With Majors in Psychology and Spanish and a Growing Research Portfolio, Yareli Sosa Antunez ’23 Is Addressing Mental Health Disparities in the Latino Community

Academics, Research, Sciences

May 16, 2023

single-paper-background Yareli Sosa Antunez

A double major in psychology and Spanish, Yareli Sosa Antunez ’23 says that over the past four years, a significant advantage she has enjoyed as a Hollins undergraduate has been evidenced time and again.

“In terms of academics, I’ve had a lot of experience with research that I think would have been harder for me to attain at larger schools,” she states. Those opportunities will be crucial as she plans to pursue a Ph.D. in counseling or clinical psychology in the next couple of years, and her interest in working particularly with the Latino community will be augmented by the language skills she’s built as a Spanish major.

Antunez has been able to practice and improve her bilingual capabilities during an internship with Casa Latina, a nonprofit agency that addresses the needs of the Roanoke Valley’s Spanish-speaking community. Working with the organization’s domestic violence support groups, she says, “has helped me explore my interests in terms of the kinds of people I want to work with. I’ve gotten a good exposure and experience in terms of what I want for my future career goals.”

This past summer, Antunez collaborated with Assistant Professor of Psychology Caroline Mann on a major project focusing on post-traumatic stress disorder and depression among Latino men. “In terms of demographics, a lot of the previous research in those areas had centered on either Black or white men. We were curious to study the impact of those mental health challenges on Latino participants.” Antunez went on to their preliminary findings at the Virginia Tech Summer Research Symposium, and she sees the ongoing study, which she and Mann hope to publish in the future, as a gateway into further exploration of an important issue in which she is interested: health equity disparities, specifically in mental health, in the Latino community.

Antunez’s work as a Hollins research fellow has propelled her into an exciting opportunity: After graduation, she’ll begin a two-year position as a research associate with the Research Engagement and Community Health (REACH) Equity Team at the University of Miami, partnering with the principal investigator there on a project examining mental health and other health disparities among Latino men with HIV. Not only will the research be in a similar realm as what she has worked on at Hollins, “I’ll use a lot of these Spanish-speaking skills I’ve gained from being a Spanish major.” Once her research associate position ends, she says she’ll begin applying to doctorate programs.

Mann’s mentorship has been “a crucial component,” Antunez notes, in navigating the best route to achieve her career goals. “When I first came to the decision that I wanted to be a psychologist, Dr. Mann brought to my attention that I needed to be doing more research. She offered me a position in her lab, and we went from there. She has also encouraged me to get out there and present my research. I probably wouldn’t be where I am right now in terms of getting the research associate position if it hadn’t been for her guidance. I’m very grateful.”

Antunez, who was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa this spring, also cherishes how she has grown on a personal level since coming to Hollins. Originally drawn by the university’s English program, she continues to develop her talents as a poet and creative writer. On a broader scale, Antunez believes Hollins “has really helped me gain the skills I need to advocate for myself and for others. I am a lot more decisive now compared to when I first got here, and a lot of that is due to Hollins, which has helped me find community both inside and outside.”