Researched and written by Anna Ellis and Makenzie McNeil
Last spring Spartans gathered at the Student Union for the annual University Undergraduate Research and Arts Forum (UURAF). This event offers a unique opportunity for students to present their work and research to a wide audience. Among these impressive presenters were many of our fellow Professional Writing students.
PW major Olivia Hacker worked as a group with Experience Architecture majors Ian Clark and Meghan Richardson. The three were asked by Professor Benjamin Lauren to work on the website for a local child education center. Together the team used a technique called participatory design, which allowed for the involvement of students, parents, and teachers. “You are not redesigning for them, you are redesigning with them,” stated Meghan, who further explains how the entire process was all about research from a stakeholder’s point of view. After meetings with the school board, creating surveys for parents, analyzing data and trouble areas and then creating a sitemap with a color scheme, the team completed their research. “UURAF was a great experience from a PW standpoint. I learned how to build credibility and hyper-communicate with a client from the beginning, but also how to work effectively as a team,” Olivia said.
Also at UURAF, Professional Writing major Lauren Link presented research on the cognitive development of attitudes young adults have towards writing. In her research, Lauren found a correlation between a student’s feelings about writing and the ways they are taught in preparation for standardized tests such as the MEAP, ACT and SAT. Students get sick of repetitive assignments and the typical “five paragraph essay” format, adding to negative feelings toward writing once they reach middle and high school. Lauren’s research aided her mentor, Professor Kate Fedewa, in her preparation for MSU’s Young Authors’ Conference this summer.
Two other Professional Writing students, Kelly Turner and Emily Dallaire, turned a personal interest into valuable research regarding Harry Potter fandom and the ways in which fans interact with temporary and digital spaces such as fan events and fan websites like MuggleNet and Leaky Cauldron. Their research started last summer when the pair studied abroad in the UK, visiting iconic Harry Potter fan destinations like Platform 9 ¾, Warner Brothers Studios, and the Elephant House (the cafe in Edinburgh where J.K. Rowling wrote most of the series). They sought to answer the question, “How has the worldwide Harry Potter phenomenon changed how book and movie fans interact with these spaces and contributed to the growth of corporate involvement in the community?”
Not only did they present their research at UURAF, but the two plan to take the skills they’ve gained from their presentation and apply them to future endeavors. Kelly said, “This research project has given me hope that I can pursue something I'm passionate about purely on the basis that I'm passionate about it and that I see value in it. From there, it's just about sharing that value with the world.”
PWers who participated in UURAF 2015: