Professor Rocío Rosales considers the mentors who guided her during her undergraduate years to be a vital part of her continuing success, and she considers it a high priority to offer the same support to the next generation of student researchers. She looks for students who have research interests similar to hers and who are motivated to become deeply engaged in their projects. Professor Rosales stresses the importance for each student to find research projects in which they are highly interested; that passion will help keep them motivated through the natural roadblocks that are part of any research endeavor. UROP is pleased to highlight professor Rosales for her dedication to fostering undergraduate research at UC Irvine.

1. How did you develop an interest in mentoring undergraduate research or creative projects, and what type of projects have you directed?

I benefited from great mentors as an undergraduate student. These mentors pushed me to conduct my own research, helped me apply for travel grants, and guided me through the process of analyzing data so that I could produce, not only consume, knowledge. I went to graduate school because I had great undergraduate mentors. Now, as a faculty member, I want to do the same for students who have that intellectual curiosity. UROP is incredibly useful in this process; the program helps find those students and facilitates the mentorship.

The types of projects I direct are often focused on my own research interests, broadly defined. I have overseen projects on ethnic entrepreneurship comparing practices between Mexican-American and Cuban-American small business owners, access to health care among mixed legal status families, and on the complex system of immigrant detention and deportation.

2. What do you look for and what are your expectations of undergraduates you select to conduct research under your guidance?

Undergraduate students who would like to work with me should have comparable research interests and be very self-motivated. In some cases students come to me with a clear understanding of what they want to study; others have general interests and we work together to think of a research project that is feasible and interesting.

More recently, I recruited highly motivated undergraduate students to work on a research project on immigrant detention and deportation. I wanted students who were deeply engaged with the subject matter because it was a major time commitment that required both an intellectual and emotional investment. I looked for students who were strong writers and reliable; they met with me for weekly team meetings, accompanied me (and a graduate student) to conduct interviews, and had to write incredibly detailed field notes after each visit.

3. Describe your level of engagement and style in mentoring undergraduates.

I am a relatively new faculty member and am continually learning how to engage with and mentor students. I’ve found that each student requires a different style, but I try to meet with my students regularly and I make them constantly write about their work (memos, field notes, drafts of papers). These writing assignments serve multiple purposes: students can think through problems by writing, I can see their progress, and they become more skilled writers in the process. I am a bit hands-on with undergraduate students because I recognize that research is difficult and can have many pitfalls. Students will inevitably confront problems with the research, whether it is difficulty tracking down respondents for interviews or having problems writing up their analysis. I want them to feel comfortable telling me about those problems (as opposed to trying to solve them on their own or being overly anxious about it).

4. In your experience, how have your students improved or benefited as a result of their undergraduate research experience?

The students I work with do qualitative research and there is an expectation that they take the skills they acquire in the classroom into the outside world and vice versa. Sometimes students see the university and the outside world as distinct spaces and they need not be. The struggle is to make students see themselves in the work and research that universities produce with the hopes that some of them will join the ranks of the professoriate.

I work with many who are first generation college students; this is not surprising since more than half of all UCI undergrads are the first in their family to attend college. I also work with many Latino students, likely because of my research interests or my own ethnic background or because UCI has an undergraduate student body that is over 20 percent Latino.

When I mentor these students, I want them to develop their own voice within the academic world. I want them to think like scholars and produce meaningful scholarship for the discipline and themselves. The professoriate can be a bit homogenous in terms of race/ethnicity and socioeconomic class. The best benefit undergraduates experience from these research experiences is the capacity to see themselves as scholars, to believe that being a professor is a realistic goal.

5. What have you learned or benefited from guiding undergraduate research or creative projects?

My undergraduate students are making me a better teacher and scholar. Sometimes when they confront issues in the field, we work through the problem together. These thought exercises sometimes help me in my own research as well. I know we, as professors, are supposed to be experts, but we never stop being students.

6. What recommendations and advice would you give students embarking on undergraduate research or creative projects?

Students should think carefully and thoughtfully about the issues they care about before undertaking research or creative projects. It is important to do research on topics that matter to you. Inevitably, researchers will hit roadblocks and the only thing that carries you past them is a passion for what you are doing.

Research Interests: Immigration, Latino/a Sociology, Ethnic Entrepreneurship, Ethnographic Research Methods

Faculty Profile:


Past Faculty Mentors of the Month

Dec. '16 Miryha Gould Runnerstrom
Nov. '16 Allison Perlman
Oct. '16 John Billimek
Sep. '16 Wayne B. Hayes
Aug. '16 Aimee Lara Edinger
Jul. '16 Katherine Mackey
Jun. '16 Daniel Whiteson
May. '16 Wirachin Hoonpongsimanont
Apr. '16 Michael T. Goodrich
Mar. '16 Lonnie R. Alcaraz
Feb. '16 Kimberley D. Lakes
Jan. '16 Rocío Rosales