FAU students produce nationally-recognized reports

The Business and Economics Polling Initiative focuses on Hispanic attitudes at a regional, state and national level.

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FAU students produce nationally-recognized reports

BEPI Director Monica Escaleras speaks to the students that participate in her BEPI class. Joe Pye | News Editor

BEPI Director Monica Escaleras speaks to the students that participate in her BEPI class. Joe Pye | News Editor

BEPI Director Monica Escaleras speaks to the students that participate in her BEPI class. Joe Pye | News Editor

BEPI Director Monica Escaleras speaks to the students that participate in her BEPI class. Joe Pye | News Editor

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Next month, a handful of the students behind Florida Atlantic’s Business and Economics Polling Initiative will be able to attend the National Conference of Undergraduate Research, which will consist of thousands of other students from around the country.

For the past three years, FAU College of Business students have been polling the Hispanic community in Florida on their attitudes at local, state and national levels. BEPI focuses on this specific demographic as about 20 percent of Florida’s population is Hispanic, according to the Pew Research Center.

These polls received national attention during the 2016 presidential election — by showing Trump pulling far ahead in the primary elections — from publications and news sources such as The Washington Post, the Sun Sentinel and MSNBC.

The initiative was created by Monica Escaleras, who has a Ph.D in economics.

“My goals for BEPI are to keep it growing and help the students beyond school,” she said.

The students who work on producing BEPI do so under Escaleras’ supervision while in class, which can be taken as a course for independent study.

“Some do it for the credits, but some do it for their love of research,” she said.

The polls include questions that revolve around social issues, business, the economy and now politics.

What the Polls Have Shown

“BEPI is completely different than any other class that I’ve taken. The professors try to be that boss figure and friendship figure you can talk to like friends and then they push for you to get the job done,” senior economics major Esteban Cardenas said. “It gives you experience and since it’s a small class, we get that working with co-worker experience while working with groups. It’s similar to being in an office.”

Along with data analysis, students also prepare a visual aspect of the collected data. This involves different types of graphs, spreadsheets and presentations.

In 2016, 500 Hispanics living in Florida were polled by phone and email from January through August.

“Students come up with the questions to ask and then the data is formed. Questions and polling are done through phones and computers,” Escaleras said. “It is against the law to call cell phones, so we can only call landlines.”

The students who take part in BEPI are given the chance to experience hands-on training when it comes to polling, gathering information, studying data and all that comes between.

“BEPI is preparing us for the future. It shows us how to use different programs and how to do research from the start to finish and create the questions to do the survey,” senior international business and marketing major Laura Gomez said. “We did cold calling in the beginning of the school year and putting it all together is just the perfect way to have real-world experience. This is stuff that could be published and used in business.”

Senior economics major Esteban Cardenas (left) and senior international business and marketing major Laura Gomez (middle) analyze polling numbers with a fellow classmate. Joe Pye | News Editor

To this day, Escaleras has stayed true to her word on helping students gain work experience, as she continues to receive phone calls from her former students accrediting their success to BEPI.

Rachel Antonucci, who now works as an investment analyst at Boeing, watched her future fill up with opportunities post BEPI.

“Being a part of BEPI expanded my mind to economics and politics that I never thought was possible,” said Antonucci, who participated in BEPI in 2014. “Thinking through how to phase questions to the public opinion was extremely intriguing and difficult. It challenges you to think outside the box and analyze how the mind will perceive things.”

Even though polling from BEPI has been recognized by national news outlets, Escaleras still wants to focus on her students’ personal and professional growth.

“I see amazing transformations in the students. The students who were quiet and shy in the beginning are the first to stand up and present,” Escaleras said. “It helps them become better versions of themselves.”

Bella Riccitelli is a contributing writer with the University Press. For information regarding this or other stories, email [email protected] or tweet her @bellariccitelli.

Joe Pye is the news editor of the University Press. For information regarding this or other stories, email [email protected] or tweet him @jpeg3189.