Undergraduate Presents Research At Florida Capitol
by Jenny Ralph and Camille Shattler, University Communications, and COSSPP communications staff
A senior majoring in social science, international affairs and political science was one of four Florida State University undergraduates who presented their research to legislators at the Florida State Capitol, February 10.
Sabrina Mato presented “Splintering Off: Catalonia’s Search for Sovereignty.” Mato’s project is an analytical narrative that dissects Catalonia’s declaration of independence in 2017 through individual stakeholders’ lens and deciphers the international impact this referendum and self-governing movement has had on Spain.
The inaugural Undergraduate Research Posters at the Capitol was put on by the Florida Undergraduate Research Association (FURA) to provide a way for undergraduate students to engage directly in the political process.
Students presented their research posters in the Capitol from 10 a.m. to noon. They also had time for optional appointments with their local representatives in the afternoon and a chance to tour the Historic Capitol.
This year, more than 50 students from 15 institutions throughout Florida were represented. Each institution had the opportunity to bring up to four students.
“Students had the chance to share their research with legislative members from their respective districts, providing a chance to engage more directly in the political process, while also sharing how their engagement within undergraduate research has prepared them for future graduate school and career opportunities,” said Latika Young, director of the Center for Undergraduate Research and Academic Engagement at FSU. “It is our hope that this event will continue to demonstrate the importance of supporting undergraduate research as an educational practice that creates the leaders of tomorrow that we need in Florida and around the world.”
Cuban immigrant and first-generation university student Mato, a member of the 2019 Social Science Scholars cohort, was able to attend FSU with support from Center for Academic Retention and Enhancement (CARE), which offers disadvantaged first-generation students the resources and services they need to succeed. With an expected spring 2020 graduation date, Mato is grateful for the opportunities the CARE Program and the university offer her both locally and internationally as she pursues her dream of working in immigration law.
She has conducted research through Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program (UROP), as well as through the Gilman Scholarship and the Global Scholars Program, where she became the first FSU student to research rural life in India and the impact of education on the Garbhanga people.
Last summer, Mato researched the Catalonian Independence Movement. Catalonia is a region in northeastern Spain that declared its independence in 2017. However, the movement was declared illegal by the Spanish government soon after.
“The media portrayed the movement as a very explosive and triggering topic for many local people,” Mato said. “In my research I wanted to see what the people who lived there really thought.”
After receiving an IDEA grant for her thesis, she traveled around Spain, visiting Valencia, Barcelona and Catalonia to conduct more than 40 interviews with locals about their opinions on the secession. Mato finished out her summer in Madrid, Spain with the Lex Fellowship as a Social Science Scholar interning at several international law firms.
Mato also found several opportunities to develop her professional career in Tallahassee.
She worked at the State Capitol as an external affairs representative for the lobbyist of the PACE Center for Girls. In that role, she attended committee meetings and public hearings to write weekly reports on relevant legislation. She also helped coordinate the annual PACE day at the Capitol where all of the girls in every PACE center in Florida gather.