Student blazes trails in research, education
by Melanie Zuercher
NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – Time management is crucial to a successful college career – and Bethel College senior Guadalupe Gonzalez of Newton is a perfect illustration.
Gonzalez juggles four campus jobs with completing two majors – business and psychology – in addition to putting countless hours into research that she has presented to peers from all over the United States.
And when Gonzalez graduates from college in May, she will be, as far as she knows, the first person in her extended family to do so.
“It’s been exciting,” she says, “but a lot of pressure. I have to set an example for my brother, my sister, my younger cousins.” Gonzalez’s sister, Azucena, is completing her first year at Bethel.
“But it’s been good, seeing that I can do it,” says Gonzalez, whom her friends call Lupita. “My family members are really happy for that. I’ll have family from Iowa and Chicago coming for graduation. My grandma is already here from Mexico.”
Gonzalez was born in Peoria, Ill. Her family moved frequently until settling in Newton in 2000 – they lived in Mexico and Texas, in Chicago and Los Angeles.
Gonzalez’s faculty mentor, Dwight Krehbiel, professor of psychology, describes her as “highly motivated, willing to go to a lot of trouble to get things done. She is bright and she is persistent. She’s very responsible in how she carries out her work.
“It’s a remarkable set of qualities,” he adds. “And it’s clear she gets a lot of encouragement.”
“My parents thought college was important,” Gonzalez says. “They’ve had to struggle a lot. I’ve had to see them work really hard. College was the ticket out of that [kind of] struggle. If I hadn’t gone to college, I would have had to get a job, like at a manufacturing plant, with not nearly so many opportunities for advancement.
“My parents were pushing for me to come to Bethel,” she says. “They thought it was a good school, with a good academic reputation.”
In addition, as a graduate of Newton High School, Gonzalez had Mennonite friends, three of whom decided to come to Bethel. Gonzalez did her Bethel campus visit along with those three.
“I liked that it was small and I was going to get one-on-one attention,” she says.
When she began at Bethel, “I was set on doing a business major. I didn’t wanting anything to do with science-related fields. But I took General Psychology [general education requirement] my first semester, with Dwight.
“I really enjoyed it, and he also tried hard to convince me to major in psychology. So I took another class, Cognitive Psychology. Looking back, that might not have been the best idea – it was a 300-level course, I was the youngest in the class. But I enjoyed it and did well. After that, I wanted to do psychology.”
“It was obvious from early on that Lupita was interested in psychology,” Krehbiel says. “She was always very engaged, and when an idea she was especially interested in was discussed, you could see her grow.”
However, “I didn’t want to quit business,” Gonzalez says, “especially after taking quite a few business courses my freshman year. I didn’t want to give up either one.
“After I took Cognitive Psychology, I saw how psychology could be applied to business settings. For example, one thing I looked at was decision-making. There are a lot of studies about how people make decisions – how they decide to buy certain kinds of stock, and so on.
“Psychology plays into that, why people do what they do, how people act. In one of my business classes [this semester], we were talking about motivating people and giving them incentives. We looked at Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, a psychology concept. Motivating employees to do a good job takes quite bit of psychology.”
The summer after her sophomore year, Gonzalez successfully applied for an REU (Research Experience for Undergraduates) at Oklahoma State University, where her research involved androgens (any natural or synthetic compound that stimulates or controls development and maintenance of male characteristics) and their effect on how the brain processes.
Her interest in brain processing led to her current work with word acquisition and differences in the right and left sides of the brain, which she will present at an undergraduate research symposium called Posters on the Hill (Capitol Hill) in Washington, D.C., April 27-29.
It won’t be her first time at a national event like this. Last summer, she did an REU at Washington University, St. Louis, researching second-language acquisition. At the end of the 10 weeks, she presented her research proposal at a national symposium in Connecticut.
Her summer research experiences made Gonzalez think “I wanted to go into research, academia – get a doctorate, do research, be a professor.” But classwork also got her interested in the field of public health.
So for her required business internship, she worked at the Harvey County Health Department.
“I did a lot of accounting and business-related things. I helped come up with a new policy for purchasing. They’re going to be moving to a different building next year so I helped with a moving project.”
In addition, she began to see how things she observed at the Health Department “fit with my psychology major. I [had taken] a Biopsychology and Health class, which focuses on public health. Biopsychology looks at how biology and psychology interact and how they affect our health.
“We usually think of just biological mechanisms when someone gets sick, but psychology plays a big role. We looked at stress – how it can affect your body, make you sick. We talked about how doctors don’t always pay attention to what patients are saying and think ‘they’re making it up,’ but there’s a point where what you believe becomes reality. It’s important to listen to patients and what they’re saying.
“I enjoyed the internship [at the Health Department], and it was a great experience,” she says, “but I still haven’t decided [which field to pursue]. I’m going to take a year off and I’ll see where I am – research or public health.”
She expects to spend that year preparing for and taking the GRE, applying for graduate school and perhaps finding a research job or an internship in public health.
But first she’ll enjoy commencement weekend at Bethel, May 17-18, and the presence of relatives from all over, come to help celebrate this important family milestone.
Bethel College is the only private, liberal arts college in Kansas listed in the 2013-14 Forbes.com analysis of top colleges and universities in the United States, and is the highest-ranked Kansas college in the Washington Monthly annual college guide for 2013-14. The four-year liberal arts college is affiliated with Mennonite Church USA. For more information, see www.bethelks.edu.