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- UROP Associate Director Catalina Ormsby Receives Distinguished Diversity Leaders Award
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- Thirty Years of UROP: Explore More
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- A two-way street: UROP Peer Facilitators support first-year, second-year, and transfer students in their research and academics — and learn from them in the process
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I received my Bachelors of Science in Economics and Bachelors of Science in International Business from Saint Louis University. Then I went on to receive a Masters of Science in International and Development Economics from the University of San Francisco before joining the University of Michigan. I have experience conducting fieldwork and research on development economics issues. Currently, I am preparing myself in the pursuit of applying for PhD programs in Economics. My long-term trajectory is to pursue research positions focused on development research aimed at improving quality of life for those born into poverty.
Currently, I am apart of a team of researchers conducting ongoing fieldwork in central and northern Mozambique. Initially, we began with the evaluation of USAID's PEPFAR program in Mozambique to improve HIV testing and ART adherence for communities with households with orphans and vulnerable children. This covers some four thousand households over the past five years for over thirty thousand individuals. Following this initial evaluation, we have expanded our research to encompass a larger scope. This includes evaluating the impact that Cyclone Idai (the largest cyclone to make landfall in African history) in 2019 has had on the livelihoods and attitudes of our respondents. Most recently, as a result of restrictions to in-person household visits, we have adapted to conducting over-the-phone surveys to measure the impacts that COVID-19 has had on our communities. Additionally, we have introduced novel interventions aimed at improving social distancing practices and knowledge of COVID-19 in these communities. Our hopes are to continue to this multi-year panel project and implement further randomized treatment arms to measure the health, education, behavioral, and welfare outcomes for this population. We are in the processing of revamping our research website, but I would highly encourage anyone interested in this work to visit the following site: https://fordschool.umich.edu/mozambique-research
What attracted you to this work/field/topic?
When I was an undergraduate, I was fortunate enough to participate in an immersion and volunteer effort to Belize City, Belize. This was my first exposure to a context with a very dysfunctional economic system. Along with my interest in microeconomics, this experience drove a passion for compassion for humanitarianism which I still hold today. I found that my comparative advantage in contributing to the efforts of improving economic quality of life was through research. I remain quite passionate to use my platform as a researcher to provide insights that may alleviate the economic struggles imposed at an early age for so many.
What led you to become a mentor to undergraduate students?
I enjoy providing an outlet for young researchers to flourish. I decided to mentor undergraduate students through UROP, alongside Dean Yang and James Allen IV, to provide an opportunity for undergraduate students to get hands on experiences with economic research that is simply infeasible to experience through the classroom setting. Since taking on a UROP student, I have been very satisfied with the experience and love to see the development and growth in a young researcher who can begin to ask critical questions of their own.
How do students contribute to your work?
We have tasked our UROP student, Chenhao Yu, to assist us in the two key areas of our research. First, we tasked him with assistance on our school enrollment analysis. Having collected enrollment files for 76 schools in our study area, Chenhao assisted with double data entry of school enrollment by classroom for the 2020 school year. Using this information along with school enrollment from 2016 through 2020, Chenhao is support our analysis of the impact that changes to school policy and Cyclone Idai has had on school enrollment for our population. Second, we have tasked Chenhao with assisting our COVID-19 data collection. A key measure of heterogeneity for our treatment arms has been the cumulative count of COVID-19 cases dis-aggregated by locality. Unfortunately, this dis-aggregated information has been particularly difficult to obtain. Chenhao, in coordination with our team in the field, have been monitoring and cataloguing this information for it's pertinent application in our timely research.
What has been the most valuable lesson you have learned mentoring undergraduate students?
I have learned that a second pair of eyes is always better than one. My UROP student has been able to bring attention to potential inquiries and different angles in viewing my work. As a result, I have an invaluable asset on our team who provides a fresh lens in reviewing our work.
What do you think is the key to a successful mentoring relationship or what is your favorite thing about mentoring?
I think trust is a crucial component to a successful mentoring relationship. While you cannot expect your mentee to be 100% competent at new tasks immediately after they have been assigned, allowing for a degree of confidence in their ability to learn and adapt provides a flexibility in the detail and scope of work they can be incorporated into.
What advice do you have for current UROP students?
Continue to pursue the interesting questions. Drive into the data to find the questions the need answering, and whose conclusion may not be obvious at first.
Do you have advice for future UROP mentors?
Try many different avenues of research. You won't know what may spark your excitement! Similarly, it is best to find out early what type of work you don't find palatable.