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Undergraduate Researchers

Yekaterina Pidgurskaya

Yekaterina Pidgurskaya, MLLI

McNair Scholar

“Immigrant Voices: Central Americans’ Perception of Constraints in the Assimilation Process”

For this research I apply Alejandro Portes’ theories of context of reception and segmented assimilation to Central American immigrants to determine what is the path of assimilation that this population will follow. A survey of Central American residents of Maryland and Virginia, which focuses on the immigrants’ perception of their own situation, will assess their understanding of their economical, political and social circumstances and how they affect integration into the U.S. community. It is my hypothesis that if Central Americans are received in a negative context of reception, that their assimilation into the U.S. community will lead to lack of economic advancement. This study could bring some interesting insight for policy-makers when predicting immigration trends and whether they should use immigrants to their advantage in future policies and political support. The participants who experienced an overall negative context of reception and are now struggling financially to maintain the basic standards of living they expected to have before they left their countries of origin. If the DREAM Act becomes law, it can provide Central American immigrants educational and employment opportunities not as easily realized in the past.


When did you join the Ronald E. McNair (REM) program?

I joined the McNair program in the spring semester of 2011.

How did you find out about McNair?

I found out about McNair from a friend who was also planning to apply.

What have you gained from being a McNair scholar?

Being a McNair scholar helped me learn to handle homework in addition to doing research on my own. The program still helps me plan for my future, providing resources to research potential graduate schools and jobs that I could apply for. Additionally, I gained a wonderful group of friends and some memorable experiences that I otherwise would never be able to have.

What is your most recent independent research project?

My current research project is on Central American immigrants: how they perceive their job and lifestyle circumstances and whether their expectations of immigrating to the United States have been fulfilled. In the future I plan to focus on other groups of immigrants.

How did you find your mentor for this project?

I found my mentor by asking for referrals from professors with whom I have had classes with. One of my very recent professors told me that Dr. Sara Poggio would be a great mentor because her research was on immigration as well. After she agreed to be my mentor, she was and still remains one of my biggest supporters in my research process.

How did you know this was the project you wanted to do?

I was interested in immigration because of my personal experience. I arrived to the United States in 2000 with my parents, and have experienced many things that immigrants of any country go through, especially the process of obtaining a citizenship. These experiences, as well as my love for learning new languages guided my research interests to what I am doing as my project now. I am interested in learning how groups of people from different countries experience their arrival and adjustments while living in a new country.

How much time do you put into it?

In a way, I put a lot of time in my project because the topic is constantly on my mind. Everything I see I can basically relate to the subject of immigration. The research project is not just about writing the paper. It is about scheduling meetings with my mentor, reading numerous articles and keeping up with the news on immigration, as well as formulating the methodology of obtaining the data to prove hypotheses. I could feel accomplished about my project just by talking to my mentor about what sort of questions I could ask in an interview, or reading up on other immigration groups and their adjustments in the United States. There are so many levels of doing my research that I feel like I never stop putting time into it.

What academic background did you have before you started?

I received an Associate of Arts in International Relations from Montgomery College in 2010. Since then, I have pursued Political Science as a minor, and putting Russian and Spanish languages as my majors. I am interested in linguistics and communication with different languages. Learning languages does not just mean learning the linguistics; it involves learning history and culture of the people who speak the language as well. The topic of immigration in the United States definitely ties in political science (particularly immigration and foreign policies) as well as cultural and linguistic adjustments of the people who arrive into the country.

How much did your mentor help you with your research?

If I had to describe the help and advice I receive from my mentor with my research, I would say that Dr. Poggio is the one person who keeps me level-headed. Meetings with Dr. Poggio provide me with a sense of direction: I know what I have to do, what I have to work on, and what I have to plan to do in the future. She is always there when I need advice, and her sense of honesty and clear mindedness helped me learn about myself and how exciting a research project can be. She taught me responsibility in addition to many lessons about life in general, like how to remain calm during times of hardship.

What has been the hardest part about your research?

The hardest part of research has been getting the methodology approved by the Institutional Review Board (IRB), creating the questionnaire for interviews, and actually finding people for the interviews. It has been very time consuming, and it is highly probable that conducting interviews themselves will take a long time as well. It is also hard to be able to include all the articles I read about into the literature review without getting off topic.

What is your advice to other students about getting involved in research?

My advice is to make sure that you know exactly what you are doing for your research. If you know you need to do something that is time consuming like getting IRB approval, do it as soon as possible. Do not leave things to be done on the last day before the deadline. Lastly, find things that you are truly interested in as potential research projects: if your heart is not in it, then it is harder to put effort into the work.

What are your career goals?

My career goals involve working in the government, particularly Department of Homeland Security, Department of Defense. I would be interested in working as a translator or have a position in the United Nations, as well.


7/10/2012