Students gain advice and experiences at Social and Behavioral Sciences Symposium
Posted: 10/09/2012
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Social science students at The University of Texas-Pan American received some valuable information from practitioners in their fields of study as well as from UTPA faculty on the many career paths and internship opportunities available to them during the College of Social and Behavioral Symposium Sept. 27.

Graduate student Martha Calderón Galassi described her research to Dr. Walter Diaz, dean of the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, at the poster competition held during the college's symposiuim held Sept. 27.
The symposium - titled "Applied Social Sciences Solving Today's Problems" - was held in conjunction with HESTEC 2012. The event also offered students an opportunity to present their research in a poster competition and to hear from a panel of students who shared their experiences while working in social sciences related internships.

Dr. Walter Diaz, dean of the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, greeted symposium participants at the Practitioner's Panel, which focused on the presenters' transition from being students to fulfilling their career goals.

"With your degree, your career path isn't that obvious, but that's not a bad thing. It means you have more choices. It is very versatile," Diaz said.

Panel presenters included Dr. Cynthia Cavazos-Gonzalez (BS '89, MS '93), clinical neuropsychologist, Pinkerman & Gonzalez Psychological Associates, PC; Rolando Garza, archaeologist and chief of resources management at the Palo Alto Battlefield National Historic Park in Brownsville; David Salazar (BS '96, MS '08) associate director, Border Health Office at UTPA; and John Milford, lecturer, UTPA public administration program.

There were poster submissions from five different departments in the poster competition said Nick Weimer (MPA '11), lecturer in the Master of Public Administration program, who helped organize the event.

"We are excited to see the diversity in the different research being done. Early exposure to research is going to help them greatly in going on to graduate school and pursuing a Ph.D. after that," he said.

Senior Eddie De Leon, a pre-medical biology and psychology major, presented his research on social anxiety and how it affects students' interaction between their peers and professors and their academic performance.

"In terms of UTPA, does it affect the retention and graduation rates ...if they finish successfully or not?" he said.

De Leon said he did find correlations between social anxiety and avoiding group assignments, feeling intimidated by professors and student peers, avoiding involvement in student organizations and refraining from expressing ideas and interacting in the classroom in fear of embarrassment.

"There are students who avoid social situations. If they arrive at their classroom 10 minutes late, they will not go into the classroom because they are afraid they will be judged. I was actually one of these people," said De Leon, who, despite excellent grades, dropped out of high school because of his social anxiety.

De Leon, who hopes to become a psychologist, said he appreciates the opportunity to learn about how to conduct, evaluate and present research.

"Here they promote research. They allow you to get involved and present your ideas," he said.

In her research, graduate student Martha Calderón Galassi, whose major is clinical psychology, confirmed previous research findings that greater acculturation reduces victim blame in acquaintance and intimate partner rape relative to perpetrator blame among Hispanics, primarily because greater acculturation reduces rigid sex-role expectations.

"I also found that participants with higher levels of education attributed less responsibility to the victim of intimate partner rape than their less educated counter parts," she wrote in her presentation.

Calderón Galassi has been conducting research with Dr. Darrin Rogers, associate professor of psychology, for a few years and said it has given her an opportunity to learn how to interpret and analyze data.

"I like that in research, sometimes you disprove previous beliefs that you have," she said. "I want to obtain a Ph.D. in clinical psychology and I want to work with victims of human trafficking and sexual abuse. Participating in this research is definitely preparing me for that."