Safiyya (Saff) Bintali is a junior double-majoring in Secondary Education in the College of Education and English in the College of Liberal Arts. She is a 2022 OUR Summer Undergraduate Research Fellow. Under the mentorship of Dr. Shaoan Zhang, Safiyya’s research proposal entitled “Enhancing Preservice Teachers’ Identity Through an Informal Learning Community” has been accepted for the Association of Teacher Educators (ATE) summer conference, and she will be traveling from July 31st – August 1st to present it.
- What are your current research interests and future career goals?
As someone with work experience in technology and a background in K - 12 online schooling, online/hybrid learning and teaching methods is an important area of research for me, especially considering its burgeoning presence in our world. I am also interested in further exploring teacher identity, especially as it relates to teacher education programs.
To further exercise these interests, I hope to go to graduate school for an MAEd/MSEd in Instructional Technology and Design, and further pursue a PhD in Teacher Education afterwards.
- How did you first get involved in research?
I sparsely engaged with research in high school during my statistics capstone. However, it was my inspiring mentor, Dr. Shaoan Zhang, who encouraged me to take the step in becoming more involved with research here at UNLV. Through his encouragement, teaching, advice, and the opportunities he offered me, I got to experience being part of a research team for the Engaging Girls in Ubiquitous Intelligence and Computing (GUIC) 2022 Summer Camp. Both Dr. Zhang and my experience with GUIC has inspired me to continue going and to develop my research interests more, and has allowed me to more efficiently conduct research in my study on teacher identity in communities.
- Please describe the impact of research involvement on your personal and professional development.
Being in research has allowed me to look at my favorite fields in a more inquisitive, deeper way, and thus paved the way for me to engage with them on a more meaningful level. In English, researching creative techniques and actively studying authors that achieved effects and impact in their work that I hope to has allowed me to write with more purpose. In Education, it has shown me how intricate pedagogy is, and how much goes into structuring an effective teacher education program—as well as how it can be strengthened and improved to better serve future educators and their students.
Professionally, research has connected me with brilliant faculty and incredible opportunities to further develop and sharpen my interests and skills. It has also prepared me for—and motivated me to pursue—my future in graduate school, and into academia.
- What advice would you give to future researchers?
A bit broad, but do not be afraid to take that first step. Whether it’s inquiring with the Office of Undergraduate Research or reaching out to a professor whose research you’re interested in, taking that first step can positively and radically change the trajectory of your career and your involvement in the fields you love most. It is always worth it—your future self will thank you.
- Please describe how the Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship supports your research.
From the standpoint of research, the Fellowship supported my travel to my first conference presentation in Nashville, enabled me to utilize high-quality software for use in my qualitative research with GUIC, and provided me with the opportunity to reimburse participants in a study so I am able to obtain more data to strengthen my thesis. In a personal sense, it is an honor that has given me more confidence in the path I am on, and a boost to further my involvement in research.
- Please describe the role of the Office of Undergraduate Research (OUR) at UNLV. What are we doing best and what do you think we can do to help you better?
The staff at OUR is extremely dedicated to supporting undergraduate research in all its forms: STEM, art, the humanities, the social sciences, everything. OUR not only offers resources for undergraduate students to get involved with research, but also offers support and helps undergraduates build their confidence to get involved, which is extremely important; they don’t just stop at helping you take that first tentative step into research—they enable you to run a marathon!