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Psychology Senior America Romero Awarded Pre-Doctoral Fellowship Aimed at Preparing Future CSU Faculty

By Sophia Lincoln

Psychology senior America Romero is one of two Cal Poly students who have been selected as pre-doctoral fellows through the California State University's (CSU) Sally Casanova Scholars Program.

America Romero
America Romero

The program features one-on-one guidance provided by a faculty member from the student’s respective college and may include participation in research, visits to doctoral-granting institutions and travel to a national symposium or professional meeting and related activities, according to their site.

Romero will work alongside faculty advisor Kelly Bennion, an assistant professor in the Psychology and Child Development Department.

“I think the reason [Romero] designated me as her faculty mentor is because [she] has been working with me for about a year in my research lab and also her interests happen to be very similar to mine,” Bennion said. “So, I was extremely excited when she told me she wanted to pursue a Ph.D. in cognitive psychology and specifically that she wanted to study memory because that is my area of expertise as well.”

Romero has worked with Bennion before both through the BEACoN Mentoring program and as a lead research assistant in Bennion’s lab.

“Not only does she collect data on memory studies and enter the data and analyze it, but I also lean on her to help communicate with my other research assistants so that she can help organize, or manage, my lab,” Bennion said.

Romero will continue working in Bennion’s lab for the 2020-21 academic year where she may conduct her own experiment for her senior project and also gain guidance from Bennion as her designated faculty mentor for the program.

Additionally in the fall, Romero will have the opportunity to help present her and Bennion’s findings at virtual conferences. Bennion also hopes to help Romero find and apply to a doctoral program that matches her interests and perhaps help her find a lab to work in over the summer.

“Ultimately, I would also really like to just continue to mentor America in just professional development even after she graduates,” Bennion said.

Romero is interested in pursuing a doctorate in cognitive neuroscience and plans to use her fellowship to learn more about different doctoral programs, to become more involved in the research aspects of her doctoral aspirations and to obtain financial support for application fees.

“America is extremely impressive,” Bennion said. “I very rarely have a student who does so much external research to figure out everything she needs to know not only about Ph.D. programs and grad school but also opportunities like the Sally Casanova Scholarship.”

Romero is also involved as a Scholar Mentor in the Cal Poly Scholar’s Program and has spoken on several panels for the Psychology and Child Development Department.

“I’m really grateful for this opportunity and to be able to continue the mentor-mentee relationship with Dr. Bennion,” Romero said. “I am a [first-generation] student so, to me, all of this is unchartered territory. It’s super helpful to have someone as incredibly helpful as she is to guide me through the process.”

The Sally Casanova Scholars Program aims to support the doctoral aspirations of CSU students who have faced economic or educational disadvantages. The program is intended for students who are interested in becoming CSU faculty members after achieving their degrees.

“As a first-gen, Latinx student it is hard navigating higher education, so it’s been super exciting that I have this opportunity,” Romero said.

Graduate student Ashlee Hernandez from Cal Poly’s School of Education’s Higher Education Counseling and Student Affairs program was also selected as a pre-doctoral fellow for the program. Hernandez and Romero are the first Cal Poly students to be selected for the Sally Casanova Scholar’s Program since the 2014-15 academic year.

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