By Jonathan Tilden, ’17
I researched for the department in the summer of 2015. I heard about the opportunity while in an American history class with Dr. Petit and was immediately interested. Dr. Petit, the faculty member who would be overseeing this project, was interested in constructing a website about the United War Work Campaign of 1918, an interdenominational effort to raise funds for American soldiers abroad and at home. The topic intrigued me and I had a few conversations with Dr. Petit about what the position of (paid) summer researcher entailed. I filled out a brief application and was accepted into a four-student research team.
By June of 2015, we were on campus doing preliminary research on the different organizations involved in the United War Work Campaign. Each of us took a certain area of the research and dove into finding and reading all of the secondary sources about that area we could. In late July, we flew out to Washington D.C. to meet up with Dr. Petit. We spent a week at the Library of Congress, analyzing primary sources about the United War Work Campaign we couldn’t access elsewhere. We spent the next few weeks building, editing and tweaking the website.
I’d recommend the experience. Being a researcher meant spending quite a bit of time by yourself, reading and writing. At the same time, we frequently met throughout the day for quick meetings about where the research was leading us and what was next in the process. I really enjoyed the combination of solitary research and teamwork. Naturally, the Library of Congress was the highlight of the trip, for a variety of reasons. For one, the primary sources allowed us to really get a “behind-the-scenes” look at our topic. I particularly enjoyed seeing some of the propaganda posters that we had seen online prior. I realized after seeing these posters in person just how effective of tools they really were. And that’s something that books or the internet can’t convey.
Reading Teddy Roosevelt’s personal papers was an experience I will never forget. We also had the opportunity to get to know several other research teams that were also at the Library of Congress through a Great Lakes College Association grant. I roomed with two guys from Pakistan. They took me to a Pakistani restaurant in the area and we talked a lot about Pakistan and their research on Islamophobia in the U.S. This was an experience I wouldn’t have had without signing up for this research opportunity.
Research also gave me the opportunity to develop a close working relationship with a professor. At the end of my summer research, Dr. Petit asked me to be her Teaching Assistant for a seminar. This was yet another opportunity I wouldn’t have without my time as a researcher. I think one of Hope’s greatest attributes is the potential for close relationships. This extends to all members of the campus, but faculty-student relationships can be really rewarding. Working closely with professors is extremely rewarding and a lot of schools don’t allow undergraduates to work under a professor’s guidance. My research experience was very worthwhile and I’d encourage any undergraduate to look into summer research.