Three WRAC students presented at MSU’s 24th annual University Undergraduate Research & Arts Forum (UURAF), building on their research, writing, and design skills and showcasing their work at a major institutional research forum. Amina Darabie, a junior majoring in Experience Architecture (XA), Anthropology, and Arabic, presented her short film titled Spiritual Girl in a Material World: Looking at The Commodification of East and West Asian Culture Through an Orientalist Lens. Charlotte Bachelor, a junior majoring in Professional and Public Writing (P2W), and Emily Lin, a senior majoring in XA, also presented their work on the Detroit Accessibility Project.
This year’s UURAF took place in a hybrid format on April 8, featuring presentations from over 750 undergraduate students representing all 17 colleges at Michigan State University. The forum featured students engaged in research and creative activities and provided space for them to share their work with the university community at a juried event.
Amina Darabie collected creative, qualitative data to analyze issues of cultural appropriation and appreciation from an interdisciplinary lens. Her short film, Spiritual Girl in a Material World, shares her findings and features interviews from a variety of experts, as well as her own commentary. Darabie described the project as influenced by her personal identity as an Arab American woman, as well as a combination of her passions. “It’s an intersection of all my academic interests: commodification of ideas, spirituality in modern America, and Orientalism.”
She added that the research process was “unique” due to its artistic format. “This project forced me to get creative in the ways I chose to define what research looks like,” Darabie said. In addition to the creative aspect of the film, her XA classes contributed to her research, introducing her to “strategies in collecting quantitative data, which prepared [her] for conducting interviews as well as the technological aspect of filmmaking.”
Ultimately, she said that presenting at UURAF was a “memorable experience” that gave her the chance to discover new skills and passions while advancing as a researcher. “[Presenting] has resulted in major personal growth and revealed a true passion I have for documentary filmmaking as research.”
Darabie credits this project as the groundwork that has paved the way for subsequent experiences, including serving as an undergraduate learning assistant for her film class and being part of a production team in MSU’s College of Social Sciences to document interconnectedness between farmer’s markets in the Lansing community.
Charlotte Bachelor, founder of the Detroit Accessibility Project (DAP), says that they were initially apprehensive about presenting virtually, but in the end “it [felt] great to … show people outside of WRAC what [they were] working on.” The project, which is sponsored by The Cube, aims to help people in the metro Detroit area find accessible spaces for themselves and their families through the creation of a database, website, and mobile app.
Like Darabie, Bachelor says that she was able to grow as a researcher throughout the process of presenting at UURAF. “I learned the importance of really selling my research, giving [audiences] a reason why they should care about the work DAP is doing.”
Emily Lin, Lead UX Designer for the DAP, agreed, saying that she “learned about the different perspectives for research, like ethical and human-centered research.” She added that there were multiple teams involved in the project, which allowed her to observe how researchers can “[take] different approaches to gathering information,” using multiple approaches to reach the same goal.
Lin also thanked her mentor, Dr. Kate Birdsall, for helping them “narrow down the scope of [their] presentation,” and her XA classes for preparing her for the entire process. “XA provided me with the sources, methodology, tools, and confidence to successfully approach our project and our UURAF presentation,” Lin said.
Bachelor added that her P2W classes have helped prepare her for UURAF as well, “[giving her] the communication and design skills to efficiently relay a message.”
Ultimately, UURAF was an exciting chance for each student to share their skills and important research with the community.
Kara MacKenzie (she/her) is a sophomore at Michigan State University majoring in Professional and Public Writing and Women’s and Gender Studies. She is the website and communications intern for WRAC, where she helps to create and implement engaging content campaigns that draw attention to people in WRAC and the amazing work they are doing. She is especially passionate about the intersections between rhetoric and social justice, and hopes to one day use her writing skills to benefit an organization that works toward positive social change.