Krystal Thomas, pictured above in the Johnson Center, participated in the Undergraduate Research Scholars Program. (EVAN CANTWELL/CREATIVE SERVICES)

Krystal Thomas, pictured above in the Johnson Center, participated in the Undergraduate Research Scholars Program. (EVAN CANTWELL/CREATIVE SERVICES)

Making sacrifices is not always easy. Just ask senior sociology major Niah Grimes.

Grimes is a full-time student, peer advocate for sexual assault service, employee at Assisting Young Mothers and Office of Student Scholarship Creative Activities and Research (OSCAR) fellow.

OSCAR’s goals include increasing the visibility of undergraduates doing work and increasing opportunities for students in scholarship. The office organizes the URSP, one-on-one student research working alongside a mentor. OSCAR works with departments to organize research projects for students.

Last year, Grimes participated in the Undergraduate Research Scholars Program(URSP). Aside from schoolwork and her job, Grimes researches for a minimum of 10 hours per week.

Krystal Thomas, a psychology and conflict analysis and resolution major, is also an OSCAR fellow who shares a similar experience. For both Grimes and Thomas, participating in the URSP opened the door for many opportunities, making their sacrifices worthwhile.

“The OSCAR program totally shaped my time here at Mason,” Grimes said. “It propelled me forward and gave me the job I have now – it also makes you a stronger applicant for grad school.”

At one point, Thomas was a full- time student with 16 credits, a resident advisor, an ambassador at the Office of the Ombudsman and did research for 10 hours each week.

Thomas applied to the URSP during her junior year and has been working on her project since spring 2012.

For her research, Thomas inquires about black women making and breaking the mold and the influence of stereotypes on identity.

“It [research] is a chance to do something you are really passionate about,” Thomas said.

During her sophomore year, Grimes enrolled in the honors program within the Sociology Department. Grimes was working on her own research project when her mentor recommended that she apply toURSP.

Grimes applied the following year to URSP and proposed her research idea of “sexual interactions of high school men.”

Her idea surfaced in her methods class. Grimes wanted to understand why unintended pregnancies in high school occurred. Grimes herself had family members who went through similar experiences and wanted to figure out the causes. Grimes reviewed literature and journal articles on her topic. She also took a qualitative methods class, wrote a proposal to the Human Subjects Review Board, and conducted preliminary research.

Grimes interviewed 12 college males about practicing safe sex in high school. One of her findings was that males didn’t think they needed to use safe-sex practices while in committed relationships.

Grimes combined her research and interviews into a research paper and presented it through OSCAR and her sociology program.

“It [URSP] put me in a place where I was able to meet a lot of people and their research. It definitely enhanced my network,” Grimes said.

Bethany Usher, director of the Students as Scholars Initiative, helped launch URSP in the fall of 2011 to provide Mason undergraduate students with an opportunity to engage in research and scholarship.

“Every student gets a chance to do something with it [research],” Usher said.

A common misconception is that research is only for science-oriented fields. “I definitely think it is for all disciplines. To break that stigma would be great,” Grimes said. “The idea is when everyone graduates they will have some working knowledge and scholarship in their field, and to some degree participate in it,” Humbertson said.

One of OSCAR’s opportunities includes the fully-paid summer URSP which allows students to work on their project during the summer term.