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Portrait of Anna Pence

Pence thrives with Journal of Purdue Undergraduate Research opportunity

By Blake Sebring

October 4, 2023

When approached last year about joining the student editorial board of the Journal of Purdue Undergraduate Research, Purdue University Fort Wayne’s Anna Pence didn’t know about it or what it entailed—or how she could fit it into her schedule.

She was already coaching multiple YMCA children’s soccer teams, working as a Student Government Association executive assistant, taking a full class load, serving as a teaching assistant, and working as an interim aide for a speech pathologist with an area school district. Whew!

“I was really nervous that I was going to be overwhelmed,” the now senior communication science disorders major said. “This was an opportunity that was extended to me that was going to be really beneficial. How can I pass that up? Not everybody gets a chance at something like this. The worst thing that could happen would be that I needed to ask for help.”

But taking on those previous responsibilities is what made Pence stand out to be offered the opportunity with the editorial board. She persevered, and learned more about herself by pushing through, discovering that her schedule limitations and work load tolerances were higher than expected. And she could strive for more, gaining confidence and aptitude through the new opportunity.

She also helped blaze a trail as she and Makaila Groves, B.S. ’23, are the first PFW students to join the JPUR’s editorial board. The journal was established to publish outstanding research papers written by Purdue undergraduates from all disciplines who have completed faculty-mentored research projects.

There have been several PFW student articles published over the last three years in the journal, which is also run by students. Faculty members serve on its advisory board, including PFW’s Naomi Gurevich, associate professor of communication sciences and disorders, and Connie Kracher, director of university research and innovation.

Gurevich extended Pence the invitation to join after she made a positive impression as a teaching assistant.

“Anna’s energy and creativity led me to encourage her,” Gurevich said. “She showed herself to be creative, confident, and a really great critical thinker and problem solver.”

As part of her TA duties, Pence was tasked with developing research on how to increase retention rates for the online-only class that includes non-majors. In conjunction with Gurevich and Rachel Ramsey, assistant director for the Center for the Enhancement of Learning and Teaching, Pence presented her findings at last spring’s 26th annual Student Research and Creative Endeavor Symposium.

Pence was not submitting research to JPUR; instead, she was editing submissions for content and grammar while offering suggestions, seeing if the research was fleshed out, expressed passion, and written so others could understand. She did not review any PFW submissions.

“Basically, I was asked to read other people’s writing and decide if it had the qualities necessary to be published in the journal,” Pence said. “It was an important responsibility because that was somebody’s passion.”

Pence enjoyed the opportunity is considering participating for a second year.

“When I took on the responsibility, I realized that I could do way more than I thought I could,” Pence said. “Staying in my comfort zone would have been easier, but the growth I experienced from accepting these new opportunities added to not only my academic and professional skills, but also to my sense of self when it came to my capability to do hard things. My limits were farther than I had convinced myself they were.

“I also learned that fear can’t stop me. The result of beating fear can mean being able to show and experience your true potential.”