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Two University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa students are getting real-world learning experiences while helping to teach current educators thanks to a key resource from the UH Mānoa Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP) called the Student Opportunity Center (SOC).

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David Royer

For the past three years, UH Mānoa College of Education Assistant Professor David Royer has been hosting a professional learning series to help educators build knowledge, skill sets and confidence in supporting students with challenging behaviors. Royer thought the series had the potential to be turned into a research project for students.

He advertised the opportunity on the SOC. It is a one-stop shop for student research and creative work opportunities. Jessica Lau and Vanessa Liang saw the posting and reached out to Royer to get involved.

“Jessica and Vanessa have surpassed my expectations in their level of commitment and support, attention to detail, how much I can trust them to work with sensitive information, or give them a direction after some mentoring and know that it’s going to be carried out perfectly,” Royer said.

Lau and Liang serve as project co-coordinators for the professional learning series called Project KUALIMA. They perform a variety of tasks, such as distributing and analyzing session evaluation data and project surveys, grading and giving feedback on assignments for participants, and answering questions regarding sessions and assignments.

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Jessica Lau

Lau, a junior psychology major looking to complete a master’s degree through the bachelor’s and master’s program for educational psychology said, “I am able to network with people who have interests in the same ones that I would like to develop. I’ve always had a curiosity for research projects and the analysis and application of data, while also seeking a hands-on interpersonal experience with others. Project KUALIMA has allowed me to balance those curiosities, test the waters before truly committing to a career pathway, and helped me solidify what I wanted to do even further.”

Royer, Lau and Liang, along with PhD student Roxanne Bristol, administered four sessions virtually since September 2020. Royer said each session has averaged 100 participants and the high turnout is attributed to the online format this year. Their final session on April 20, 5–7 p.m., will cover the topic of supporting students with internalizing behavior patterns. Visit the website to register, and see the team’s flyer for more information (PDF).

Liang, a senior double majoring in psychology and sociology said, “This experience has definitely shaped what I want to do in the future. My passions lie in learning more about children and their perceptions of the world. I definitely think I am more interested in learning about the individual student rather than the system that is put in place to help students in education. By going through this process of research with Project KUALIMA, I know now that this topic is the topic I’m interested in studying.”

More on the Student Opportunity Center

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Vanessa Liang

SOC is a searchable database with thousands of online opportunity listings, including research and creative work positions, internships, co-ops, conferences and more. It is provided by UROP in the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research. Access is open to all UH Mānoa undergraduate students, faculty and staff. UROP has extended its contract with SOC until 2023, providing free access 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

SOC has two main databases: a national database of opportunities curated by using the latest technology to search the internet for thousands of listings, and a UH Mānoa-specific database. Faculty can post their positions on the database, tagging listings by relevant majors, and students can use the database to search for listings. Students who subscribe to those specific majors will get notifications when a new listing is posted.

For more information, visit UROP’s SOC website.

“Taking that initial spark when exploring the SOC and sending that email, applying for that position and meeting up is the best advice I can give,” Lau said. “There’s no need to contemplate or set your mind on a certain possibility because the more you explore, the merrier!”

This program is an example of UH Mānoa’s goal of Excellence in Research: Advancing the Research and Creative Work Enterprise (PDF), one of four goals identified in the 2015–25 Strategic Plan (PDF), updated in December 2020.

—By Marc Arakaki

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