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Featured Researcher: Aerianna McClanahan
I like how mutualistic it [research] is - everyone involved has something to gain! By making the decision to participate in or do research, you are stepping into something that requires you to keep your mind open. You get the chance to constantly learn, grow, and find ways to connect with others.
1. Briefly describe your research project and its importance. (Try to write this in a way that people outside of your field will be able to understand).
My research project is about combatting negative depictions of Appalachia by highlighting some of the diverse groups and regional activists that live here. By identifying and compiling this unique and complex network of people, now the network can expand and be shared with others in hopes that a more accurate representation of Appalachia can be curated and maintained.
2. How did you first get involved with research?
I first got involved with research with the help of my wonderful faculty mentor, Dr. Rosemary Hathaway. I took her American Folklore course in the spring semester of my freshman year and her final assignment was my first big college research project. My topic was on the West Virginia public teacher (#55United) movement. From taking her class then to now having her as a mentor, her unwavering support has really acted as a catalyst for me to confidently explore and conduct research that I'm passionate about.
3. What does a day of researching look like for you (tools/methods/setting/etc.)?
Most days I would say that my research looks like a lot of reading and writing. I go through a lot of journal articles online and I also transcribe lots of material from the audio recordings of my interviews. For example, a thirty-minute interview can produce six pages of written material! The best days, however, are the days that I actually get to go out and speak with others! Having those conversations is what gives my work real substance!
4. What surprised you about doing research?
Something that has surprised me about doing research is that I have found that there are new potential opportunities being presented to me that I would have never known about otherwise if I hadn't taken that first step. Conferences, publications, awards... in addition to the intangible benefits, the tangible benefits of doing research are just as overwhelming!
5. What’s a challenge that you’ve had in your research experience and how did you overcome it?
A challenge I have faced is that a lot of people don't recognize my research as falling under their definition of research. At first, it was disheartening. Now, I see it as a challenge! I make it a goal to highlight Humanities-based research as often as possible so that others can recognize that not all research looks the same! That's the beauty of it - we're all trying to discover new things, no matter what field we're in!
6. What do you like most about doing research?
I like how mutualistic it is - everyone involved has something to gain! By making the decision to participate in or do research, you are stepping into something that requires you to keep your mind open. You get the chance to constantly learn, grow, and find ways to connect with others. I find that to be extremely rewarding!
7. How do you spend your time when you’re not researching?
When I'm not researching, I'm typically either watching TV shows and YouTube videos with my fiancée Allie or I'm playing with our adorable dog Dundie (and yes, he was named after The Office - it's our favorite show)!