Student Spotlight | Summer 2021
Major: History, with minors in French and Education
Describe your research/creative work in just a few sentences that we can all understand: I research the cultural history of the French Empire. I'm interested in the connections and contradictions between republican values and colonialism, as well as the ways in which ordinary people experienced empire in everyday life.
Q: Who mentors your project?
A: Dr. Andrew Denning
Q: What surprised you about doing a larger research or creative project?
A: I've been surprised by the willingness of professors to invest in students' projects. Multiple professors have generously given of their time to support my research, including professors with whom I haven't taken any classes. I'm grateful for their counsel and encouragement.
Q: What did you find most challenging about getting involved in or doing your project? What advice would you offer to students facing similar challenges?
A: For me, the most challenging aspect of doing research is being continually daunted by my project. I get stuck in my head, everything stops making sense, and I feel overwhelmed and inadequate. In those moments, talking through my project with my advisor or other academics is invaluable. Hearing an additional perspective helps me reorient myself and remember that the hard work is worthwhile.
Q: What do you like most about your project?
A: My current research is based in nineteenth-century newspapers, which I've always enjoyed reading, so it's pretty fun to use them as sources. In the history discipline, we sometimes refer to the past as a foreign country. Humans are the same the world over, but cultural differences across space and time are often immense. Newspapers reveal both sides of the coin. The language style, images, and values I encounter are sometimes shockingly "foreign," yet when I see French advertisements in 1893 for weight-reducing pills (guaranteed to work and with no side effects!), the people of the past don't seem so very different.
Q: What advice would you give to a friend wanting to get involved in research?
A: Take advantage of every opportunity that comes your way: attend departmental events, apply for research assistantships, read literature in your field. If opportunities aren't forthcoming on their own, don't be afraid to reach out to professors directly to ask for their guidance. Secure multiple mentors if you can.
Q: How do you spend your time when you're not working on your research?
A: When I'm not researching, I can usually be found reading a British novel, exercising, or trying a new recipe. I also have fun reading other people's research.