At an average of two hours apiece, conducting more than 70 interviews can become very time consuming. Now, with well over 100 hours of data to transcribe and analyze, Texas A&M University doctoral candidate Juanita Garcia has quite a bit of work ahead of her.

Fortunately for her, Garcia recently received a Ford Foundation Fellowship Dissertation Award to help fund her efforts to complete her dissertation.

Far from the only funding that she has earned, the Ford Foundation grant is the most recognizable. Having received support from the American Sociological Association Minority Fellowship Program, Texas A&M University College of Liberal Arts, Vision 20/20 Dissertation Enhancement Grant, the Hispanic Scholarship Fund, as well as several others, Garcia has accumulated a lengthy list of supporters.

A first-generation college student, Garcia will soon receive her Ph.D. in sociology upon completion of her dissertation entitled, “The Relationship between Assimilation and Mental Health among Mexican-Origin Women in the US.”

“For my thesis I did thirty interviews with undocumented immigrant women, and the dissertation is an extension of that, including US born Mexican American women as well as documented immigrant women,” said Garcia.

Building upon the interviews conducted for her master’s thesis, Garcia has nearly finished collecting all the data that she needs to begin writing her dissertation.

“I love qualitative research,” said Garcia, “I really love going out and meeting people and hearing their stories and being able to document them, that’s the fun part.”

During the interviews, Garcia focused on determining the experiences the women have had in the United States dealing with the immigration process, discrimination and racism, and the challenges that they have faced. Questions concerning depression among the women were also a major focus around which Garcia framed her interviews.

“What is it that contributes to this type of depression? Do they have access to resources, to services, do they know where to go? Things like that,” said Garcia. “I compare that across nativity, those who are US-born versus foreign-born and those who are documented versus undocumented, as well as across class.”

Soon, Garcia will begin the arduous task of transcribing and analyzing all of the data from the interviews that she has conducted, each lasting between one and five hours.

“I was able to get all of this funding, so I’m hoping to be able to hire an undergraduate and also be able to mentor them, give them some research experience and pay them at the same time,” said Garcia.

As a first-generation college student, Garcia sees it as her duty to give reach out to students who come from similar, lower-opportunity backgrounds, in the same way that others have helped her throughout her academic career.

“My advisors have been really amazing, both Rogelio Saenz and Zulema Valdez. They’ve provided me with opportunities to publish, for me to do research for them, and have helped me to apply for all of these grants and really pushed me and believed in me, so that’s been great,” said Garcia. “I always tell students, finding a mentor, someone that really supports you and believes in you and your research, is really important.”