By Travis Trombley
Whilst we writers for The Pleiad enjoy the coolest jobs on campus during the school year, we all explore various pursuits during those precious months of relative freedom known affectionately as summer vacation. What follows are just a few stories of how several Pleiad staff members spent their summers. Many of us traveled, a savvy and/or desperate few took summer classes, some gained experience through internships, and at least one of us slew a dragon, though it may have been a metaphorical beast. However different our exploits, most of us tried to secure some form of income or take advantage of one of the many opportunities Albion offers its students–or, in my case, both.
Now, after the stresses of the academic year—all those lengthy essays, long-term projects and inhumane reading assignments—most students want to spend the summer reading more enjoyable material of their choosing (that is, if they want to read anything at all). Well, that is exactly what I did, but with one important distinction: I got paid for it.
Through Albion College’s Foundation for Undergraduate Research, Scholarship and Creative Activity (FURSCA), 52 Albion students from various academic disciplines spent up to nine weeks of their summers working with a faculty advisor on a research project of their design.
Other than the mandatory weekly meeting during which students presented their projects and findings, FURSCA participants determine their own schedules with their advisers. For example, my regular workday routine looked something like this:
8 am: Wake up and go for a run to Victory Park.
8:30 am: Do an Insanity workout (but let’s be honest, after two weeks, I just started doing the 17-minute abs video day-after-day).
9-10 am: Shower and eat breakfast.
10 am-7 pm: Read and write. Meet with adviser for 1-2 hours. Occasional nap.
Though my research project included readings of literary theory, mythology and Arthurian literature, I spent the bulk of my time studying my long-term passion: superheroes. My goal was to evaluate, as objectively as possible, the now-popular claim that superheroes constitute a “modern mythology” by comparing the cultural and ideological functions of superhero stories and Arthurian legends.
Of course, the project changed course several times during its nine-week lifespan. Significant problems arose, readings redirected my thoughts or provided new, unexpected ideas to explore, and the time required to sufficiently understand certain texts proved to be more than originally expected.
However, tackling an extended research project proved an invaluable adventure. Experiencing the demands of self-directed scholarship, getting paid to work with a subject about which one is passionate, and having to articulate one’s findings to an assembly of peers and professors all provided ample opportunities for growth and a taste of what academia is like after the undergrad years.
I would recommend FURSCA to any students who want to dip their toes into some research and delve into a subject about which they are curious or passionate. Start talking to professors in the field you would like study and thinking about a research project. Proposals are due shortly after we return from winter break, so you have some time.
Next, Tess Haadsma tells the terrifying tale of waitressing in a pizza parlor.