Interdisciplinary Networking and You

A major focus of the Brackenridge Fellowship is interdisciplinary networking. From the beginning, this was something that drew me to the program, and now, as our presentations approach, I can confidently say that it has already paid off in spades. Interacting with my cohort, a group made up of researchers from many different fields of study, has provided the opportunity for varied perspectives on my own project, and I believe that many of my fellows would say the same.

This week, we were encouraged to look beyond the circle of our cohort members or even our Brackenridge class at large. There are many Pitt alumni who participated in the Brackenridge Fellowship during their time in undergrad, and through the Pitt Commons group, we were able to make connections with them. I chose to reach out to Sarah DeMaria, who not only completed the Brackenridge during her time as a Pitt undergrad, but who is now completing her PhD at Pitt as well. Last Fall, Sarah and I met when I took a Special Education class that she was co-teaching. We connected briefly back then as she had spent a year teaching in Baton Rouge, LA, where I grew up, but, until I saw her name on the list of Brackenridge alumni, I had no idea she had participated in the fellowship. I thought this was the perfect opportunity to reach out to her to discuss her research and how the Brackenridge helped to shape her future plans, especially leading into her pursuit of her PhD. We have made plans to meet in person sometime next month, and I am thrilled to have made the connection! I can’t wait to hear more from her.

As for my research mentor, Dr. Lori Campbell… Dr. C has actually been a part of my journey at Pitt since before I even officially started on campus. I started at Pitt in the summer of 2019. That spring, just a few weeks before summer classes began, the Fantasy Studies Fellowship (a fantasy book club sponsored by Dr. C) at Pitt hosted a diversity panel featuring V.E. Schwab. I was very interested in the subject matter, as well as a fan of Schwab’s writing, so I made a point to attend the panel—which ended up being amazing.

Me with V.E. Schwab at the FSF “Many World, More Voices” panel in 2019.

Afterward, I reached out to Dr. C to let her know how good I thought the event was, and to ask how I could get involved with the FSF. Now, a little over a year later, I am the newest Vice President of the FSF, and I have also had the invaluable experience of working as a UTA for Dr. C’s UHC course “J.R.R. Tolkien and the Counter-Culture.” That experience was a big driving factor in developing my proposal for the Brackenridge, and Dr. C encouraged me every step of the way. I am so grateful for her guidance and I deeply respect and admire the way that she uses fantasy literature to contextualize real world topics, which is exactly what I am trying to do with my Brackenridge research. Her “Harry Potter: Blood, Power, Culture” course, which I took last fall, was also instrumental in pushing me to think about fantasy literature in the way that I do. If I were giving advice to other students on how to connect with research mentors, I would say that when you hear a lecture, read an article, or take a class with someone whose work you admire, let them know! Send a thank you email, and ask how you can become more involved. I’ve made connections with other professors in this way as well, and those relationships have all, in different ways, helped to guide me on my undergrad journey and as I prepare for grad school.

In the future, I aim to go to grad school and then to work in higher education. I want to continue to research, but I also hope to help influence students in the same way that many of my professors have done for me. I think that connecting with these professors is an obvious first step, but also with others who do research that interests me, and others who work in education.

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