New Program Fosters Undergraduate Research in the Humanities

This summer nine students participated in a pilot program to promote broader participation in undergraduate research by students in the College of Liberal Arts. The program was co-sponsored by the Melbern G. Glasscock Center for Humanities Research and Honors and Undergraduate Research. 

After attending a workshop on undergraduate research hosted by HUR, Dr. Sarah Misemer, Associate Director at the Glasscock Center, was surprised that there was little emphasis on undergraduate research in the humanities.  Misemer along with Dr. Duncan MacKenzie, Associate Director of Honors and Undergraduate Research, fleshed out an idea for a pilot program to educate undergraduates on how to perform research in the humanities. MacKenzie was able to seed the pilot program with funds received from the Associate Provost for Undergraduate Studies, with a matching contribution from the Glasscock Center, using the Center’s research space and computer access.

The result was the Glasscock Summer Scholars program designed to give students one-on-one time with a professor to create an idea for a research project that they will continue to work on as a University Research Scholar’s thesis in the following academic year.  

Over the summer two classes were formed: one, titled Biblical Criticism taught by Dr. Steve Oberhelman, Professor in the International Studies Department, and the other named After Combat taught by Dr. Marian Eide, Associate Professor in the English Department.  Each class consisted of three to five students who spent four to five hours per day in the classroom for two weeks.  This intense learning environment spurred the students to develop research ideas.  For the remainder of the summer the students prepared a research proposal by consulting with their faculty advisors, analyzing primary literature, and participating in workshops sponsored by the University Writing Center.

Oberhelman’s students chose topics ranging from how the success of David’s Kingdom can be related to the peace process in the modern world to the issue of infallibility versus inerrancy.  Eide’s students are studying the stories of veterans returning from war by examining how combat stories are told, creating literary criticisms, and writing their own short stories. The summer culminated in a Glasscock Scholars Symposium, where the students publicly presented their research proposals at the Glasscock Center.

Participants agreed that the Glasscock Summer Scholars program was a great success.  “HUR and the Glasscock Center were able to bring a community of young scholars together in one area,” said Oberhelman.  He went on to describe how the involvement of undergraduates in research was significantly enhanced through the in-depth learning experience: up to 40 hours/week in class, personal interaction with faculty and peer learning.

Both HUR and the Glasscock Center look forward to the continuation of unique programs like this. “Honors and Undergraduate Research was pleased to be able to provide support for this program in collaboration with the outstanding resources provided by the Glascock Center.  Although undergraduate research in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) programs on campus traditionally has had strong financial support, students in humanities often have limited access to space and funding for in-depth research projects.  We hope to be able to nurture more of a culture of undergraduate research in the humanities in the future with programs such as this,” said MacKenzie.

Contact: Chrystina Rago, chrysrago@honors.tamu.edu

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