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In Case You Missed It: Picture an Immigrant Social Scientist

October 27, 2023

What do Adrianne Cavallini of psychology, Ricardo Vernet of political science, and Olga Stoddard of economics all have in common? They each immigrated to the United States, have had to navigate challenges
along on their journey, and are incredible social scientists.

On October 5th, 2023, students and faculty gathered to hear from these three social scientists who have achieved great success and paved new paths in their fields.

Moderated by Associate Dean Niwako Yamawaki, an immigrant herself, panelists were first asked what internal or external barriers they faced. Responses included language barriers, an adjustment to a new culture, and feeling isolated; they missed the support system of family and friends that were left behind.

Stoddard mentioned feeling "imposter syndrome," adding that this disconnect was especially strong in her professional career.

"Doubting my own accomplishments, doubting my own skills, feeling like maybe I don't belong and just kind of wondering whether at some point it's going to be found out that I'm not as smart or as qualified as I made it out to be."

However, despite struggles all three have experienced, they were quick to positively answer the next question, “What are the strengths of a social scientist?”

Their responses included ideas such as the asset that language skills can be in research and in interacting with others as well as how a broadened perspective and greater variety of experiences can help their students.

"I'm able to draw on my own experiences to help my students," said Vernet, "and that makes me a better, more well-rounded teacher.”

All three professors encouraged immigrant students to work hard and build up a community where they all can feel welcomed and supported.

"Pursue your passion and aim high,” encouraged Cavallini, “because I think as immigrants, you're more likely to encounter barriers. If you don't aim high, you may not even get close to where you want to be, but the higher you get the better!"

Vernet advised students to leave the places they go better than they were before and to create a community that can become a place of belonging for them.

In response to feeling torn between two cultures, Stoddard added, "Taking the best out of what you left and building on that, not diminishing everything that you left behind because there was good and there were things that made you who you are, there are things that you identify with and that are part of you and will always be a part of you."

All three panelists also shared how the Savior has played a significant part in each of their experiences.

Stoddard explained that "One beautiful perspective of the gospel is that to God, we are not white or black or immigrants. Americans or not Americans. We are all valued equally. He loves us each and loves us
personally and individually, and that's been a strength to me."

Image of Adrianne Cavallini, Ricardo Vernet, and Olga Stoddard

Vernet expanded, "What gave me the courage to continue to fight and continue to work hard is the fact that I know there's One that has descended more than anyone, and that's what gives me the hope and the strength to keep going."

Cavallini added, "If you're trying to follow the promptings of the Spirit as you're pursuing your career, you will be blessed. When I look at my whole career and see how several things fell into place that I myself could never have designed it-when you look at how things fell into place it can only be because of the Lord's hand."

These brilliant immigrant professors truly are a beacon of inspiration to immigrant students. Students that, someday, will be immigrant social scientists themselves, so long as they face cultural barriers bravely, know they are not alone, find a community, use their unique experiences to their advantage, and rely on the Savior.

For upcoming events in the college, visit the social sciences website!