Maria Escobar's SPUR Reflection

Maria’s SPUR Experience

Feature ImageI still remember the way I felt when I first learned about stereotype threat and the self-fulfilling prophecy. It was like there was a sense of understanding on a general and personal level. It was then that I became fascinated with the field of social psychology. Social psychology is fascinating because it involves understanding the mental processes associated with social situations, many that we do not think twice about but play such a vital role in our society. 

I recently spent eight weeks at the University of Calgary in Alberta, Canada as part of the SPSP SPUR program. In March, I anxiously applied to the SPUR program not having the slightest idea of what was going to come of it. As I read the series of descriptions of professors’ research interests, my head began to spin from excitement. For the first time, I was hearing terms like self-stereotyping and was being exposed to research outside of the research I had learned in class. I was so excited I began googling participating mentors’ work. I imagined myself learning about ways to combat racism, sexism, and xenophobia, among many other negative aspects of society from experts in the field. In May, SPSP and Dr. Cara MacInnis made that possible.

For the first time in my educational career, I was completely immersed in social psychology. I was exposed to new and relevant research that I would have otherwise not been exposed to. Dr. Cara MacInnis introduced me to ideas that I hadn’t thought about like prejudice and discrimination towards vegans and vegetarians and mind-blowing concepts like the overview effect. The overview effect was first observed by astronauts who reported a sense of protection for the world and all of its inhabitants, as well as other positive outcomes such as a dissolution of boundaries. Dr. Cara MacInnis is currently examining if these same positive outcomes can be created by simulating the overview effect in a lab setting.

During the SPUR program, I attended weekly SPSD (social psychology and social developmental) and lovelab meetings in which professors and students presented their current and past work. I was asked to present my thesis. Although it was an intimidating opportunity, I feel lucky to have had the opportunity to present my working thesis. The feedback I received was invaluable. For the first time, I was surrounded by people who not only understood the concepts I was writing about but were passionate about them. I was surrounded by individuals who lived, breathed, and dreamt about ways to create a more socially educated and open minded society.

I went to Calgary excited but scared if I was capable of what lay ahead in the SPUR program as well as graduate school. I left the program with the experience that makes me a little more confident about applying to graduate school and about conducting relevant research at a graduate level. I left the university encouraged and excited to learn about and discover new methods to combat everyday adversities.

For this, I thank SPSP, Dr. Cara MacInnis, and everyone who helped make the SPUR program possible.