Hello! My name is Katelyn Bittinger and I am a Social Work major and Psychology minor. My URSP project for the Fall 2018 semester was focused on Mason’s program for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) and how the residential component of the program impacts a student’s independence and overall experience at Mason. As a first step, I decided that interviews would be the best way to find and analyze a student’s experience. Yet, before interviewing, the Institutional Review Board (IRB) must approve the study.
For the majority of the semester, I worked closely with my mentors and others from the program’s administration to make sure that my questions were asking what I wanted them to and methods for my study were ethical. This meant submitting for IRB, editing, adding, and amending my project. Even though the process was sometimes frustrating, I was so grateful for all the experience I received. Now, if someone even mutters IRB, I am ready to go.
I think the most important thing I learned this semester is that research, in theory, seems easy but in practice is sometimes (almost always) difficult. Truthfully, there were numerous times where I felt defeated and did not think I was going to be able to present something at the end of the year. If you are there right now, just keep going. In my journey with research this semester, I gained a great relationship with both of my mentors, learned more about my own work habits, and got a basis of what research looks like in my field. In the future, the things I learned during this process will continue to help me; in Social Work, I am not sure what population I want to focus on, but I know eventually I would like to go more into the policy-side which involves research. The opportunity OSCAR gave me through URSP is unique in its nature and taught me so much and I am forever grateful to them, my mentors, and everyone else who has supported me. This is just the beginning.