The Gardner-Webb University Undergraduate Research Scholars program funded a total of 10 students during the summer 2017 term to participate in the Summer Scholars program. This represents the greatest number of scholars in the program’s history.
As part of their research project, scholars will spend five weeks on campus working on his/her topic for 40 hours a week. At the same time, students will be mentored by a dedicated faculty member providing information and guidance to ensure a successful research experience for the scholar.
The program is directed by Dr. June Hobbs, who oversees GWU Undergraduate Research and serves as a professor of English for the Department of English Language and Literature.
Caroline Burnette is one among the 10 that participated this year. Her plan, to examine the correlation between gender roles and the treatment of mental illness in women in the Victorian Era through critical analysis of Charlotte Perkins Gilman's "The Yellow Wallpaper."
Her mentor will be Dr. June Hobbs. Caroline is a senior majoring in English literature with a pre-law concentration.
Caroline answered a few questions about her experience.
How did you pick your faculty advisor?
I transferred to Gardner-Webb as a Junior, and one of the first classes I took at GWU was with Dr. June Hobbs. She became my favorite professor instantaneously, and when I heard about the Summer Scholar program, I couldn’t think of anyone with whom I would be more delighted to work with. At the time, I had no idea how involved she was with this program; I ran to my favorite teacher and asked her to work with me. As my study progressed through the summer, however, I found it was incredibly beneficial to work not only with a brilliant scholar, but also with the woman who designed this research program. The amount of insight she had to offer on both these levels was incredible.
How did you pick your research topic?
Because of my interest in gender studies and women’s issues, this topic had been in the back of my mind for a while, just waiting for an excuse to be fleshed out and researched. I knew I wanted to examine hysteria and The Yellow Wallpaper, but as the project progressed, I was amazed to see how it quickly became so much more than the simple idea with which I started.
Why was this topic important to you?
As a feminist and an academic, I feel that this topic has not only personal but universal significance. To examine the history of hysteria is to examine a societal history of degrading and demeaning women, a malingering practice that still exists in various forms. Though the threat of institutionalization is less common, women who display strong emotion or challenge socially acceptable gender roles still run the risk of being labelled “crazy” or “hysterical,” and subsequently dismissed—particularly in academia. It is for these reasons that I feel this topic is deserving of extensive research and increased awareness in society.
What do you feel like you learned the most from your research?
Having learned so much through the course of this program, it’s difficult to pin down a single most beneficial experience, but I would have to say that aside from learning so much about a fascinating topic that interests me, as well as more information about future research practices, I also learned a lot about myself. In fact, prior to the start of this project, my future plans were geared toward becoming a defense attorney.
I was interested in this career path because I’m passionate about social justice, but also because of my love for reading, research, and debate. The Summer Scholar program helped me to realize that I would actually find the most fulfillment from a career in academia and research.
What did you enjoy the most about your research?
The uninterrupted time to research! During the semester, so many things pop up that I would love to research further or spend more time learning about, and I can never do it, because of the constant deadlines in my classes. Getting to spend time away from all the distractions of college life and focus on study was amazing, and showed me that this is what I want to spend the rest of my life doing. I also loved having an opportunity to work so closely with someone as incredible as Dr. Hobbs. Anyone who is serious about research and academics should have this opportunity; It will change your life.