Reflecting On My CURF Experience

The Chancellor’s Undergraduate Research Fellowship (CURF) has proven to be one of my most valuable experiences as a Pitt student thus far. In collaborating with a mentor that I may not have had an opportunity to work with otherwise, aside from enrolling in a class, I was able to form a meaningful relationship with Professor Mitchell, which led to a number of productive and invigorating conversations surrounding qualitative research methodologies and how to apply them to the context of rhetoric in testimonies on maternal mortality and healthcare delivery practices. 

The direction of my project has undoubtedly shifted and changed throughout this semester. From one meeting to the next, Professor Mitchell and I have continued to place our focus on improving our understanding of the text, and extracting the pieces of information, namely, frames, that may offer significant value to how maternal mortality is discussed in a policy setting. And while these specific frames have surely evolved along with our comfortability with the text, the following table outlines a draft of a codebook that includes codes we have found promising in our study of the congressional hearing. Currently, we embark on an application of the codebook to transcript analysis and thematic analysis, including rhetorical criticism for assessment of individual themes. We are hopeful that by our previous read-throughs of the 100+ page congressional hearing, these codes, or frames, will offer insight as to how maternal mortality policies can develop effective solutions that specifically target the needs of minority populations.

As the semester comes to a close, my curiosity in mixed-methods research and policy analysis is only beginning. In addition to a strong research partnership, CURF has given me the opportunity to learn skills, like qualitative coding analysis and managing an independent research project, as well as concepts, like framing and stakeholder engagement, that are pivotal in a career for an aspiring health policy analyst. Though CURF is formally over, I am expanding this analysis project into the form of a sole-authored senior thesis in the coming weeks. During this process, I hope to unleash further complexities and maneuver them with confidence thanks to the skills I developed during CURF. As for long-term goals, I am in the process of applying to graduate programs in health policy and management. CURF has certainly played a significant role in my decision to pursue an advanced degree in these topics and shaping my future career interests. For this, I am forever grateful.

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