How My Network Has Shaped My Research

This summer, I had planned on learning more about the intersection of politics and business, and how they fit into a broader societal issue, which in my case, was food insecurity. I planned to learn from the disciplines of business ethics, finance, political science, and psychology, and how they interlay into such a complex issue like a lack of access to fresh, affordable, healthy, and culturally appropriate sources of food. Comparing this research experience to past research experiences yields that my research this summer was entirely unique. Meeting with my mentor, and Professors who guided me in my research, while I still worked independently, was unique in the sense that for the first time in my research career, I had a team. Working with those as and more diligent than myself in research pushed me to learn more, and to make deeper insights rather than simplistic surface level notes and ideas.

This summer, research has felt more learning driven than in the past. Previously, I was motivated by a due date, while I am now motivated by the instructions to learn and engage. It relieves the pressure, but brings a newfound motivation of self-pioneered learning and independent engagement. This project interested me because of the stark implications it involved, especially considering I have been working with a local community, on a project that has potential for both scalability, and immediate impact on the local food chain. Community involvement has been important to me, so the idea of combining academic rigor and creation with a positive end of community engagement, communication, and fulfilment made the community research fellowship something I was keen on participating in.

Some benefits of working across disciplines are the synergies involved when you understand crucial concepts of the linking disciplines, such as understanding how legislation may impact financial viability, or how environmental changes could yield psychological side effects. The result of having only surface knowledge of two defined disciplines can prove to be difficult though, given they can leave you feeling as if you know nothing. Many times, trying to combine disciplines leads me to work through one discipline, using only fractional aspects of the other, leading to a lopsided effort.

The aspects of communication, clarity, and continuity are all things I will be bringing with me into the professional sphere. The fellowship, and the research it entailed, focused on ideas and issues that sprouted from the community, which meant the best way to understand them was to listen and communicate with the community. Communicating in a diverse environment requires a high level of flexibility, and the ability to change perspective, to understand the emotion, logic, and passion behind the ideas and thoughts of community members. This skill is certainly something useful in any workplace, as the best way to succeed through diversity is to leverage employee differences to create a more well rounded approach. Overall, the strong support network I have been immersed in has been hugely helpful in ensuring I am both rigorous and focused in my research, especially on topics that are new to me. We will engage in networks everywhere in life, so better understanding how to clearly communicate and engage is an invaluable and industry transferrable skill.

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