Sociology student chosen to present her research at Ivy Plus Symposium

(02-24-2014)

ashlee deherrera

When Ashlee DeHerrera received the Gates Millennium Foundation Scholarship during her senior year at Sargent High School, she knew she could "go to any college" in the nation. She chose Adams State University. A junior psychology and sociology major, DeHerrera recently wrote a paper on research she conducted and then submitted her work to be presented at the Ivy Plus Symposium, at Harvard University in March. She was chosen, one of 150 students from universities and colleges across the nation.

According to  Gates Millennium Scholars (GMS), the program selects 1,000 talented students each year to receive a good-through-graduation scholarship to use at any college or university of their choice. "We provide Gates Millennium Scholars with personal and professional development through our leadership programs along with academic support throughout their college career."

DeHerrera spent time in a public setting observing families and their interactions for her research. "My results found that families tend to provide familial boundaries, in which no one may leave or enter. I also found significant differences among socioeconomic status and race." DeHerrera chose a place where families go to "have unstructured fun." Her research supported previous studies. "It was important for the families not to know I was observing them. I did not talk to them or ask questions."

The project was an assignment from her sociological research methods class last fall. Dr. Grace Young, professor of sociology, taught the course. "Ashlee's ethnographic study explores family dynamics in public settings. She provides an intersectional analysis, considering new ways in which race, gender and class affect these public, familial encounters," Young said.

After presenting her findings in class, DeHerrera submitted her work to the Ivy Plus Symposium. As a Gates Millennium Scholar, she will have all expenses associated with the trip, including registration, travel, lodging and food paid through the Gates Millennium Foundation. The conference will include opportunities for DeHerrera to network with current graduate students from prestigious universities, attend seminars, and present her research.

According to Ivy Plus Symposium, the event came into being in 2012, following a period of several years in which faculty and administrators at the Ivy League and peer universities began to talk about ways to enhance diversity at the graduate level, as a step toward enhancing diversity in the faculty and at every level of the academy and beyond.

Young said DeHerrera will also present her project at the Western Slope Undergraduate Conference at Colorado Mesa State University. Young believes the presentations will "launch Ashlee on her career of obtaining a Ph.D. and becoming a sociology professor."

DeHerrera appreciates the support of Young and Dr. Leslie Cramblet Alvarez, associate professor of psychology, and Dr. Stephanie Hilwig, associate professor of sociology. "The professors in the sociology and psychology departments are accessible. My advisers, Dr. Alvarez and Dr. Hilwig are always willing to help and they make sure I am on top of everything. I love both programs."

Cramblet Alvarez said: "DeHerrera is a great student. She is determined and curious and has a great future ahead of her."

While at Sargent High School, DeHerrera said the school counselor Robbie Curto, Adams State alumna '00 '06, told her about scholarships, including the Gates Millennium and the Daniels Fund Scholarship, which DeHerrera also received. Through the two scholarships, DeHerrera has a full ride to college. But she still holds an off-campus job and works on-campus through the Grizzly Testing and Learning Center tutoring fellow students in sociology. She joined the suicide prevention group on campus, SWAG, and became the secretary.

DeHerrera also tutors psychology students. "Ashlee has served as a supplemental instructor for introduction to psychology which includes attending the class and acting as a peer mentor and tutor. This is a position that we generally reserve for our best and brightest," Cramblet Alvarez added.

After earning her degree from Adams State, DeHerrera plans on marrying Adam Welsh, they have been together since high school, and attending graduate school to continue her studies on families. "I am really interested in the family foundation. How they organize themselves and relate to one another. It really fascinates me."

Along with academic influences, DeHerrera said without the full support of her family, including her parents and grandparents, natives of Center, Colo. she would not be in college "let alone be conducting my own research."