"My advice: Keep opening doors and take advantage of all that is offered on and off campus." Jazmin Cruz
Jazmin Cruz is a fourth year undergraduate majoring in Education Sciences and minoring in Chicano/Latino Studies. Jazmin has received a third year of fellowship support from UCI's Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program (UROP) to continue her study of the challenges facing rural science teachers and the implications of math literacy in elementary grades. Below she shares her thoughts about her educational journey and her time at UCI.
I entered UC Irvine in the fall of 2015 as a science major believing that I was going to be the first person in my family to be a doctor. I had made myself believe my parent’s dream for myself despite my fear of blood and needles. Two years into my undergraduate studies and a discouraging GPA later, I decided to explore a career interest I have had since I was a young girl. I enrolled in my first education class, Education 50, and I never felt like I had found my place until then.
Following my change of major to Education Sciences, I began placing myself in different opportunities to continue exploring the careers within education in order to gain valuable experience. I have continued my ties to my past high school where I work as an academic tutor for grades 9-12 and also serve as a mentor for students. I felt purpose in sharing my high school and college mistakes and experiences with my students. I love looking back and offering a hand to the students following a similar path.
My experiences in the education field continued through field work with the Reading One-to-One program and the Early Academic Outreach Program (EAOP). I definitely believe that serving in the education field is rewarding. Having worked with many students from different backgrounds, who have different stories and dreams, gives me reason to offer the best version of myself to them. I know that UC Irvine is preparing me to do exactly that. Soon after switching to the School of Education, I also added a minor in Chicanx/Latinx Studies.
The best thing UC Irvine has offered me is being able to take my major in education and my minor in Chicanx/Latinx Studies and combine them in order to conduct independent research. Through the guidance of Professor Judith Sandholtz and Associate Professor Rossella Santagata, I have had the amazing opportunity to engage in research of my own interests. Not only did both professors give me an opportunity to work on their research, but they also opened a door I did not know was an option: independent research. Alongside my mentors/PhD candidates Doron Zinger, Jenell Krishnan, and Priyanka Agarwal, I have worked on research surrounding the challenges facing rural science teachers and the implications of math literacy in elementary. As a research assistant I have been able to strengthen my research skills and was awarded as an Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program (UROP) Fellow for the third time.
UROP has not only funded my studies but also provided opportunities to present my research findings. Upon completing two research studies in 2017-2018 (Factors Influencing Science Instructional Decisions of Rural Elementary School Teachers and Teacher-Student Questioning in Mathematics), I have decided to do a follow-up study this year (The NGSS Era: Understanding Rural Elementary Teacher’s Science Instruction). I would not have been in the place I am in now without the help of the amazing people I have met who have taken the time to support and encourage me to continue exploring critical issues in relation to education for both teachers and students.
As I prepare to graduate this spring, it is still surreal that my time at UC Irvine is coming to an end, but I plan to continue the connections I have made and the skills and lessons I have learned. Though I do not know exactly where I will go from here, I will be taking a year off to re-energize, study research interests, and work towards applying to graduate school where I plan to pursue a Master’s degree in Counseling or Teaching with Teacher Credential.
If I could give one piece of advice to other undergraduate students, it would be to keep opening doors and windows to take advantage of all that is offered on and off campus. Though we may be wanderers, these experiences can help us find our way.
Jazmin Cruz, UCI Senior