences, Foothill College, Mission College, and other local community colleges. This year, over 40 community college students participated in the program, in which IRiSS matched participants, who are interested in social science research and careers, with volunteer internships at social science research labs at Stanford University. They serve as research assistants to graduate and postdoctoral researchers in psychology, sociology, education, communication, and other social science related disciplines. Despite the challenges presented by COVID-19 and social distancing, the program went forward, with six students receiving nominations for the Intern of Year Award. The students were nominated by their research supervisors, and selections were made by a committee of IRiSS-affiliated graduate students in the social sciences. Community college students in two categories won awards:

Community College - Pre BA

Allison Wiley 

2020 Intern of the Year | Student at Foothill College

“Out of the 10 interns I have supervised since I began mentoring 5 years ago, Allison is the best intern!! The words I will use to describe her are enthusiastic and hard working. She began last summer with so much drive. She was prompt, a critical thinker and a pleasure to work with. She piloted interviews, organized the process of on-boarding participants and then managed a calendar/schedule of over 103 participants who interviewed four times throughout the year. 

She manages a team of other interns that are undergoing paid transcription work. She designed and implemented the training and now leads weekly team meetings with them (self-titled the "Transcription Tribe") - note that she leads this meeting by herself and has created a sense of camaraderie and accountability amongst these members. She is also taking on leadership this summer as she on-boards new interns from Foothill who will eventually take her place. 

The study we conducted this year would not have been the same without Allison and I speak for the whole team in saying that her work and contributions were greatly appreciated and critical to the success of our project.”

- Monique Harrison, PhD Candidate, Sociology of Education, Graduate School of Education, under Dr. Mitchell Stevens

Ying Zhou

Intern of the Year Finalist | Student at Foothill College

“Ying worked with me for literature review on my project about entrepreneurship.  She was super reliable and exceeded my expectations.  She showed thought and care in searching for relevant information.  She also demonstrated skills in summarizing the key findings of each paper and organizing them in a logical and coherent manner. All of these are essential qualities for successful academic research.  I am very delighted to see her demonstrate all these capabilities and would love to acknowledge her contribution as well as encourage her to pursue an academic career if she so desires.” 

 – Gabriel Chiu, PhD Candidate, Department of Sociology, under Dr. Mark Granovetter

Alexis Takagi

Intern of the Year Finalist | Student at Foothill College | Transferring to Santa Clara University

“Alexis has acted as de facto team leader since she joined the research project. She has set an example for the others through her high level of productivity, as well as improving the process through creation of tools and techniques. Alexis is able to anticipate problems and create and implement solutions, using her initiative.

During work on an extensive bibliographic search and literature review, she exceeded expectations regarding the number of articles read and summarized each week. To help focus the bibliographic search, she independently created a procedure for the team to analyze different search terms to isolate those that were most effective for our project. Based on her analysis we were able to assign targeted search areas to each researcher.

I asked Alexis to help onboard a new RA. Within two days she had a detailed training sheet drafted, including search tips, search processes with illustrations, sample article notes, and suggested articles to read. Alexis went above and beyond what was asked of her by acting as team leader, proactively creating new processes, supporting other RAs and streamlining our team work. I greatly appreciate her leadership and hard work.”

– Dr. Carolyn Ybarra, Institute for Research in the Social Sciences, under Dr. Mitchell Stevens, Graduate School of Education

These interns will be celebrated at Foothill College’s Business and Social Sciences “Celebration of Excellence” online ceremony - an annual celebration of student excellence and scholarship awards - at which Program Director Carolyn Ybarra will present the Research Assistant Interns of the Year awards. 

Community College - Post BA

Vanessa Rodarte

Intern of the Year | Evergreen College | BA - U.C. San Diego

“I am nominating Vanessa for the intern or the year of the award. Vanessa has provided valuable assistance across multiple stages of the experimental process for variety of studies examining decision-making and self-control in the context of dietary choice. She has helped collect a significant amount of data during her time in the lab, running over 100 participants. A large portion of Vanessa’s work has focused on a series of studies examining the effects of an intervention designed to improve dietary self-control, particularly among socioeconomically disadvantaged populations. This intervention requires a high degree of conscientiousness on the part of the experimenter, both in delivering the intervention as well as in debriefing participants afterwards. Vanessa also provided useful input on the intervention as it was being developed.

Throughout her time in our lab, Vanessa has demonstrated an intense curiosity and passion for psychological research. On numerous occasions she has gone out of her way to acquire new skills and learn new methods. She is a pleasure to work with and is always highly engaged in whatever pro  dateject she is working on. Her insights have shaped the design of a new studies. Vanessa’s dedication to the research extended beyond her insights and data collection efforts. On top of working two other jobs, Vanessa drove to Stanford University multiple days a week and she also offered to stay late in the evening every week. Vanessa has a keen mind for psychological research and I’m confident that she will succeed in her future endeavors. Winning this award could be a helpful addition to her resume as pursues the next step in her career.”

– Daniel O’Leary, Department of Psychology, working under Professor James Gross

Jennifer Osugi 

Intern of the Year Finalist | Mission College | BS - University of Washington

“I would like to nominate Jennifer Osugi who has been outstanding. Jennifer’s job this year was to read interviews and write memo about each interviewee. Her memos were always very thorough and on time. I was especially impressed because Jennifer is also working at an urgent clinic and she has been very busy because of COVID. However, she has continued to be reliable and continues to do excellent work. One time when she went above and beyond was a few weeks ago, when I asked her to review an op-ed I was writing based on the interviews she was reading. She gave excellent and valuable feedback, which I incorporated. Here is where she really went above and beyond: she went back into the op-ed to read the new version although I never asked her to. She really didn’t have to do this, but I was grateful that she did. I feel like Jennifer is super committed to this project and I would be thrilled for her to get this recognition.”

– Dr. Ilana Horowitz, postdoctoral fellow, Stanford Center on Longevity, working under Professor Ari Kelman, Graduate School of Education

Transfers to four-year universities

We are also pleased to report the following transfers of our interns to four-year universities: 

Antoinette Aragon – Santa Clara University

Elton Arata – U.C. Berkeley

Peter Pham – U.C. Berkeley

Joshua Soetander – U.C. Berkeley

Alexis Takagi – Santa Clara University

Rachel Xu – U.C. Berkeley

Faye Wang – U.C. Berkeley

Sophie Wolf – U.C. Santa Cruz or U.C. Berkeley

To date, over 40 participants in the RA internship program have successfully transferred to four-year universities, which is ultimate goal of involving students in research - to advance their social science careers.

We welcome 19 new interns to the program this summer, several of whom will continue into the academic year. IRiSS looks forward to another year of collaboration with its neighboring community colleges, and anticipates a productive year of social science research for students and research supervisors alike.