Mason senior Stephanie Bishop spent months working on her senior research project, which examines the impact of job skills training for people with minimal education in Guatemala. But it was not until she spent a week in February traveling in the country for in-person research that she really felt she understood the issue.
“You can read all this information on paper and learn about it. But it’s so different once you meet the people there and see how they live. It was eye-opening. It gave me a whole new perspective,” says Bishop, a double major in Spanish and Global Affairs.
Bishop was one of more than 50 undergraduates who presented their research at the 2017 Honors College research exhibition in April. Many were freshmen who were learning about scholarly research methods for the first time. For Bishop, though, her experience in Guatemala was a type of capstone to her four years at Mason.
“The whole process of doing the research project, with all the extra work it meant over the course of the year, was challenging. But then I really had to push myself to accept the challenge of traveling to Guatemala alone.” The circumstance was unfamiliar, even though she benefitted from speaking the language.
Many Guatemalan children have very limited opportunities for schooling, especially girls in rural areas. During her visit, Bishop interviewed staff from in-country NGOs working on this issue.
“It’s very hard for poor people in rural areas there to continue their education so that they can find opportunities other than just working in the fields—especially for women,” says Bishop. “But once they see that they can learn, many want to go back to school and learn more, so they can be part of pulling their communities out of poverty.”
Scholarship support, funded in part by charitable gifts, has been key to Bishop’s ability to pursue her studies. A research grant from Mason’s Office of Student Scholarship, Creative Activities, & Research (OSCAR) funded her travel to Guatemala, and Bishop has also received a Provost’s Award for the past three years.
“I am so happy that I had the chance to do this, thanks to the OSCAR grant,” Bishop says. With increased philanthropic support, OSCAR could fund even more transformative student experiences like hers.