Student Researcher Q&A: Britt Samaras on Parenting Workers and Learners

Students in the Labor Studies Interdepartmental Program are able to conduct independent research through LBR STD 199 – Directed Research in Labor and Workplace Studies. This contracted course consists of supervised individual research under the guidance of a faculty mentor and requires a culminating paper or project. Labor studies and gender studies double major Britt Samaras conducted her research on Parenting Workers and Learners with Professor Janna Shadduck-Hernandez as her faculty mentor. Learn about her research experience below!

1. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your research interests? 

I’m a single mother of 4 children and I’ve been researching the unique challenges faced by parenting students who have to work while they attend institutions of higher education.

2. What is one notable finding from your research?

Many parenting students have a difficult time providing for their children with the funding limitations used by universities (caps on Pell Grants, University Grants, Scholarships, Parenting Grants, etc.). UCLA specifically will not disburse funding over their “Cost of Attendance” despite this amount not being anywhere near enough to cover the actual cost of living in Los Angeles. This amount also does not take into account the number of dependents that a student may have to provide for. This funding cap forces parenting students to find alternate means of funding (part- or full-time jobs) to survive that ultimately become a detriment to their work, school, and home responsibilities.

3. How was your experience conducting independent research remotely? 

Since this was my first time conducting an independent research project, it was challenging. I was participating in two other programs (URFP and UndocuBruins) which had a graduate school component as well, which added an additional challenge in terms of keeping up with the assignments and the research. However, I had great mentors throughout this project, my faculty mentor Abel and the cohort coordinator for UndocuBruins, Josefina have made this project enjoyable despite the challenges.

4. What skills have you learned from your independent research experience?

I’ve learned how to conduct interviews, transcribe, conduct surveys, code responses, conduct literature reviews, and so much more.

5. What advice would you give others who are considering pursuing their own independent research project?

I’d say to go for it. Find a topic that you’re really passionate about, ask around in your department to see if there is a faculty member that has already had experience with research in the topic, and start your research journey. Find the gaps in research and fill those in with your own.

6. What’s the most fulfilling part of working on your project?

The most fulfilling part of my project was speaking to other parents who are going through similar experiences and being able to compile those testimonies into a cohesive project. It felt very validating, like I’m not the only one who’s experiencing these hardships.