All Paths Lead to a Community of Support

Emma Kenny presenting her research at URCA“If someone would have told me a year ago that I was going to win an ASSURE Fellowship, begin an independent study, and present my findings at two research conferences, I would have told them they are crazy.”

Conducting and presenting research as an undergraduate student offers a range of benefits, including an opportunity to deepen classroom learning. After taking Dr. Elif Kalaycioglu‘s Humanitarianism course in Fall 2021, junior political science major Emma Kenny was inspired to expand on what she learned about international media.

“I discovered Al Jazeera’s program The Stream when researching how media represents Syrian refugees and noticed how the show is an extremely unique form of hybrid media,” explained Emma. “Once I began to explore The Stream I saw how people from all over the world were not only interacting with the show but also with one another. This case study led me to develop my own definition of the global public(s).”

With this development came a desire to conduct more research and to eventually publish her work. Dr. Kalaycioglu introduced Emma to Arts and Sciences Support for Undergraduate Research (ASSURE), which provides funding to enhance student research and creative activity. As presenting work to peers is an integral part of the research process, ASSURE funding often covers conference expenses, travel, and more based on need. While faculty mentors encourage students to present at UA’s Undergraduate Research & Creative Activity (URCA) Conference, students often look for field-specific conferences. Emma chose to do both.

After gaining the experience of articulating her research to inquisitive minds at URCA on April 4, Emma was feeling more comfortable and confident heading to her next research conference on April 7. “The ASSURE Fellowship allowed me to travel to the Midwest Political Science Association (MPSA) Conference where I was able to present my preliminary findings. This fellowship enabled me to fly to Chicago, pay my registration fee, and book my hotel all free of charge on my end. Because of this very generous fellowship, I have now received invaluable feedback from my chair, discussant, and my peers regarding my research’s future directions.”

That direction moves towards getting IRB approval to then conduct interviews with those who work at Al Jazeera’s The Stream. “This will allow me to better understand their approach as well as understand whether they agree with my theory of how their platform creates a global public. While doing this, I will be creating an original qualitative database that will collect data from episodes of The Stream. This database will provide additional insight into my analysis and will aid my secondary goal to understand The Stream’s form of hybrid media.”

Aligned with her undergraduate research on the global public, Emma hopes her own future will see a Fulbright award to teach English in the Balkans, followed by law school to eventually work in law and policy. “Of my many policy interests, international policy is one of them. My research allows me to better understand the relations people have with one another at the ground level all over the world, this understanding would aid my approach to foreign policy and international law.”

With many UA resources available to support undergraduate research, Emma has advice for her fellow students: “My advice for students considering undergraduate research is to go for it! I myself was on the fence about it and after speaking to my supervising professor, she helped me gain the confidence I needed to continue pursuing it. With the right guidance and a good idea, undergraduate research is more than possible and I encourage any student to step outside of their comfort zone and try it out.”