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SXU Alumna Publishes Paper in American Journal of Community Psychology


Saint Xavier University (SXU) alumna Yesenia Garcia-Murillo '17 has recently published a paper in the American Journal of Community Psychology. Titled "Act, Talk, Reflect, Then Act: The Role of Natural Mentors in the Critical Consciousness of Ethically/Racially Diverse College Students," Garcia-Murillo, along with several other authors, explores the role of natural mentors in the cyclical process of college students' sociopolitical development.

Garcia-Murillo hopes that the publication will help relay the influence and impact mentors can have on youths in troubling times so that mentors can help students understand and process current events, develop their own critical views and engage in service learning.

"The publication is about critical consciousness and how mentors influence its development in ethnically-diverse college students. We did a mixed methods approach with qualitative and quantitative data. I led the qualitative data. We examine themes like how mentors can help students by sharing resources, like information on marches, advocacy groups, current events and safe spaces," said Garcia-Murillo.

Garcia-Murillo is currently pursuing a combined master's/doctoral degree in community psychology at DePaul University, where she is also a graduate research assistant. She became interested in psychology her senior year of high school. Though she initially wanted to go into forensic psychology, she soon realized that community psychology aligned more with what she wanted to do and the populations she wanted to work with.

At SXU, Garcia-Murillo found critical resources as a first-generation and immigrant student. Through her courses and discussions with her mentors, she further confirmed community psychology was the career path for her. She served as a qualitative coding research assistant for Carissa Broadbridge, Ph.D., and was part of Tau Sigma, the transfer student honor society, and Psi Chi, the psychology honor society. She enjoyed her classes and was grateful for the guidance she received from faculty and staff.

"One of the most critical parts of my time at SXU was having mentorship from my professors. Dr. [Angela] Pirlott reached out to me to join her research lab and helped me understand that I wanted to pursue graduate school. I still keep in touch with her because she's made herself available to meet with me and answer any questions I have even after graduating," said Garcia-Murillo.

"Yesenia was one of our best students, earning an exceptional GPA considering that she worked 40 hours per week in overnight shifts and then came directly to school. She took my research seminar course and designed a study which looked at the psycho-social factors predicting educational attainment aspirations among Mexican immigrants, which she presented at the Saint Xavier Research Expo and ACCA conference," said Pirlott, who also encouraged Garcia-Murillo to attend the Midwestern Psychological Association conference, where Garcia-Murillo networked and volunteered to work for one of DePaul's community psych faculty members, leading her to the combined degree program with full tuition and a living stipend.

Other projects Garcia-Murillo is currently working on include research on school violence toward teachers, victimization behavior with data from Chinese middle schools, and first-generation college students and help-seeking attitudes and needs. She will complete her master's this April and will then propose her comprehensive project, a manuscript, before beginning her dissertation.

After graduating, Garcia-Murillo plans to stay involved with immigrant communities. She hopes to create an outreach and mentoring program for immigrant youths and students.