Scholars Forum Success Stories: Cristello in Special Education

Posted on 2/4/2014 2:33:58 PM

Many students who have presented their scholarly work at the Undergraduate Scholars Forum (USF) share that they gained valuable skills from the experience. Mary Cristello, a senior in the Early Childhood Special Education program, shared her story in order to encourage other students to participate during 2014.

Mary Cristello won the Dean’s Award for her presentation “Bilingualism and Its Impact on Education.” Mary is currently a senior in the Early Childhood Special Education program in the College of Education and Educational Technology. 

Cristello originally began her research as an assignment for a language development course. She expanded upon that work during the following year, and then presented her finished product as an oral presentation at the 2013 USF. She researched the topic and organized her findings with support from her advisor, Kelly Paquette, and her other professors in the College of Education. 

Cristello’s research focused on examining the linguistic and cognitive effects of learning two languages. Through reading the literature, she learned that knowing one language can help you learn a second language, and that knowing more than one language improves cognitive abilities and executive functioning. Cristello interviewed three individuals who are bilingual for her project who each shared personal and professional benefits of being bilingual. 

Cristello reports that doing this project required considerable work beyond her other classes. So why did Cristello choose to pursue it? Her answer was that she loves learning about different languages and cultures and she was curious about the effects of being bilingual. She also wanted to learn more about the research process, develop her presentation skills, and become more knowledgeable about her field. 

After the forum, Cristello reported that she found her research very rewarding and she gained public speaking and organizational skills by participating in the Undergraduate Scholars Forum. Receiving the Dean’s Award was a fantastic achievement to list in her resume. Cristello encourages other undergraduate students to find a topic of interest and develop a project.  She knows that other students would “gain valuable skills and experiences by participating in the Undergraduate Scholars Forum!”