After I saw a presentation on URSP in my freshman year UNIV 100 class, I knew I wanted to participate in undergraduate research at Mason. The opportunity arose this past year when I worked as Dr. Bethany Usher’s research assistant. We got into a conversation one day about the SNAP (food stamp) cuts in Virginia, and she suggested I form a research project centered on my interest in federal aid. This past spring, I began an internship in a subsidized housing neighborhood, where I caught wind of an issue: people would struggle to gain employment or a promotion, only to be left worse off financially than they were when they were unemployed, because their higher income would eliminate their SNAP benefits. With Dr. Usher as my mentor, I began a research project that examined how the SNAP policy reduces the ability of recipients to become financially independent.
In a typical week, I spent most of my time scheduling interviews and compensation. Initially, I had trouble getting interviews. I soon reevaluated my recruitment techniques, and worked around the schedules of potential participants. This led to a few weeks where I spent a significant amount of time in the neighborhood, but my recruitment was very successful and I became a familiar face in the community. I knocked on doors and returned when people were free, and I spent a few later nights to accommodate individuals with different work schedules. A favorite moment in my research was when I had the opportunity to discuss my project at the neighborhood’s community meeting. I enjoyed getting to know the residents, and quite a few people came up to me afterwards to be interviewed.