Social work students share how they found their research
The VCU School of Social Work’s Victoria Cashio, a second-year Ph.D. student, and Paloma Rodriguez, a junior B.S.W. student, were recently featured in VCU News’ “How I found my research” series.
Cashio, a commissioned behavioral health science officer in the U.S. Army, focuses on promoting equality and well-being for people who identify within the gender-diverse community. “The socialization of the gender binary has negative impacts on all of us, but within the transgender-gender-diverse community, these social norms perpetuate stigma, discrimination and resultant health disparities,” she says.
She cites the support and mentorship through the Ph.D. Program and social work faculty. “One of the most valuable mentorship experiences I have had is in my graduate research assistantship. My faculty mentor, Dr. Jamie Cage, has been a great model for leading team-based research, maintaining community partnerships and demonstrating the skills and tools to stay organized throughout the research process, which isn’t always clearly defined and always evolving with technological advances.”
Rodriguez’s work focuses on understanding cultural processes and experiences and impacts on psychological, educational and health outcomes/disparities, and she has a position with the STAR Empower Youth Lab in the VCU Department of Psychology. “Working with oppressed families and their children to better develop meaningful, collaborative, community-engaged research that promotes positive family and youth development has always been important to me,” she says. “My research over the summer with the VCU GREAT program let me expand into a demographic I would like to focus on: Latine and Black young adults and the factors that affect their mental health.
She credits mentors in psychology: Dr. Chelsea Williams, Dr. Arlenis Santana, Dr. Amy Adkins; and Dr. Herb Hill with the provost’s office. “All have been highly supportive, creating positive environments and being understanding with any questions we may have,” Rodriguez says. “They all were extremely helpful when developing my first research project and poster, which my colleagues and I will present at the Florida SEPA conference.”
What advice do the two have for undergraduates interested in research?
- Cashio: “Take opportunities to do research as early in their educational journey as possible. … This early experience can make research seem less intimidating and provide an opportunity to practice more abstract concepts they are learning in the classroom.”
- Rodriguez: “Take that first step, take that work-study research position, or start your own research question and take the risk to find the answers.”