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Global Learning program empowers undergrads to conduct research in Latin America
From left to right: Raji Uma, Professor Michaela Moura-Kocoglu. Photo by Doug Garland.

Global Learning program empowers undergrads to conduct research in Latin America

March 9, 2020 at 12:00pm

After spending the summer of 2017 in Southern India conducting independent research on the effects the education system has on rape culture, Raji Uma’s passion for gender-based violence research was ignited.

Uma was keen on expanding her research to a new and relevant topic in the field — technology facilitated gender-based violence. This concept refers to behaviors such as stalking, bullying, sexual harassment, defamation, hate speech, exploitation and gender trolling through technology.

Shortly after returning to the United States, Uma received an email from Yeni Simon, program manager for Global Learning Initiatives, with an opportunity to continue her passion for the topic.

The FIU LACC-Global Learning Medallion Research Fellowship Program is a collaboration between the Office of Global Learning and the Kimberly Green Latin American and Caribbean Center (LACC).

The program, funded by LACC’s U.S. Department of Education Title VI grant, connects undergraduate Global Learning Medallion students with a LACC-affiliated faculty mentor.

The partnership provides students with the opportunity and guidance needed to further develop their academic training on Latin American and Caribbean-related issues, enhance their critical-thinking, improve their applied research skills and ultimately publish or present academic research to the scholarly community.  

“The LACC-Global Learning Medallion Research Fellowship program is just one investment that we are making to ensure that we are training a globally competent future workforce comprised of our best and brightest,” said Liesl Picard, associate director of LACC.

Last year the program awarded two of the mentoring grants and already students are seeing success.

In the case of Raji Uma, an international relations major mentored by Professor Michaela Moura-Kocoglu from the Center for Women’s and Gender Studies, she not only investigated online violence against women in the U.S. and Brazil, but she also created a tool used to research the topic based on a multi-purpose questionnaire that creates awareness on the issue while collecting statistics.

Uma later went on to present her research at FIU’s Tuesday Times Roundtable, co-sponsored by The New York Times.

Another student Maria Camas, biology major mentored by Professor Javier Ortega from the Department of Biological Sciences, researched botany in the Lesser Antilles. Through the program, she coauthored an article published in the Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden Magazine, is submitting a manuscript of her research to the Caribbean Naturalist Journal, and she will be presenting a poster to the upcoming FIU Undergraduate Research Symposium.

“I feel like a lot of undergraduate students don’t realize they can do research at the undergraduate level, they think it’s just for graduate level students,” explained Uma.

“I think it allows you to make the most of being in a university because sometimes you don’t realize how fast time passes by in college and you’re always thinking you want to do something but sometimes you won’t end up doing anything. With this Global Learning Medallion Program, however, it definitely creates the right environment for you to actually achieve all of those goals.”

Students enrolled in the program also have access to networking events like conferences that can open up opportunities for future collaborations, newsletters with access to internships, and much more.

“Research shows that when undergraduate students have a mentor they do better academically because they have guidance, a person who is providing constant support, advice and feedback,” said Yeni Simon Mengana, program manager of Office of Global Learning Initiatives. This program aims to, “equip the students with the skillset necessary to succeed as a researcher and also give them that confidence that even as undergrads they can do that.”

To qualify for the program, students must be in the Global Learning Medallion Program or plan to apply in the future and research a topic within the Latin American and Caribbean field. Beyond that, there are no limits to the sub-topics that can be addressed.

Previous students have delved into topics like women gender studies, business and the environment, but thanks to LACC’s 230-plus affiliated faculty working on the region, the options are endless.

The FIU-LACC Global Learning Medallion Research Fellowship Program takes applications on a rolling basis throughout the academic year.