Thursday, January 17, 2013

Wrapped up in SRAP: Wyoming EPSCoR's Summer Research Apprentice Program Coordinator

 Earlier this fall we started a series of blogs about the EPSCoR office. The follow is part three of the series and focuses on SRAP Coordinator Lisa Abeyta. 

Lisa Abeyta, SRAP Coordinator
The Summer Research Apprentices Program (SRAP) is one of Wyoming EPSCoR’s longest and most well-known outreach programs. SRAP Coordinator, Lisa Abeyta, has an attachment to the program, not only because of the opportunities it offers high school students, but also because six years ago, she was a student in the program.
“It’s a different side of things being the coordinator because I was a student, then I was a staff member and now I’m planning everything,” Lisa says. “It’s kind of cool that I get to see that third aspect.”
Lisa had already been accepted to the University of Wyoming when she participated in the program. She worked in the Botany Department under Dr. Steve Jackson and with then post-doc Tom Minckley during her seven week stay (Minckley is now an associate professor and mentors a SRAP student every summer). While scientifically Lisa focused on comparing vegetation in two lakes by studying lake cores, personally it was the beginning of life away from home.
“SRAP was a transition stage for me so I could get my homesickness out of the way,” Lisa says. “I’m very close to my family.”
Despite her closeness with her family, Lisa wanted to go to college away from her hometown of Denver. She was a first-generation college-bound student and it had always been one of her dreams to go to a state university. She decided that moving away from home would help her stay motivated and focused on her studies.
“I needed a change of scenery,” Lisa said.
For many participants in the program, this is a familiar situation and one of the goals of SRAP is to help future college-bound students transition from high school to university. While students may not end up going into the specific field they work in during the program, they still gain valuable research experience as well as experience living on a college campus.
For Lisa, her experience in SRAP gave her a step-up for beginning a successful college career.  She began her undergraduate degree as a nursing major before switching to psychology.
“When I took psychology 1,000, I was just so intrigued by the brain and that’s just what kept me going,” Lisa says. “I didn’t want to do clinical. I wanted to learn about people and how they act and why they act the way they do. There is a social aspect of it and that’s what really drew me in.”
For two years of her undergraduate experience, Lisa worked as a SRAP staff member helping high school students through their own transition stages. Last year, Lisa took over the coordinator position and loves the new experiences it has offered.
“I like knowing all the students’ names before I meet them and then when I meet them I get to guess who they are,” Lisa says. “And it’s so nice to just finally see them, finally meet them after having their paperwork for three months.”
Lisa’s energy, creativity and multi-angle perspective about the program really bring it to life and help students feel comfortable connecting with each other and with their mentors. The program aims to build community, and Lisa plans activities that bring each SRAP group together.
“I really believe in this program,” Lisa says. “I really believe that what we have to offer can really benefit students and their families. Once a student comes through the program, I’m always available.”
Outside SRAP and EPSCoR, Lisa enjoys spending time outdoors. In the summer she likes to bike around Laramie or spend time fishing, camping and hiking in the Snowy Range Mountains and at Vedauwoo.  

By Kali S. McCrackin
Photo by Leah Yetter

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