During my sophomore year at CNU, I enrolled in a special topics course called Space Communication, which required students to think about the ways rhetoric influences the everyday spaces and places we encounter in our daily lives. Not only was this one of the most interesting courses I have taken in my entire college career, but it challenged me to take a more critical view in how I think about seemingly obvious, commonplace ideas. Take classroom set-ups, for example; the physical separation between the professor’s podium and the students’ desks sends a rhetorical message that the professor is the authority figure in the space, while the students are the audience. It’s always an interesting phenomenon to watch: once the professor breaks the physical separation and begins walking around the class, students always seem more willing to engage. (I kind of went on a tangent, but it’s really fascinating stuff!)
Anyways, one of the assignments we had to do was a research paper analyzing the rhetoric of any physical space and environment. I choose the Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial in Washington, D.C. Basically, what the research involved was a lot of observing and walking around the space until I could start connecting theory to what I was experiencing. In the end, my findings and analysis gave me enough to write a pretty solid paper; I wrote, turned in the paper and presented my research in front of the class. “Another paper, another day,” I thought.
A few months later, the professor who taught the class sent me an email saying she wanted to sponsor my research for an undergraduate conference at CNU. Elated, I responded quickly telling her how excited I was for the opportunity—writing has always been my strong suit, but I never expected it to lead to something as cool as this!
Every year in the spring, CNU holds its annual undergraduate Paideia Conference for students interested in incorporating research with what they have been learning about in their respective courses. Best of all, research is open to all fields of study, including social sciences, natural sciences, applied sciences and even the arts! If you have a class or project you are absolutely passionate about, I would seriously recommend finding a faculty mentor to sponsor you and submit your application.
Bragging rights aside, what’s so awesome about this experience is that you get to share your ideas with fellow students and faculty. Sometimes research papers can seem sort of tedious because at the end of the day, it’s only one other person besides yourself who will be reviewing your excellent work. With Paideia, you can divulge all those interesting theories and principles and findings with people who have gone through the exact same process. And if you’re worried about silence at the end of your presentation, no fear! Last year, our moderator beautifully wove each of the presenter’s topics together to make for engaging discussion afterwards.
So, here’s your checklist: project, mentor and application. Now go kick some undergraduate research butt!