Shared Stories Project: Experiences of Students of the UF Community

Nabiha Azaz, Taylor Fishman, Gloria Montoya-Vazquez, and Ruth Rodriguez Tavarez

Authors:  Yulia A. Strekalova, Naomi D. Parker, Gloria Montoya-Vazquez, Taylor Fishman, Ruth Rodriguez Tavare, Nabiha Azaz

Faculty Mentor: Yulia A. Strekalova

College:  College of Journalism and Communications


The purpose of this study is to examine the high and low points that university students experience while navigating the complexities of higher education and campus life. This qualitative study takes a narrative lifespan perspective and uses semi-structured interviews for data collection. The goal of the interviews is to inquire about the participants’ turning points and specific examples of high and low points in feeling connectedness to the campus community since starting at the University of Florida. The interviews are recorded and transcribed. Turning points are presented visually. Both data sources are triangulated and analyzed for emerging themes that describe characteristics of (dis-)connectedness experiences. Preliminary analyses reveal that high points primarily featured active membership in campus organizations and having a consistent friend group while attending UF. Students’ low points were often associated with loneliness due to geographical distance from family for prolonged periods of time. Moreover, the low points frequently referenced the period of adjustment students experienced when while navigating UF as a new environment. Overall, our research suggests that the absence or presence of a community dictated the high or low points of a student’s life at the University of Florida.

Poster Pitch

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10 Responses
  1. Ruth Rodriguez Tavarez

    Hello, everyone,

    Welcome to our page! Our group will be available from 2 p.m. – 3 p.m. to answer any questions you may have about our research.

    We are so excited to share our project with you all. Feel free to leave a comment below!

  2. Steph Strickland

    Hey team! This is great work, and it actually relates well to some research I did for the College of Journalism regarding perceived stress among a particular subset of the student population (and my hypothesis that group affiliation and perceived support lessens perceived stress). I am curious, how did you account for the intersectionality of students in various groups on campus in this particular study? Thanks!

    1. Ruth Rodriguez Tavarez

      Thanks for commenting Steph! We’re still in the beginning stages of this project. So, for the first round of interviews, we had a limited sample size. However, the students who participated in our project were all quite well-rounded in terms of student organizations and social groups they were a part of. I’m sure that this will definitely play a factor as our research grows.

  3. Nathalie Alomar


    I loved your presentation and your poster was very nice to follow. I am interested as to where you guys plan on taking this in the future? I feel like you guys mentioned some topics that a lot of students can relate to.

    Thank you once again!

    1. Ruth Rodriguez Tavarez

      That was a great question, Nathalie. For the future, we would like to expand our research to include more students from different backgrounds at UF. The more interviews and data we collect will give us a more holistic view of students’ experiences at UF.

  4. Aleksandra Orlovic

    I thought it was interesting how your research found that low points were frequently tied to the period of time when students first were adjusting to UF. This is insightful because some may assume that this is considered an exciting time for students because they are experiencing a new environment, not one with low points, as your research calls it. Overall, your research is very interesting and you guys did a great job! 🙂

  5. William Zelin

    This is such a relatable and important issue to study! Your results have strong implications for future students to make sure that they are able to make the most of their time on campus. I am curious if you have any proposals to the University that you would make to help accommodate your findings. Great work!

    1. Ruth Rodriguez Tavarez

      Absolutely! It really draws attention to the significance of a strong social network. UF does a phenomenal job of providing a wide variety of student organizations to not only strengthen or discover new interests but also help students build their social network. And the course First Year Florida is also a useful tool to help students adjust. But perhaps, it would be beneficial for UF to find more ways to bring awareness of these resources to students who are not as connected. Especially for students who come from more diverse backgrounds (first-gen students, students of colors, etc.)