Research Seminar: more final thoughts

I already reflected on how I thought this new course went this year. In my mind I had wrapped it up. Then, I went to graduation. The students who greeted me the most warmly were my seminar students. In fact, they gathered together for a picture with me – no small feat to get all nine of them together at a time when they were being pulled in all different directions. They had created a bond like no class I have taught before. Instead of the glue of my curriculum, they were held together by something else, something they created.

Individually, they all had moments where their light was visible through their work. I can rattle off areas of growth and accomplishment for each student. While I don’t want to mention their names without their permission, I will use initials. Here is a sample of what I am proud to have been part of:

S.S. did a research project on Rape Culture that blew his classmates away. He commanded the room for nearly an hour and then adapted the presentation for other settings.

L.B. challenged herself in each and every project to do something new – she pushed the boundaries of her comfort zone all year long. She created a blog on witchcraft and cookbook connecting food with the Mexican Revolution.

C.D. demonstrated her passion for her first project by taking a day that we were off from school and attending a symposium about the Washington Redkins name at UMCP. She also made sense of the Valerie Plame scandal. For that, I am grateful!

K.B. got stronger with each presentation, by the end of the year exuding confidence in his organization, his ideas, and his research. He never failed to choose significant topics, relevant to society – from African-Americans in professional sports executive positions to the U.S. Embargo on Cuba, and finally the evolution of African-American film over the last generation.

M.B. worked on learning how she learns and through the year came to see the paths that get her from initial idea to final product. Her ability to articulate her process is impressive. Her breakthrough moments about a wrongly executed man or the significance of rap lyrics were powerful.

B.W. took on projects with the eye of an historian, looking for the untold stories that would shed additional light on historical topics, such as looking at Pablo Escobar from the perspective of the Colombian poor. She also sought to analyze contemporary society as well to make sense of her world, as she examined the role of social media in generating social change.

M.D. used her research to create a workshop on conflict resolution that she used with another class. Her multi-faceted work on the diamond industry demonstrated deep and complex analysis.

L.L. tackled questions of soccer, racism and social cleansing in Brazil in a way that allowed us to think about our own society while looking closely at another.

S.R. told the story of Liberian Civil War using a single image of child soldiers as his background. It was compelling, riveting, and haunting. It will stay with me for a long time.

I am grateful to this extraordinary group of students for teaching me so much.