When she was assigned a group research project in her class on Ethical and Legal Issues in Student Personnel, Annaliese Bullock embraced the undertaking.
She and six other students spent months investigating how on-campus cultural centers — like UCF’s Multicultural Student Center — can impact marginalized students’ sense of belonging. The work paid off, as the team (Nicole Vance ’21MA, Vasily Yurin ’14 ’18MA, Kelly Gill ’16 ’21MA, Patrick Rowe ’21MA, Hannah Ward ’21MA, Jessica Coons ’21MA, and Bullock) discovered that cultural centers can improve students’ sense of community, lead to positive perceptions of academic ability and produce other outcomes much-needed on any campus. They saw their research accepted for publication in the College Student Affairs Journal this past October. It was a year-long effort with the help of College of Community Innovation and Education Assistant Professor Amanda Wilkerson and public affairs doctoral student Rebecca Entress.
The experience gave Bullock a new perspective on her goal: helping students stay in college and make the most of their education.
Bullock says she has been influenced by educators as long as she can remember — starting with her father, a high school science teacher in Miami. She received a bachelor’s degree in English from UCF. Here, she gained confidence as a leader on the women’s water polo team. Then, after working as a volunteer water polo coach post-graduation, she decided to pursue her interest in educational leadership.
“As a coach, I loved being able to watch freshmen develop over the years,” she says. “It was so special to see people really find themselves, to see students grow.”
She also appreciated the opportunity to pursue graduate study under Wilkerson, with her extensive research experience in equity-based pedagogy and community partnerships. Bullocks remembers how they originally connected over many commonalities — and, to this day, Wilkerson remains a continual source of inspiration.
Bullock, who is originally from Miami, says the research she’s conducted during graduate school allowed her to focus on UCF’s role as a Hispanic-Serving Institution. “UCF is in a unique position to ensure higher education evolves beyond its historical limitations by expanding educational opportunities for, and improving the attainment of, Hispanic students,” she says.
In the future, Bullock hopes to continue aiding these efforts, making sure each student receives the support they need to make the most of their education.