Regretting a lack of research
I would like to thank Josh Akman for encouraging research on campus (April 17, p. 4). I appreciate his insight on the value of education, thinking and the overemphasis on interning. As a senior, I regret spending too much time “copying, stapling and sorting” at my internships rather than taking advantage of the valuable and unique opportunity to study a subject in depth, draw conclusions, and provide evidence to my ideas and theories on a topic. As I frantically write the last four research papers of my college career, I resent that such a valuable opportunity only fits into my schedule during the wee hours of the morning at the end of the semester while I spend my days entering data and processing paperwork.
I would like to offer an alternate model that incorporates both an emphasis on academic learning and practical experience. During the school year, students should be encouraged to focus on classes and research. Then, students can apply their theoretical knowledge to the workplace at a summer internship. This would blend the best of both worlds and graduates would feel confident in both their ability to think and excel in a profession. I have observed my peers who study business and science succeed with this model and I strongly recommend it to my younger brother as he considers his college career.
Likewise, I would encourage freshmen and current students to consider their time and priorities. As Akman said, “We need to stop considering outside research opportunities as unwanted homework, and we need to instead realize that they offer an excellent way to make a great impact on our chosen field.” It is my hope that advisers, administrators and students will work together to achieve a greater balance between professional experience and intellectual discourse.
Ellen Bradshaw, Senior
Student’s view on research encouraging
In his recent Opinions piece, “Selling Research to Students” (April 17, p. 4), Josh Akman laments a University-wide emphasis on internships as the unspoken point of a GW undergraduate education, rather than the “actual opportunity to think” that would be provided by a greater emphasis on original student research and on institutionally supported venues for developing and publicizing that research, such as student-run think tanks or undergraduate research journals. We take his point. And we should note that the University Writing Program has made a conscious effort to promote just this emphasis on original undergraduate research, both in the first-year writing course itself (UW20), and through a number of venues for promoting and publishing student research, such as our student-edited online annual journal of first-year writing, Euonymous, or our Student Lecture Series, an ongoing forum for post-UW20 student writers who have demonstrated a high level of critical thinking, intellectual engagement and original scholarship.
Just last week, on April 10-11, we held our annual University Writing and Research Symposium, a conference at which more than 150 students of first-year writing at GW presented work from original research they had begun in UW20 classes on topics ranging from questions of representation at the National Museum of the American Indian, to the One Laptop per Child initiative, to the impact of Facebook and Wikipedia on our ideas of online authorship and ownership.
We agree with Akman that such venues are only first steps. We would like to see them more fully complemented by a University-wide emphasis on a culture of scholarship, in which original thought would be an expected and valued part of the work that undergraduate students do at GW. We see Akman’s article as evidence that students, like the University Writing Program, would welcome this.
Ryan Jerving, Rachel Riedner and Christy Zink, Assistant Professors of Writing