Stretch Your Strengths
Stepping outside your comfort zone can take you to amazing new places.
I didn't know very much about doing research before I came to Nebraska, so I never saw myself getting involved with it. Within the past year, I’ve learned that while it’s not necessarily something everyone needs to do, it can really help you. Not only will it strengthen a graduate school application, it also can help you become a more well-rounded person.
I got started with research during my junior year when I wanted to do a study abroad trip to Greece. One of the professors who was leading the trip mentioned that I could fund part of it by making it into a UCARE [Undergraduate Creative Activities and Research Experience] project. At the time, I had some idea of what UCARE was, but my friends in STEM majors were doing it, so it didn’t seem really relevant to me as a Classics and Religious Studies major.
Collaborating with Experts
A professor of mine knew some faculty from the University of Oxford who had a grant to make a series of interactive e-books on Greek plays. He suggested that I take a look at the first e-book in the series about “Medea,” and that if I liked it, we could make another one for my UCARE project. I said okay, but I didn’t totally understand what we were getting into yet.
Basically, the project brings together audio, visual and text elements that show how each play has been portrayed, from ancient times to more modern interactions with the play. It helps the reader understand how we think about it and how our perspectives have changed overtime—all in a free e-book. One of my favorite Greek tragedies is “Antigone,” so I asked if we could do it as the subject of our e-book, and our partners at Oxford thought it was a great idea. Getting to decide what we were doing and having their support behind my project was really meaningful.
I think there’s a bit of a stigma that you have to be super upper echelon to read Classics, or that you won't be able to get anything out of it unless you like have a very high level of education. One of the major focuses of our e-books is trying to make them accessible, because we want Classics professors to use them as a starting point for their research, but we also want a high school teacher to be able to show them to their class.
Blazing New Paths
Unlike STEM research, liberal arts research is very much a choose-your-own-adventure scenario. Rather than following a linear process like the scientific method, with liberal arts you can start somewhere, think you might be going in a linear fashion, and then your focus completely changes and takes you in a different direction.
The applications of liberal arts research go beyond numbers and data. In fact, one of the main goals of liberal arts research is accessibility. There are a lot of times when research can feel very distant, like the average person wouldn’t feel like they could just pick it up, sit down and try to connect with it. At the very least, our project aims to do just that.
Our group is three professors and about Nebraska six students, and our Oxford partners who oversee everything. Right now we’re planning everything out, from the images we want to use, to the themes we really want to focus on, and then we actually get to create it.
Our professors are there to guide us and make sure we have the tools we need. I think they're almost like benefactors in a way too, making sure we cultivate the skills that we need to make something really great.
They push us to dig deeper, but are also a safety net so that when we make mistakes, they’re a guiding force protecting us from the bigger mistakes that we could be making if we were doing this by ourselves. They teach us the right way to do stuff like reach out to a professor abroad or get a copyright, so we’re getting a bunch of skills out of the project that can be applied to anything we do going forward.
Creating Outside the Box
I’ve chosen to start many of the things that I've accomplished at Nebraska because I had someone here who really affected me by something they did. I want to be a great Classics professor because I've had some fantastic professors here, and I want to continue to provide that experience for the next generation of students.
If I could go back and give advice to my high school self, I would say that the world can be a scary place, but to still push outside of my comfort zone, because it can also be very rewarding—just look at the experiences I’ve gotten to have.