George Mason University

News at Mason

Mason senior forging a path through research

December 20, 2016   /   by Damian Cristodero

Leanna Moron is studying predictors of depression among Central American immigrant mothers and how low-income housing shapes the lives of Latino mothers. Photo by Evan Cantwell

Leanna Moron figures she’ll be an epidemiologist or statistician after she graduates from George Mason University this month. Reinforcing that path is her independent research examining the lives of Northern Virginia’s undocumented Latino immigrant families.

“Research is important because it drives decision-making and policy,” Moron said. “It’s kind of the same thing I’m doing right now to improve social conditions, to help improve people’s lives at the community level and beyond.”

Moron’s project with associate professor Bethany Letiecq focused on predictors of depression among Central American immigrant mothers. Her follow-up study with assistant professor Colleen Vesely focuses on how housing environments shape the women’s lives.

Both studies included $1,000 OSCAR grants and were naturals for Moron, a human development and family science major, whose Latino background comes from her Bolivian father.

“So I can empathize to a certain extent with the experiences the women talk about,” said Moron, who was born in the United States.

The studies are just part of how Moron has used her time.

A statistics minor, she interned last summer in the Bureau of Economic Analysis in the U.S. Department of Commerce. She is also a student ambassador for George Mason’s College of Education and Human Development, is a member of the Alpha Phi Omega national service fraternity and is president and founder of Mason’s chapter of the American Statistical Association.

“My experiences at Mason have shaped my career,” Moron said. “I could not be more thankful for the opportunities.”

“She’s such an inquisitive and stellar student,” Letiecq said. “She’s very innovative and trying to understand where she fits, and that is pushing boundaries in really cool and creative ways.”

As part of a larger research study led by Mason’s Human Development and Family Science Program faculty, Moron documents the health and lived experiences of immigrant families. She uses her language skills to help enroll immigrant children in the Alexandria City Public Schools system, and also analyzes data.

“Her quantitative skills rival those of some master’s and doctoral students,” Vesely said. “Her qualitative work this semester is giving her a taste and, hopefully, appreciation of another type of research method for understanding the experiences of immigrant families.”

Exactly what a statistician or epidemiologist needs.