For many students, undergraduate research central to Trinity experience

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Apr. 29, 2013

For many students, undergraduate research central to Trinity experience

Seniors Andreas Jozwiak, Lauren Wilks, and Will Shrout presented original research at national and international conferences

Undergraduate Student Research

By Sharon Jones Schweitzer

SAN ANTONIO - Their research topics varied greatly, but the experience provided each with valuable preparation and focus for life after Trinity.

Will Shrout's paper, "The Bridge from Heaven to Helen: Reconciling the Divine and Human Forms of Helen" sought to reconcile the various interpretations of "Helen of Troy" through the ages from religious heroine to contested bride to a symbol of physical power and beauty. Following a nation-wide competition, the paper was selected for presentation at Harvard's Center for Hellenic Studies in Washington D.C. last fall. The classical studies major from Boston says the experience provided him "tremendous affirmation to pursue his interest in teaching on the college level." Shrout plans to do post-baccalaureate work at the Center for Hellenic Studies and the University of Pennsylvania.

Lauren Wilks combined her interests in cultural, gender, and media studies to delve into the media's portrayal of post-feminist gender roles in the wildly popular television drama Grey's Anatomy. By examining the roles of lead characters, Meredith Grey and Christina Yang, Wilks, a senior communication major from San Antonio, demonstrated where Grey's Anatomy falls in the feminist wave continuum in its portrayal of women. "I discovered that Grey's Anatomy hybridizes elements of second wave, third wave, and post-feminist thought," says Wilks. Her paper, "Is Grey's Anatomy on the Wave?" was competitively selected for presentation at the National Undergraduate Honors Conference at DePauw University this spring. Wilks also received third place honors in the 2013 Undergraduate Research Awards competition sponsored by Trinity's Information Literacy Committee. "I love the concept of a communication Capstone, it was a cool opportunity to explore the outer bounds of my research topic and get feedback from my faculty adviser on a regular basis," she says. After graduation, Wilks plans to work briefly in the communication field then return to academia and writing, researching, and teaching in a combined master's and doctoral program.

No stranger to undergraduate research experiences, Andreas Jozwiak, nevertheless, never dreamed he would have an opportunity to visit the Arab Gulf region, much less present his research at an international conference. Yet this spring, he was invited to present his thesis, which compared and contrasted the Islamic architectural styles and urban planning schemes of Doha's Msheireb development and the nearby Museum of Islamic Art, at the Gulf Studies Symposium organized by the American University of Kuwait. The political science and international studies major from Corpus Christi, Texas, says the experience was incredible. "I received tips on who to contact when considering graduate schools and how I might expand my paper, which I hope to publish one day." Afterwards, he visited Doha to see the developments first hand, "which confirmed my assumptions about the developments, and how they relate to one another and to experience their shared goal of urban revitalization."

Undergraduate research is central to Trinity's values as a liberal arts institution. "Undergraduate research, at its finest, allows a budding scholar to do what even seasoned scholars aim for - to synthesize the strands of existing research while adding new data, ideas, and insights," says Tom Jenkins, associate professor of classical studies. As Shrout, Wilks, and Jozwiak would agree that one of the great advantages of a Trinity education is the opportunity for students to work directly with Trinity faculty in innovative research no matter the discipline.

Sharon Jones Schweitzer is assistant vice president for University Communications and a 1975 graduate of Trinity University