UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Fourth-year College of Education doctoral student Elyzza Aparicio has been selected to participate in the California State University Chancellor's Doctoral Incentive Program (CDIP) that will allow her to complete her Penn State degree while simultaneously being a part of the CSU process that prepares its scholars for careers in academia.
The Long Beach, California, resident is expected to complete her studies in the College of Education's Center for the Study of Higher Education in May 2019. In between, her acceptance into the CDIP will offer not only financial support but the opportunity for Aparicio to have additional mentorship and teaching experience, as well as presentations at conferences.
The program's intent is to increase the number of doctoral students applying for future California State University faculty positions by offering not only mentorship but financial assistance as well. Aparicio also is a Bunton Waller Scholar at Penn State, which is a fellowship designed to enhance diversity while covering tuition costs.
Aparicio earned her bachelor of arts degree in literatures and English from the University of California-San Diego and her master's degree in science in student development and higher education from California State University-Long Beach. What drew her to Penn State for a doctoral degree, she said, was the faculty.
"I'm working with (associate professor and senior research associate) Leticia Oseguera. I had been following her work and I had the opportunity to meet her at a few conferences; that was really one of the reasons why I wanted to come out to Penn State," Aparicio said.
"When I had the opportunity to visit, I got to meet all the other faculty, and that was also a big draw in terms of who was there when I joined the program. Dave Guthrie is one of my professors and one of my committee members for my dissertation, and Leticia is my adviser and she is my chair."
Aparicio said she is looking within her research for factors that contribute to underrepresented racial ethnic group students and those that participate and enter graduate research; she also is reviewing whether students in non-STEM fields participating in undergraduate research leads to higher degree aspirations or higher degree outcomes.
"Specifically, I want to look at these students at state comprehensive universities," Aparicio said. "State comprehensive universities are not like your R-1s, so I'm focusing on an institution like the California State University system. That's where I did my master's and that's where I was doing some work with some undergraduate research as a program coordinator and my interest lies with that type of institution."
CDIP-related responsibilities in addition to those within the College of Education program include teaching some lessons in a Cal State-Long Beach classroom, submitting papers to conferences, developing courses and beginning the basics of grant writing.
"As I have seen her work and her passions firsthand in the classroom, in association and collaboration with faculty and student colleagues, in her extant research and in her nascent dissertation efforts, one thing is clear: Elyzza is a gifted professional and scholar with a heart for and competency in numerous areas of higher education," Guthrie said.
Aparicio said another reason she chose to pursue higher education at Penn State was the environment.
"I don't get support from just my adviser, it's from other faculty," she said. "It's not even from my cohort, it's from cohorts who are after me, and who have been there before me who really help in terms that they can answer questions, help you with your research, and connect you with colleagues who are doing research in your area. It's been a really great community to be a part of."
The varying backgrounds of her Penn State colleagues was yet another tipping point for moving east for four years.
"My colleagues come from very different backgrounds," Aparicio said. "Not everybody necessarily is in education or has an education background, but because their career paths have taken them into this trajectory they have moved on into higher education.
"It's just been really great working with them and just learning … the ability to really take from the faculty as I move forward with my methods and being exposed to the teaching and what I hope to take on and implement when I move on."
She survived three Pennsylvania winters with "a good coat and lots of layers" and enjoys the seasonal changes, but the eventual objective would be to return to the Golden State.
"Ideally, I'm open," Aparicio said. "Faculty positions are tough to come by. I'm definitely open but the goal is to go back to California and I would particularly like to be at the CSU, if at all possible."
And there's the personal stake as well.
"I'd be the first in my family to complete a doctoral degree," she said. "Everything that my parents have done for me and my siblings. Even this move, to leave your family to go away. It's hard but they realize why I'm doing it and what it means to me. And with the end goal to come back to the institution at CSU that did a lot for me … as a researcher, as a scholar, and hopefully as a future faculty."