With Dean’s Date barely behind us and thoughts of grades consuming every waking moment, it is easy to forget the real-world value of our courses. But, at the same time, it is not hard to find research opportunities that transcend the classroom and have clear consequences beyond your GPA.
Last semester, my roommate Morgan, a sophomore concentrating in Anthropology and pursuing a Global Health Certificate, participated in such a research opportunity through the Community-Based Learning Initiative (CBLI). I decided to interview Morgan for my PCUR post this week so that she can share her experience and inform other students about impactful research opportunities on and off campus.
As final exams and paper deadlines approach, I find myself constantly questioning if I am spending my time efficiently. During exam periods, I often wonder how much time I should spend catching up on readings that I skimmed throughout the semester. It’s hard to finish every reading on time when professors assign hundreds of pages per week — and it’s almost impossible to catch up over reading period. Right now, this issueis particularly salient in my sociology class, which requires a 5-page-essay as a take-home exam. How can I review relevant material effectively and efficiently when I also have three other courses to focus on?
Professors never fail to offer this piece of advice. As R3 deadlines approach, Writing Seminar professors are undoubtedly pushing students to shoot for originality in their writing. And who can blame them? No one wants to read a worn-out argument or encounter unsurprising research findings. But originality is not only your professor’s concern.
Throughout my research experiences, I have infallibly found that I benefit the most from original projects. In my writing seminar, The Politics of Intimacy, a creative purpose continuously drove my work. I began my research with the intention of writing about depictions of sexuality in films and their influence on movie ratings and reviews. I intended to use the film Blue Valentine (2010) as my primary evidence because extensive pop-culture articles and scholarly discussion have addressed the implications of its rating. The Motion Picture Association of America rated Blue Valentine NC-17 (their harshest rating) because they deemed certain sexual acts inappropriate to watch. This rating prompted significant controversy and feminist analyses of the MPAA’s policy that I found to be incredibly intriguing.
On the last Friday before fall break, as each of my friends packed up their belongings and boarded New Jersey Transit to head home for the week, I found myself preparing for an entirely different experience. One of the courses I am taking, a seminar called The Arts of Urban Transition, took a five-day-long field trip to Detroit over break as part of an interdisciplinary urban studies program at Princeton. This program, entitled the Princeton-Mellon Initiative in Architecture, Urbanism & the Humanities, is a three-year project that allows students to examine these areas of study through project-based interdisciplinary courses. My class focuses on the roles of art and artists in urban environments undergoing change. Detroit has been a major focal point in the curriculum, which is why I found myself boarding a plane headed to the Detroit Metropolitan Airport.
Over the course of the semester, PCURs will explain how they found their place in research. We present these to you as a series called The Project That Made Me a Researcher. As any undergraduate knows, the transition from ‘doing a research project’ to thinking of yourself as aresearcher is an exciting and highly individualized phenomenon. Here, Emma shares her story.
Every researcher has a moment when they realize that their scholarly voice and independent discoveries matter outside of the classroom. For me, this moment came when I took a year-long journalism course as a sophomore in high school. My high school self-identifies as progressive and implements a unique pedagogic approach that emphasizes learning by doing. The journalism course closely fit that theme; instead of reading sample pieces and discussing what defines good journalism, we immediately jumped into the process of writing articles.
My first two articles—each about one page long—were relatively uncomplicated. I wrote about topics that I found interesting, but didn’t push myself to see my subjects in a new or distinct way. My mom was the only person I interviewed throughout the entire research process. The third assignment, however, called for much more involved and independent research. Our teacher instructed each of us to pick a topic of our choice and spend the entire second semester researching and writing about it. He explained that all of this work would culminate in a twenty-page New York Magazine-esque article due at the end of the year. Throughout the semester, we would only meet for a fraction of our class periods and the other time would be set-aside for us to conduct individual research off-campus.
Have you ever looked at a class syllabus for the first time and been absolutely shocked by the sheer volume of information you are expected to process? This is exactly how I felt when I first saw the syllabus for an urban studies seminar I’m currently taking. The class curriculum is stacked with dense articles, complex lectures and hundred-page textbook readings. How could I possibly manage, retain and use all of that material?
It turns out that that immensely overwhelming syllabus can actually be my best tool for successfully managing my workload.
Recently, I attended a McGraw Workshop entitled Efficient Learning Strategies: Managing Large Amounts of Information. This hour-long session focused on exactly what worried me when I looked at my seminar syllabus: how to effectively approach classes that throw vast amounts of information at you. Nic Voge, the Associate Director of the Undergraduate Learning Program, led the workshop and helped the attendees work through common concerns students have about information management. These included being able to discern important information, make connections, summarize material and prepare for assessments—each of which is particularly pertinent for research-based classes and projects. Continue reading Syllabi, Charts and Research Plans: Your Best Friends for Effective Information Management
As Princeton students, we all know that our classes offer many amazing opportunities for personal advancement, but we often do not recognize how certain classes can grant us opportunities to contribute to a greater community as well. I was fortunate enough to take such a class as early as my first semester at Princeton, when I enrolled in a Freshman Seminar entitled Philanthropy: Can we Save the World Through Generosity? The topic of this course—the work of foundations and nonprofits—was fascinating, and the method of learning was truly unique. In hopes of instilling a passion for philanthropy amongst Princeton students, a generous alumnus gave a grant of $50,000 to our class. He charged us with the responsibility of donating the grant to non-profits of our choice and learning about philanthropy through that process.