Scholar, father, researcher

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Yuman Tim Arviso says it’s never too late to follow your dreams.

Tim Arviso and three classmates recently took first place at the 56th annual Western Social Science Association (WSSA) Multi-Author Paper Competition. The students spent a year researching the effect of friendly visits on homebound seniors in their own community and documenting it.

For Arviso, this triumph is the last in a long line of hard-won accomplishments. As a social work major at Northern Arizona University—Yuma, he’s faced unique challenges while pursuing higher education; a single father with three children, Arviso has spent much of the last two years working full-time as a truck driver in addition to taking classes.

Under such trying circumstances, achieving an undergraduate education at all is impressive. What’s truly remarkable is how he has distinguished himself as an award-winning researcher.

“Their research was needed”

That award-winning research started in their Generalist Practice I class, which requires students to make friendly visits to elderly clients. Arviso and his fellow authors wondered what effect, if any, their visits had on their clients’ moods.

They asked 12 clients to report their depression and social isolation scores, then visited each for an hour a week for a month. The post-visit scores did not indicate a change in mood, which was an unexpected—but still important—result. Their findings will provide the groundwork for other researchers in this area.

Bill Pederson, MSW, is the NAU – Yuma Bachelor of Arts in Social Work program site coordinator and senior lecturer. He supervised the winning research project and encouraged his students to submit their paper to the competition. He explains the scarcity of similar studies in the field—the students were only able to find one other study on visits to seniors—meant theirs was an essential contribution.

“Their research was needed for other social workers,” he says. “Hopefully, someone will see their project, repeat it, and possibly obtain different findings.”

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In addition to being a proficient researcher, Arviso is passionate about his children and their needs. Moving to another city simply isn’t an option. Providing for them—and being able to spend time with them—was paramount in his decision to attend NAU – Yuma.

Pederson says the availability of higher education in Yuma gives students like Arviso the chance to perform great research and take advantage of the benefits a university offers.

“Our students come from Yuma and Imperial counties, which have the two highest unemployment rates in the nation,” Pederson says. “Our students are place-bound because of work and family obligations. Without NAU - Yuma, our student population would never have the opportunity to achieve a university education.”

Focus on the family

Along with his research, Arviso has distinguished himself in another way—when he graduates in May 2014, he will be the first person in his family to earn a bachelor’s degree.

The long journey to graduation was a family affair. He says he owes his parents “a huge debt of gratitude,” and adds his achievements would have been impossible without them.

As for his children, he wants them to draw inspiration from his efforts to get a degree despite many obstacles; he also wants them to know age doesn’t have to be a barrier to success.

“I hope that as they get older and they reflect back to this time in our lives as a family they understand how important it is to go to school and to go to college right after high school,” Arviso says. “And that you're never too old to accomplish some pretty large feats."