Jennifer Acosta: Learning Through DukeImmerse

Part of the Senior Stories, Class of 2017 Series
Jennifer Acosta: “DukeImmerse gave me the opportunity to travel outside the U.S. for the first time,

Jennifer Acosta

Hometown: Polk City, FL
Double Major: Psychology; Global Cultural Studies 
Minor and any certificates: Child Policy Research Certificate
Clubs/Organizations: 1G (First Generation College Students) Student Network, Students for Education Reform (SFER), Duke Authenticity Project, Psi Chi
Favorite Duke memory: Seeing the chapel in person for the first time during early move-in my freshman year!

Jennifer Acosta used her personal experiences to guide her work at Duke and beyond. “My experience informs what I do and what I study,” she said. Jennifer participated in DukeImmerse’s Rights and Identities program in spring 2016, which held great personal appeal to Jennifer, who immigrated to the United States as a young child.

Exiled from Cuba for her father’s human rights activities, the family moved to New Jersey and then to a small town in rural Florida. Her research uses theory from Latino Studies to examine the ways in which psychology conceptualizes ethnic and racial identity. The daughter of working class parents, Jennifer will be the first in her family to graduate from a four-year college. “DukeImmerse gave me the opportunity to travel outside the U.S. for the first time,” she says. 

Her DukeImmerse work also helped Jennifer connect her study and research interests to her life. She gathered information about students who had immigrated to Durham and ones who had come to the U.S. and then returned to Mexico. Transcripts of interviews with N.C. farmworkers from Duke’s Rubenstein Library exposed her to the challenges of students who couldn’t attend public colleges in the state because they were not citizens. 

Jennifer immersed herself in other research as well, through two Bass Connections projects and work in the Leary Self, Emotion and Behavior Lab. She won the Bruner Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Research last fall in recognition of the work she did through The Duke Endowment-funded You@Duke Project, a longitudinal study on college students’ feelings of belonging on campus. She will continue in this vein as a research assistant for Natasha Cabrera at the University of Maryland--College Park for a year, then will enroll in graduate school. 

Read more about Jennifer.