“My graduate degree is shaping my life and career in a number of ways. The research skills I have gained at the University of Maryland have prepared me for a career in research in academia. An International Graduate Research Fellowship, in addition, gave me the opportunity to do research abroad, in Port-Au-Prince, Haiti, and to develop  skills in cross cultural research and its communication.”

Marisa Franco earned her Ph.D. in counseling psychology in May 2015. She holds an M.S. in psychology from UMD, and a B.S. in applied psychology from New York University, where she graduated magna cum laude.

Franco’s research focuses on “racial identity invalidation,” with particular emphasis on its psychological impact on Black/White mixed-race individuals.

For her innovative work, Franco received a number of Graduate School awards, including the ALL S.T.A.R award, granted to 16 campus graduate students with outstanding records as both researchers and graduate assistants, as well as the International Graduate Research Fellowship.  Franco is the only student who has been awarded both a Flagship Fellowship, granted to ten outstanding incoming graduate students, and a McNair Graduate Fellowship, granted to five outstanding incoming graduate students who are alumni of Ronald E. McNair Postbaccalaureate Achievement Programs.

Franco also has received numerous external awards for her research, including the Michael Sullivan Diversity Award and the Association of Black Psychologists Graduate Research Award.

Franco hopes to become a professor in psychology.

Learn more about her in the interview below:

How would you describe your graduate experience at the University of Maryland?
During my time as a graduate student at UMD, I have developed critical thinking skills, been encouraged to pursue original research, and been expected and challenged to advance my field. My professors have trained me to develop theoretical frameworks to guide my research, while also attending to the implications and applications of my research findings. 

How has the Graduate School and your graduate program supported your efforts?
The Graduate School has provided a number of fellowships and awards that helped make my research possible. The Flagship and McNair Fellowships allowed me to pursue my research without financial worry, and the International Graduate Research Fellowship allowed me to complete a community based research study in Port-Au-Prince, Haiti. Most recently, I received the ALL S.T.A.R award in recognition of both my research and service contributions to the university. 

My program provided research infrastructure required for my work. For my master’s thesis, for example, my program purchased top-of-the-line blood pressure software that allowed me to complete a study on how racial stress influences blood pressure. 

Why did you choose Maryland?
I chose Maryland because my program, counseling psychology, is regarded as the best in the nation. I felt like there was nowhere else where I could get a better education. In addition, I received multiple recruitment fellowships and awards.

Why should others choose Maryland?
Maryland is a first-tier public research institution where graduate students can excel. I have been surrounded by brilliant minds, allowing me to learn from many persons besides my primary professor. Maryland also hears and incorporates the voices of its graduate students in a feedback process that moves the university forward. 

UMD is also diverse, offering a kaleidoscope of perspectives, and it is a comfortable place for an educated young professional, with Washington, DC just around the corner. 

Why is graduate education important?
A graduate school education trains students to become independent creators of knowledge. We learn to apply existing ideas, as well as to challenge them, and to generate new ideas.

What is graduate education at UMD all about?
Challenge and support and a deep appreciation for curiosity.

Story and photo courtesy of The Graduate School.

Marisa Franco face