Alumni Spotlight | May 2016
KU major: Sociology, Class of 2013
Current occupation: Graduate Student - Graduate Career Coach at the University Career Center (KU)
Research mentor while at KU: Dr. Sandra Albrecht (Sociology)
Describe the undergraduate research experience that you had while at KU: I worked with Dr. Albrecht on a year-long Honor's thesis exploring the image of masculinity in American film and how it had changed from the 1940s to the early 2000s. I analyzed the top three grossing movies from each decade that had a male protagonist in order to better understand the idea of masculinity they were representing through their words, actions, interactions with other men and women, etc.
Q: What do you think was the most important thing you learned while doing undergraduate research?
A: Besides the actual data I gathered, I would argue the experience of tackling a year-long project, working with a professor in a unique one-on-one experience, and completing it showed me I was capable of completing a large academic project. The idea of research always scared me, but once I found out it could be over something I was truly interested in using methods I found the most interesting and beneficial with a professor I liked, I was sold. Yes, you gain research skills, but you gain so many intangible skills like how to interact with a professor as a partner, how to reach out to professionals in a field, and how to push yourself harder than you have before. I would argue that these skills are almost more valuable than the findings of your research.
Q: What advice do you have for undergraduates who might be interested in doing research?
A: I would encourage all students to do it! I was terrified of research until I found out a little more about it. Numbers and data charts intimidated me, but once I discovered that interviews and looking at attitudes in movies, etc. was all also considered research, I was sold! You will learn quite a bit about the field you are studying, but you will learn even more about yourself and how to properly start and finish a large academic project. It is a great experience, resume booster, and overall life lesson.
Q: Do you use any of the skills or perspectives gained doing research in your current occupation? How so?
A: As a career coach working at KU, I use the skills I gained while doing my research every day. I interact with students, professors, and staff utilizing proper and formal emails, conversations, etc. I attempt to understand each person in their context and grasp how their specific background might be affecting their current situation. I have more patience and understanding and know that I am capable of completing long-term projects that may seem daunting at first.
Q: Many undergraduate researchers are making decisions about what to do after they graduate from KU. Having been in those shoes, what do you know now that you wish you’d known then? Do you have any advice?
A: I am biased, but come to the Career Center on campus! I came here my senior year not sure what to do with a Sociology degree and they really helped me! We are a free service that helps students with resumes, cover letters, interviewing skills, how to start the job search process, etc. We've got lots of great resources for all majors. I would also encourage each student to conduct a few informational interviews with anyone and everyone that is working in a field you think is interesting. Ask them to coffee, chat on the phone, or even email back and forth. Getting a better understanding of what each job does on a day to day basis is extremely helpful in refining your own search. If you are able to shadow someone at their job, you see behind the curtain and are able to fully understand what a _______ position really is all about.