Why did you decide to attend the University of Maryland?
It is an interesting story. Even though I come from Peru I was always well aware that the University of Maryland–College Park was a great school. However, that was not exactly the reason that brought me here. I was living with my wife in Massachusetts
while she served for two years as an AmeriCorps*VISTA volunteer and subsequently entered and graduated from law school. The original plan was to stay in Massachusetts but my wife received a job offer from the U.S. Department of Justice to serve as an attorney at the Baltimore Immigration Court, and that changed everything. I started searching for schools in the Baltimore and D.C. Metro Area and decided to apply to a couple of them.
Soon I learned that I had been accepted at George Washington University and at the University of Maryland–College Park. Moreover, I also learned that I had been awarded substantial merit scholarships at both schools. This was the time when I remembered something that I read during my school research about the importance of reciprocity in school selection. As much as it is important for you to be enthusiastic about a particular school, it is perhaps more important to consider how enthusiastic, if at all, the school really is about having you. Maryland consistently showed that they cared about me as an applicant. The admission oicial that I worked with, Mrs. Ruth Unglesbee, as well as the design department professors and advisors that helped me throughout the admission process, made a difference in the way I perceived Maryland from the very beginning. After assessing this situation, Maryland was definitely my choice.
What led you to major in sociology?
I am a double major in sociology and in studio art with a concentration in graphic design. At first, my main concern was to understand how visual communication produces changes in attitudes and consequently in behavior. This is evidently related to the fields of advertising and marketing. Nonetheless, the more I study sociology, the more I realize that I have always been interested in the reasons behind social mobility and power elites and how the social apparatus works overall.
My experience growing up in Lima, Peru, during the time of the civil war between terrorist groups and the military, served as an early introduction into the universe of severely dislocated societies. Despite the fact that I didn’t understand how inequality worked back then, I was aware that family, wealth, power, race, and status often determined people’s chances in life. At that point, I noticed that something had gone very wrong in Peruvian society. But my curiosity in sociology was particularly strengthened when I became the only member of my family to immigrate to the U.S. This really triggered my passion for understanding the forces at the core of my decision to leave my home country as well as the complexities within my new host society.
What brought you to the Group Processes Lab?
During my time at the University of Maryland, I have found that my knowledge in sociology fosters a more complex understanding of the issues for which I am developing visual communication at the design department. This realization became more evident when I took Dr. Lucas’ class in social psychology (SOCY230). I decided to meet with my design advisor, Professor Audra Buck-Coleman-who is currently pursuing a PhD in social psychology at the University of Maryland—and I asked her about research opportunities in the field of social psychology in which I could participate to strengthen my knowledge in the discipline. She was very excited about my interest in such opportunities and told me to discuss the matter with Dr. Lucas. So, I did.
Dr. Lucas told me about his projects with the Lab, how it worked, what the requirements were to be selected for it (which included obtaining a letter grade of A in his class) and invited me to a Lab meeting as a guest. The Lab was a great environment filled with clever and highly motivated individuals, and almost immediately I knew I wanted to be part of it. I think the Group Processes Lab is a great opportunity for enthusiastic and inspired undergraduate students. This opportunity goes far beyond expanding your knowledge in the field of social psychology. Indeed, the experiences in the Lab introduce students to firsthand real scholarship and research in a setting with serious and dedicated intellectuals that take pride in what they do. It is certainly an utmost inspiring atmosphere. I am honored and thankful to Dr. Lucas for selecting me for this exceptional opportunity.
What valuable knowledge have you gained from sociology?
I guess one of the most important aspects of my learning process is to be aware of our natural tendency to overestimate dispositional attributions over situational ones. Or in other words, our inclination to explain behavior by making assumptions over personal character instead of considering the situational factors that may have triggered such conduct. This is the fundamental attribution error. I feel like people would be a lot more tolerant and perhaps even less prejudiced toward each other if they genuinely made an effort to understand the power of the situations.
What are your plans after graduation?
I plan on starting my own consulting company. Mainly oriented to image and brand development. Nevertheless, my goal is to find a way to produce enough revenue to support social design in local communities and, if possible, in Peru.
Gordon is a 2nd Year Graduate Student