by Halynna Snyder, Digital Communications Intern

Research is critical to the ongoing work of the humanities, and undergraduates are crucial to many of these endeavors, both in and outside of the classroom. English and Comparative Literature professor Dr. Hilary Lithgow hosted a panel this past Friday for students interested in engaging in undergraduate research in order to shine light on the endless possibilities for research in the humanities.

Research can take many forms: archival work, analysis of quantitative and qualitative data, narrative engagement, anything to find a fresh perspective on a question students and academics want to answer. Several students who have conducted research in the humanities with the support of SURF (Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship) Grants spoke about their experiences and how it changed their ideas about what research could be.

Emma Miller, a junior studying history and public policy, worked with the Center for the Study of the American South and the Southern Oral History Program to investigate questions about American Indian activism at UNC. Her research was conducted through interviews with American Indian activists, reinterpreting the definition of activism through storytelling. Emma continues to be fascinated by oral history, “it is one of the only opportunities for people who have been traditionally forgotten by history to share their story,” she said.

First-year Julia Rafferty conducted research through her English 274 course, directly working with the Playmaker’s Repertory on campus to investigate media portrayals of Detroit and how that influenced playwright Dominique Morisseau in her character choice when writing the play Skeleton Crew. “It’s really different than what I thought English writing could be,” she said.

SURF is a program through which students engage in undergraduate research, scholarship or performance for at least 9 weeks. Students are typically awarded $3,000 and work with a faculty member advisor throughout their project. The Office for Undergraduate Research funds students who produce a research question that is “interesting, fresh, and significant” for their field of study. The deadline for all SURF application materials is February 1. More information about past SURF projects and how to apply can be found on the Office for Undergraduate Research’s website.

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