Sara Chavarria has been designing and conducting informal educational programming that creates learner-centered interactive experiences for underserved and underrepresented students as well as for teachers that serve these populations. As a first-generation, low SES TRIO Upward Bound alum, she is especially interested in best practices for attraction and retention of low income, first generation undergraduate students. Dr. Chavarria does this through the projects she aligns with such as the Linking Southwestern Heritage through Archaeology project (currently the PI), in partnership with the UArizona School of Anthropology. The project, funded by the National Park Service, recruits local high school students and counselors to participate in archeological project explorations and on-campus artifact analysis; along with visits to national park and local heritage sites to introduce Latinx and Native American participants to Arizona’s rich pre-contact and colonial past and make cultural connections that enhance their understanding of American history. The program also introduces students to a variety of scientific, historic, preservation, and education disciplines and careers. As a Mexican-American of mixed heritage (Indigenous and Southern Europe), a critical element of this program is to explore one’s heritage and to explore how to re-envision what a career tied to archaeology could look like so that it is more inclusive and representative of diverse populations.
More recently, Dr. Chavarria has been connecting College of Education researchers with UA faculty to leverage Education science expertise on topics such as Access, Inclusion, Diversity, and Retention of students to facilitate research on effective learning practices for UA students and PK-12 audiences. She is also busy collaborating with researchers and staff across campus to facilitate institutional partnerships, support effective initiatives, and advance scholarship that promote equitable access to high-quality STEM experiences, resources, tools, and expertise (also as part of her role within the UA STEM Learning Center).
Newly awarded, Dr. Chavarria is a co-I on an IES Pathways grant. The AWARDSS Plus project, led by PI Michelle Perfect launched this August 2021 and involves a 12 month research experience for undergraduates that includes an intensive summer research program and 12 months of mentoring by a team of mentors that include project members, graduate student near-peers, and a research scientists or faculty. The project leverages Dr. Chavarria’s prior experience with designing and coordinating a 12 month Research Experience and Mentoring (REM) program for an NSF EFRI (Emerging Frontiers in Research and Innovations) award (PI Pierre Deymier) from June 2018 to May 2021. The REM program involved preparing and supporting 6 undergraduate students a year for an intensive 8 week summer research experience and 12 months of mentoring support from research faculty.