Univ. showcases humanities research opportunities

By ISHA RAI and WILLIAM EDMONDS | September 5, 2019

The Krieger School of Arts and Sciences held an event on Tuesday celebrating the humanities at Hopkins, jointly conducted by faculty and students. The event, called Humanities in the HUT, delved into different research and creative writing opportunities offered at Hopkins, and concluded with a showing of student-made films. 

Professor Shane Butler in the Classics Department introduced the John Addington Symonds Project, showing a video created by their lab that was first showcased at this event. The purpose of Butler’s project is to investigate the life and work of the Victorian scholar and writer John Addington Symonds. 

Natalie Strobach, director of undergraduate research and of the Humanities Collaboratory, gave a brief summary of the different types of research opportunities on campus under the Undergraduate Research, Scholarly, and Creative Activity (URSCA) umbrella. 

Strobach went into detail when discussing the Dean’s ASPIRE grant, one of the largest awards given to students studying humanities. 

“[The ASPIRE grant is] for arts and sciences projects, investigations, and research endeavors. Students can do anything with those awards from working in a lab over the summer to [receiving] funding to go to a writing retreat,“ Strobach said. “Probably the biggest question I get is: does this count as research? And I don’t think I’ve ever said no.”

Strobach also went over a number of other awards available through the Hopkins Office for Undergraduate Research (HOUR), but noted that only two were typically granted for work in the humanities: the ASPIRE grant and the Woodrow Wilson Fellowship.

In addition, Strobach introduced the new Richard Macksey National Undergraduate Humanities Research Symposium.

The event will be held from April 3-4. 

“There hasn’t ever been a national undergraduate symposium for humanities students to present their research,” Strobach said. “We have been working on creating this for a while, and Hopkins is going to be the home of that permanently.” 

Seniors shared their personal experiences with the URSCA awards. 

Writings Seminars major and Woodrow Wilson Fellow Alan Fang spoke about how he was given the chance to start writing a novel as a freshman, describing the immense research required.

“I have been able to dig into a lot of texts, from the twentieth century to the present,” he said. “Wilson has provided me with a lot: the funds and the resources to not only write, but to do so as a traveler, a researcher, as a holistic student of the world.”

Kiana Boroumand, a senior Klinger Awardee studying Sociology and English, recently joined a new initiative under URSCA supporting interdisciplinary humanities research. 

“The URSCA office has a new initiative that allows students to create humanities research clusters,” she said. “Basically, whatever topic interests you that you think a lot of other disciplines could also add to or you would love to work with your friends on, outside of class, you can do.”

Senior English and Writing Seminars major Gabby Jones discussed the creation of a Student Advisory Board for Writing Seminars. 

“The Student Advisory Board is a resource for the Writing Seminars department and anyone interested in Writing Seminars,“ she said. “We all want to be a resource for interested students, and also to foster a sense of community.”

Professor Meredith Ward, director of the Film and Media Studies program, introduced her department. She intends for it to be seen as both an academic major and an extracurricular option. 

“We as a faculty make films. We also do scholarly work in film and media,“ she said, listing equipment at the film center available to any students taking Film and Media Studies courses.

Brian Song, a sophomore and the production chair for Studio North, discussed how the film production company takes on small-scale projects with low stakes so people can easily get involved in film production. Studio North also awards three $1500 grants to undergraduate film proposals each year.

“Studio North... is a completely student-run production company. What that means is that from the conception of a film, from the idea, the script-writing process, the script-editing process, you get to do pre-production, location-scouting, casting and then actual filming itself, getting a crew together and actually shooting the film and post-production,“ he said. “We aim to simulate a taste of what an actual, professional film studio or film production company will do.”

Charlotte Wood, a junior majoring in the Writing Seminars and Film and Media Studies, described the Hopkins Film Society as a group for anyone who loves film, TV or pop culture. Wood is the club’s co-president.

“We meet every week to talk about movies new and old, just what people have been watching recently, and we sometimes debate, in a very friendly way, about favorite movies, theories about movies, what have you,“ Wood said. “We also host screenings once a month to just enhance film culture at Hopkins and expose people to new things, and things really ramp up in the spring when we program our film festival.”

The event drew a number of freshmen seeking more information on the University’s humanities offerings.

Freshman Connor O’Keefe attended the event to see what humanities research opportunities were available. He was also excited to learn about the film center’s extracurricular potential. 

“I originally came because I was interested in hearing about what sort of research opportunities were for humanities. It was informative in that regard,“ O’Keefe said. “I’m really curious about the film center, where they said they would be doing 35mm screenings.”

Freshman Andrea Guillen attended the event to find a way to make the humanities a larger part of her Hopkins experience since she had always studied them in high school. 

“All of my classes are social sciences, so I am trying to see other ways I can still get back into the humanities,“ Guillen said.

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