Having already done a considerable amount of research before this summer, I had a strong idea of what to expect from this program. Indeed, I’ve even completed work through the UHC Research Fellowship, a program very similar in structure and philosophy to the Brackenridge Fellowship. But this was my first experience as a full-time researcher, and the flexibility and burden of responsibility that came with that distinction made for a uniquely challenging and thrilling summer.
As I’ve touched on in past blog posts, the purpose of this fellowship for me was to deliberately challenge my conception of what research can and should be and produce something that moves beyond traditional academic confines. Though I spent much of my time in scholarly spaces—parsing journals, books from university presses, and the like—my project’s emphasis on popular culture required me to devote just as much time to blogs, fan sites, social media pages, and Youtube videos. And for a topic as academically and popularly understudied as mine, the lack of structure, precedent, and direction that naturally accompanied those latter subjects of inquiry tested my capacities as a researcher. Plus, having to work from home didn’t exactly make immersing myself in my work any easier, especially with a young and needy Shih Tzu constantly zooming around my legs.
But as challenging as these unique circumstances have been, this program made them easily navigable— and rewardingly so. First of all, I would be remiss if I did not touch on just how important the communal aspect of this fellowship was. Even though I worked almost exclusively from Ohio, I always felt connected to my fellow researchers, engaging in fun and insightful talks both in and outside of our seminars. Whenever I experienced some setbacks or was feeling worried about my project, I felt solace in the fact that I could turn to another thirty-odd peers in the same position.
Just as central to the success of the program as its collaborative aspects is the flexibility awarded to us fellows. Rather than having to follow my original proposal to a T, the Brackenridge Fellowship gave me the freedom and flexibility I needed to make the most of this summer. With full control over my project, I was able to move past subtopics that didn’t prove to be as fruitful as I imagined and instead follow new curiosities as they arose, making for a much more intellectually stimulating research experience. And as new tangents cropped up and expanded the scope of my project, I felt at ease knowing I didn’t need to churn out a rushed final product. Indeed, I plan on taking much of this coming month to fill out and polish my research to an extent that’s unachievable in most other research programs. The Brackenridge Fellowship allowed me to take my curiosity into my own hands alongside a remarkably supportive cohort, and I could not be more grateful to Dr. Say for fostering such an amazing community. Thank you all for following my research journey, and I can’t wait to hear from the rest of the Brackenridge Fellows in our upcoming panel discussions!