One of the best things about attending a small college is the opportunity to engage in high-level research projects. In large schools, many research opportunities are reserved for graduate students. However, students at GMC frequently have the opportunity to pursue their own high-level research or work with a professor on his or her projects.
I have had the opportunity to participate in two intensive research experiences during my time at Green Mountain. This past summer I traveled to China with Professor Mark Dailey and several other GMC students for anthropological research that focused on the changes in how people interact with their local environment. This trip was funded by the ASIANetwork foundation, which is dedicated to giving liberal arts students the opportunity to conduct field research in China. We spent just over three weeks in Fujian province, in the southeast part of the country, in and around the city of Sanming. While there we conducted our research by interviewing people about the changes in their lifestyles and communities throughout their lives. This trip was an amazing opportunity to experience a different culture, collaborate with a team, and conduct high-level research that we will present at a conference in Nashville later this year. I’m especially grateful because I was selected to go on this trip even though I am not an anthropology major (my major is History/Secondary Education), so this opportunity would almost certainly not have been presented at a large university.
This semester I am working as an undergraduate research assistant (URA) for Professor Sarah Mittlefehldt. Sarah is researching the cultural response to biomass energy in the northeast United States since the energy crisis of 1973. As part of this research I have been able to sit in on interviews with professionals in the field and become familiar with academic journals that deal primarily with environmental history. In addition, earlier this week we spent most of the day in the special collections selection of UVM’s Bailey-Howe library poring over the archives of the Vermont Public Interest Research Group (VPIRG) and other environmental and advocacy organizations in the state. The opportunity to conduct archival research and participate in interviews helps to make history come alive in a way that expands what I have learned in the classroom.
I would encourage all college students to take advantage of research opportunities whenever possible. Not only does the experience look great for graduate school and potential jobs, but it can also help one to determine whether a career path is as captivating in practice as it is in theory. Research takes a great deal of time, energy, and focus, but the payoffs in new skills and expanded interests make it entirely worth it.
Written by: Alison E. Putnam