Project L/EARN: Graduates Reflect

Aug 21, 2012, 8:00 AM

Project L/EARN is an intensive, 10-week summer internship for undergraduate college students who are from socioeconomic, ethnic, and cultural groups that have been traditionally underrepresented in graduate education. The program, funded in part by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, provides students with training, experience and mentoring to make them stronger candidates for admission to graduate programs. Interns attend lecture sessions, complete Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) preparation, and work with mentors to write a research paper, which they present as a poster. This year’s program was held at the Institute for Health, Health Care Policy and Aging Research at Rutgers University. This is part of a series of posts where scholars who completed the program discuss the experience. Learn more about Project L/EARN.


Thomasina Anane
Hometown: Silver Spring, MD
Rising junior at Johns Hopkins University
Major: Public Health / Sociology
Internship Research Project: Goal-Striving Stress & Mental Health: Race and SES Variations

Human Capital Blog: Are there any insights about your Project L/EARN experience you’d like to share?

Thomasina Anane: Project L/EARN taught me two things. One: stop procrastinating and learn better time management skills and two: Project L/EARN is a lot like a 9 to 5. You can equate it to a work day. Having to wake up on time every day to be here has taught me the importance of how you present yourself as a professional who’s confident in what she’s doing. Just knowing what you’re doing and how people perceive you and your work. It’s added a sense of rigor to what I do. I’m definitely taking what I’m doing seriously. Project L/EARN has taught me the importance of what all this education means. In the future, being able to use what we learned and be confident and becoming the career person you want to be now. And I appreciate Project L/EARN for that.

HCB: What aspect of the Project L/EARN internship has been most helpful and why?

Anane: The most helpful aspect for me has been the small classroom setting with basically one-on-one help. I took a biostatistics course at school and it was a huge class, and I was totally lost. However, coming here and having that one-on-one, I wasn’t totally lost. I’ve learned so much about statistics, I actually like statistics now. It’s amazing to have that support and small classroom setting where you don’t feel dumb asking a question. I feel like I can go back, whether it be a public health or sociology course, and have a deeper understanding of statistics and how it relates to everything that we learn in those courses.

HCB: How does your Project L/EARN experience relate to or support your educational and professional goals?

Anane: Project L/EARN has solidified and helped me define more of what I want to do professionally and set career goals. Before Project L/EARN I wasn’t too sure of what I wanted to do. I knew I wanted to go into health policy, but I wasn’t quite sure if I should just do a masters or just research. And I wasn’t confident in research at all before this program. Project L/EARN has not only given me confidence but has definitely pushed me towards the research pathway. And I want to pursue a PhD now that I feel like I can actually do it. In terms of career goals, I still want to do work in health policy but I also want to have a solid grounding in research.


Laurent Reyes
Hometown: West New York, NJ
Rising senior at Rutgers University
Major: Women and Gender Studies, Social Work
Internship Research Project: The Importance of Relationships with Neighbors for the Well-Being of Midlife and Older Adults: Evidence from a U.S. National Study

Human Capital Blog: Are there any insights about your Project L/EARN experience you’d like to share?

Laurent Reyes: Working with the mentors proved to be a very valuable experience and was a key aspect of the program and it kept me motivated. I felt like I was really a part of my project and what I was building and she was there to help me.

Human Capital Blog: What did you expect before you arrived? How different is the reality?

Reyes: Before I arrived at Project L/EARN I expected it to be very rigorous and difficult program. But once I was in it I found out that it’s a structured program. I had a difficult time dealing with that at first, so it was very stressful. But it was good.

HCB: How does your Project L/EARN experience relate to or support your educational and professional goals?

Reyes: Project L/EARN changed the way that I think about research because before coming here I had very little knowledge of what it was. Now I know more about the process of research and how it’s evolved. I discovered I like qualitative research, so it’s opened my mind to research in different ways and different opportunities. In terms of grad school I think that I’m more inclined to look at PhD programs now. I think it may be something that I’d want to do. More specifically for my field of study which is women and gender studies.

This commentary originally appeared on the RWJF Human Capital Blog. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the authors.