Meet Valeria Rigobon
Anticipated Graduation Date: Summer 2023
Major: Developmental Psychology
Agency: International Dyslexia Association
Social issue: Education, Access to Resources, Disabled/Underrepresented Populations
Location of service: Baltimore, MD, USA
- What would you tell others who were thinking of applying for the Moellership program?
- Do your research! The more you're able to show that you know about your organization and how its goals align with yours, the more confident you can feel about conveying your passion and ideas to other people.
- What are you looking forward to the most this summer?
- In working with IDA this summer, I am most looking forward to developing more general knowledge about how dyslexia and reading difficulties impact smaller communities within Latin American culture, as well as their accessibility to published research and simpler tools regarding these issues. I plan to gain a deeper understanding of how IDA already aids in disseminating valuable information through accessible platforms, including infographics, translated research summaries, and tools on how to apply for region-appropriate funding. I will be working closely with a grant-writer from Australia and a fundraising specialist from IDA to review past projects and draw on their strengths to provide the best funding opportunities for the organizations considering global partnership with my agency.
- What about this summer makes you nervous?
- Traveling alone and living somewhere new is always a challenge I look forward to and one that spurs a bit of nervousness that comes with any realm of unfamiliarity; I certainly do not know anyone in Baltimore, Maryland or in any regions of Central America that I may be researching, so this will be an exciting chance to explore subcultures that differ so much from my suburban upbringing and current lifestyle here in Tallahassee. The fact that I will be one of the youngest people working in the office also encourages me to cultivate relationships and connections that differ from the ones I have with my current peers and classmates; I want to learn from people who do different sides of the same work, who have spent years trying to improve an issue that has undergone so many changes in the research literature, educational field, and the eyes of American society. The apprehension that may accompany these goals is definitely overshadowed by my eagerness to learn!
- How did you first get involved with your service?
- I selected the issue of addressing dyslexia interventions and research across the international community in order to improve my research methods, connect with people who are trying to make changes in their homelands, and to extend my personal knowledge of the population I have served throughout my continuous experience as a volunteer. This population is one that I became involved with at the age of 13, when I began my first volunteer experience as a teacher’s assistant in a summer school for children (K-5) with learning differences and behavioral issues. After 6 consecutive summers of working with individual children and small classrooms through their reading struggles and onto their educational goals, I yearned to keep serving this population throughout college as well. In my freshman year of undergraduate studies, I participated in the FSU Global Scholars program and spent my summer working as a volunteer music teacher and reading tutor on the outskirts of Lima, Peru at Building Dignity, a non-government organization dedicated to enhancing educational, leadership, and extracurricular opportunities for the local community members, ranging from young primary school students to older high school graduates to parents and some of the oldest community leaders. With this work, I learned more about how learning differences, especially in reading development, can manifest on a vast continuum of demographic profiles and life circumstances, especially in underserved populations, such as the underdeveloped municipality of Villa El Salvador that I called home for that summer. Once I returned to Tallahassee, I became an ambassador for the program and had the opportunity to share my ethnographic research on music and reading education in different symposia and project-sharing events. This experience motivated me to consider more structured quantitative research opportunities and graduate school. Now, as a graduate student at FSU, I conduct research on bilingual and minority student populations to understand the factors that contribute to their success in reading development, specifically cognate knowledge, individual reading/spelling ability, and demographic characteristics.
- Career goal(s)/post-graduation plans:
- Once I have enough data with adult undergraduate students, I plan to replicate some of the work with dyslexic minority students in elementary school combined with other research based on best practices to broaden the possibilities of intervention methods and feasibility of these options in the public sector with special education services and regular teaching practices. Besides my own projects, I also help collect data for ongoing studies that are specifically targeted at primarily dyslexic students in private school settings and at-risk/low-socioeconomic status students in Tallahassee’s public schools. This research allows me to keep serving the people who first inspired my initial research interests and motivates me to keep my academic pursuits aligned with the needs of a broader community. With this research, I have begun to identify other scholars who have similar interests, and I plan to complete a post-doc position with one of these peers following my dissertation defense. Ultimately, I would love to become a professor at a public research university where I can continue my investigative work while teaching courses that address diversity in education and psychology, as well as mentoring undergraduate students throughout their academic and professional development.
- What is your proudest accomplishment?
- My proudest accomplishment is probably singing on the Beacon Theatre stage (on Broadway in NYC!) with my a cappella group when I was completing my undergraduate studies. Performing on such a legendary stage with so many talented and beautiful people was exhilarating, and it reminded me, in the most intense way, of why I love music so much.
- What is something you can't live without?
- I don't think I could live without my headphones. When I'm working alone (which is most of the time), I am terrible at concentrating with anything louder than white noise in the background, so I get most of my individual work done with noise-cancelling headphones and some music, ranging from lo-fi hip hop to classical viola to a relaxing podcast.
- What is something that you wish you could take with you on your trip and why?
- I wish I could bring my advisor so he could joke around with me at the office all day and so I could poke into his office at any time of the day. Working remotely on our joint projects will be a challenge, but a useful one to get accustomed to given the amount of travel each of us does throughout the academic year!
- Most inspirational thing in your life so far:
- In my father’s case, I consider the terms “visionary” and “extraordinary” synonymously for multiple reasons. As a man born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, educated in Hiedelberg, Germany, and finally settled down in Caracas, Venezuela, my father was certain that his life could not undergo many more changes. 1996 in Caracas, however, was yet another turning point for him: three of his family members passed away; he had a won a “green card lottery” to move to the U.S.; and the Venezuelan government was beginning to crumble irreparably. At the age of 49, he recognized it was the time to move once more. Amid plenty of reasons of stay, including the tight network of family and friends,, my mother’s progress in law school, the success of their business, the failing health of his mother, and the foundation of my brother’s childhood in Caracas, my father took his green card to the U.S. Despite the pull of these factors, my father saw beyond the temporary comfort of these things and believed neither in his impulse nor the concept of good or bad timing, but rather his meticulously planned decision to leave the country he had called home for almost 20 years. Before bringing my mother and brother, he traveled alone to find a job in Florida and prepare for tackling a new way of life. Once he brought the rest of my family to Orlando in 1997, my mother’s unexpected pregnancy with me added another hardship to adjusting in a new country. My father worked tirelessly as an engineer while my mother watched my brother and me, and even once my mother began working again, I still only saw my father once every one or two weeks, even monthly sometimes. He has worked harder than anyone else I have ever met, has given more to his company and my family than I could ever fathom. He started an entirely new life for us when his was about halfway over, and has never had a complaint. His decision to leave Venezuela and never look back is one that still haunts him, but one that has never been met with a regret. Leaving his former life behind to cultivate one for our family in better circumstances is the blessing of a lifetime, one that only shows a fraction of how truly extraordinary he is every day.
- Top Values:
- Challenge, Diversity, Growth, Open-Mindedness, and Relationships
- Last Book Read: The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell (would highly recommend!!)