Student research leads the way to new beginnings
Undergraduate research is an excellent way for students to gain experiences and skills that will benefit them both academically and professionally.
For Rachel Stroup, a senior English major at The Ohio State University at Mansfield, her research into feminist rhetoric is a way of taking ownership of an important topic in her field of study.
Stroup was recently named “runner-up” for the English department’s prestigious Best Undergraduate Theses award. Her thesis is titled “The Rhetoric of the New Woman, 1890-1920.” In it, Stroup focuses on the usage of the stereotypical term “New Woman” and the ways womanhood was changing in the progressive era.
“When I was reading The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan, I stumbled over the term ‘New Woman.’ The more I thought about it, the more I found the term to be an interesting device that people used to discuss America’s first wave of feminism,” Stroup remembers.
Stroup found in her research that modern scholars have used the term to signal feminist strides made by women who were breaking away from the 19th-century womanhood. But, in the past, the term wasn’t used positively.
Stroup explains, “I argue that the term commonly had a negative connotation at the time as it was used by opponents of feminist reform to denigrate the ways women were changing.”
Stroup feels that the research she has been able to focus on at Ohio State Mansfield has helped her accelerate her path to becoming a scholar. “Undergraduate research allows you to take what you’ve learned in your previous years and advance it beyond what’s expected in the undergraduate classroom.”
At Ohio State Mansfield, students are encouraged to come up with research topics they are passionate about and pursue those projects. Most faculty members are also engaged in research.
“The potential that the professors at Ohio State Mansfield saw in me prompted them to push me beyond what I thought I could do,” Stroup explains. “When I started out in college, I was just trying to pass my classes, and by the end, I ended up being published and conducting new research.”
Stroup says she is grateful, especially for two faculty members who helped guide her research. “Both Dr. Carolyn Skinner and Dr. Elizabeth Kolkovich were instrumental in helping me advance my ideas and skills beyond what I was used to,” she said. “They really helped me learn the conventions of scholarly writing and the ways in which you need to assert your arguments strongly in order to make sure your work contributes to recent conversations on this topic.”
Stroup plans to continue her studies in feminist rhetoric in graduate school. Her ultimate goal is to work at a college or university teaching and conducting research in the field of English studies.
Why do research on the Mansfield campus?
An advantage of being a student at a campus such as Ohio State Mansfield is the opportunity to take part in some aspect of the research process. There are a number of ways that students may benefit from participating in research, including the following:
- Expanding learning beyond the classroom
- Feeling more involved in the college experience
- Developing a deeper understanding of how knowledge advances in a field
- Applying some of the knowledge gained in classes
- Working closely with a faculty member
- Enhancing chances of getting accepted into graduate school
- Enabling faculty members to write a more fully informed letter of recommendation for a job or graduate school
- Having the opportunity to present research findings at a student research forum or even a professional conference
- Gaining practical experience in a field that will be helpful when seeking a job
- Demonstrating to yourself and others that you are capable and competent