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Undergraduate Experience: Michael Aquino

March 30, 2021

Name: Michael David Aquino

Year: Fourth

Major: Sociology

Hometown: Los Angeles

What is a memorable project that you worked on during your time at UC Merced?

A memorable project that I worked on during my time at UC Merced has to be the first research project I assisted with during my sophomore year. This project focused on the collateral consequences families experienced when a family member was incarcerated. This project was the beginning of my journey in conducting undergraduate research and working with Professor Tanya Golash-Boza and graduate student mentor Yajaira Ceciliano Navarro, which has helped develop my academic and professional growth. From this experience, I was accepted to be a part of the UC Merced’s UROC-H Cohort for 2020-2021 where I have been studying how gentrification intensifies the social reentry experiences of former inmates in Washington, D.C., under the same guidance.

What did you learn personally and academically by participating in this?

What I learned personally from participating in undergraduate research was to adapt — especially as my current research project is being completed remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic. When the pandemic first struck, interviews conducted in Washington, D.C., were put on hold for approximately two months, which affected the timeline of my project. Additionally, conducting research from home was challenging because of the responsibilities of supporting my family. Eventually, I was able to adjust accordingly where I was able to balance my research project with life at home. Academically, what I learned participating in undergraduate research is how to write a literature review using the Harvard citation style. Although I have taken a research methods course, writing a literature review was something I did not excel in, and having to use a new citation style made it much more challenging. However, after several revisions, I eventually improved and grew more confident writing a literature review and using that citation style.

UC Merced has a lot of opportunities for experiential learning. What would you say to a future student who wants to be involved?

To any student who would like to be involved in experiential learning, just do it! During my sophomore year, I was offered an opportunity to be involved in experiential learning and despite doubting myself in the beginning I chose to take this risk. As a result, many opportunities have opened up where I have made connections with professors, undergraduate students and graduate students both inside and outside of UC Merced. It has allowed me to present at conferences remotely in California and has provided me with a support system such as UROC-H. Therefore, to any student who is planning to be involved in experiential learning, just do it because it can open many opportunities for you.