July 2016
Erin Cournoyer '14 is on a path to a doctoral degree in Sociology
Throughout the course of her education, Erin Cournoyer supported herself with a series of part-time jobs, including tutoring, waitressing, temping, researching, editing, and working as a program monitor at a women's halfway house. Her work in the halfway house set Cournoyer on her doctoral path. "After working as a program monitor at a women's halfway house, I was inspired to continue researching the problems women encounter when they return to the community post-incarceration," said the 2014 Crime & Justice Studies alumna. "I will always remember the stories and struggles of the women I met while working there."
In her most recent position as a doctoral candidate in Sociology at UMass Boston, Cournoyer uses her passion as the foundation for her doctoral studies. She's completed one year in the program, and she is now beginning her own research project, which is funded by Larry J. Siegel fellowship. "My current project will follow reentering women over the course of two years to see how their stay at a halfway house impacted their journey in addition to conducting an institutional ethnography of the halfway house itself," Cournoyer said. "I am also working closely with the staff to implement a "graduation" ceremony at the halfway house in the form of a restorative circle."
During her undergraduate years at UMass Dartmouth, Cournoyer had many opportunities and experiences that helped her secure her path to success. "My professors were incredibly caring and supported me when I decided not to go to law school," she said. "Through long conversations in office hours and innumerable e-mails, they helped me create a path to career opportunities out of my simple desire to 'help people.'" For Cournoyer, UMass Dartmouth was the best choice. It was the place where her dreams started to come true.
Professor Nancy O'Connor creates the only marine biology REU site
After weeks of preparation, Professor Nancy O'Connor is finally watching her project come to life. The Biology professor was awarded a $343,070 grant through the National Science Foundation's (NSF) Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) Site Grant Program to provide hands-on research opportunities for young undergraduate researchers and scientists.  "I want students to be able to develop as scientists and as professionals," said O'Connor, who is principal investigator for this project. "I also want them to learn how to translate their research for a non-scientist."  During the course of the 10 weeks, the students will learn how research is conducted and keep blogs of their work. Many will be invited to present the results of their work at scientific conferences at the end of the summer.

Besides conducting their own research, the "Integrative Marine Biology for the 21st Century" project provides students with weekly workshops that focus on research proposal development, research ethics, and career preparation. As an added component, the students travel to New Bedford to experience the rich fishing history that exists in the heart of the city. "I really wanted to embed the students into the New Bedford community, so they can learn about the history of the fishing industry and the Whaling Museum," O'Connor said. "They will learn about New Bedford and share their experiences when they return home."

Professor O'Connor has a lot in common with her 10 REU students. O'Connor, a 1980 UMass Dartmouth alumna, participated in a REU program as an undergraduate. Her professor at the time, Dr. O'Brien, recognized O'Connor's aptitude for science, and he recommended an REU site at Duke University. O'Connor applied, got the placement, and as a result spent a summer in Duke's marine lab. "The experience helped me realize how much I loved research," she said. "I wanted to duplicate that for students."
It's time to shine the spotlight
Soon, freshmen will flock to campuses around the country. Some of them will experience college for the first time. And some of them, thanks to the UMass Dartmouth College of Arts and Sciences Spotlight Program, have already experienced college. The Spotlight Program brings high school students to campus and allows them to participate in weekly enrichment activities, courses, and a field trip. Lee Blake, the director of the program, views the program as a bridge to higher education. "The Spotlight program gives high school students a good sense of the atmosphere, requirements, and excitement of college," Blake said. "It helps create a bridge for high school students."
For over 30 years, more than 4,000 high school students have learned about the path they need to take to meet their educational goals. They visit the university ready to debate, explore, question, experiment, and analyze. They get the chance to listen to presentations by artists, musicians, writers, community activists, politicians, business executives, and scientists. They even get to participate in 4-week mini courses, such as genealogy, clay workshop, songwriting, beginner guitar, and creative writing. "We want to show students that there are many different pathways for them to access college," Blake said. "The program provides information to students about other opportunities."
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