SEMILLAS Research Fellowship Named Outstanding New Program

March 13, 2023
SEMILLAS students and mentors
Marissa Vasquez (front row, second from left) with SEMILLAS students and mentors in 2022.

A program developed by San Diego State University associate professor Marissa Vasquez to engage underrepresented students in social science research has earned a national honor. 

The National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA) Latinx/a/o Knowledge Community bestowed its 2023 Outstanding New Program award on the SEMILLAS Research Fellowship Program, which provides research training, mentorship and experience to students at Southern California community colleges.

“I'm excited,” said Vasquez, whose work in the Department of Administration, Rehabilitation and Postsecondary Education (ARPE) focuses on furthering college success for underrepresented students. “Even though we’re only in our second year, it feels validating to see that other people recognize the influence and the impact of what we were able to do.”

Vasquez launched the SEMILLAS Research Fellowship in 2021 with funding from the SDSU University Grants Program, the ETS Center for Advocacy and Philanthropy, and the American Educational Research Association (AERA). 

The fellowship focuses on community colleges because they are a common entry-point into higher education for students of color — one where research opportunities are often scant. Fellows receive stipends, training and mentorship as they explore the basics of social science research and advance to conduct their own research projects.

In the past two years, 21 community college students have gone through the program. Last July, members of the 2022 cohort presented their projects at an on-campus research symposium.

Vasquez credited her SEMILLAS research team, made up of current and former graduate students in the SDSU College of Education, for helping to successfully implement the project.

“My current and former students, and other colleagues who have supported our research team, have all helped with the development and delivery of this program, whether it's through their mentorship, coming up with the design and program structure, or facilitating the sessions,” Vasquez said. “I feel very fortunate that I have such a dedicated team that is committed to uplifting others.” 

“A lot of our team, like me, are products of the community college,” she added. “I think we’re motivated to provide the experiences that we wish we would have had as community college students or transfer students.”

Vasquez said she hopes to secure funding that will allow SEMILLAS to operate again this summer and potentially expand to reach more students moving forward.

“I would love to see it not only continue, but expand and become institutionalized in some way, whether it's through SDSU or another partner,” she said.

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