Conducting Undergraduate Research: Fine Art – Seaver Blog
Most undergraduates enter college with very little research experience. As a result, it can seem intimidating to approach a professor or attempt to join academia as a freshman, or even as a junior. However, undergraduate research can be an eye-opening and rewarding experience for those who decide to get involved.
One way to get involved in meaningful undergraduate research is to participate in the Academic Year Undergraduate Research Initiative (AYURI). Pepperdine’s AYURI Grants support faculty-student research collaborations across academic divisions by providing funding to participating faculty members and scholarships to eligible students.
While undergraduate research is often associated with STEM majors, research in every division is both possible and important. Explore what faculty and students in the Fine Arts Division have been looking for and how participating in AYURI has helped students apply what they learned in the classroom outside of it.
(Berjoskele by Viktor Ulmann)
This semester, AYURI awarded 20 scholarships to fund unique and diverse research projects. Of the 20 funded projects, the Fine Arts Division conducted three distinctive and powerful research projects. Attendees included Art History Professor Kristen Brennan and Art History Major Arina Cho, Music Teacher Gary Cobb and Music and Business Major Brittany Weinstock, and Drama Teacher Hollace Starr with students Natalia Escobedo and Maya Ordonez.
Brennan and Cho’s research has focused on women’s issues in Chinese art. Together, they investigated Chinese paintings, a 19th century Chinese Empress known for her fashion sense, and Guo Pei, a Chinese couture designer who brings her cultural heritage to 21st century haute couture. Through this, they explore what it means to exercise power as a woman and be a matriarch in a global context.
In the music department, Cobb and Weinstock researched Holocaust music.
“We really focused on the Jewish music of the Holocaust and how different Jewish composers and lyricists incorporated elements of resistance and resilience into their music, such as melody snippets from the Slovak national anthem.” , explains Weinstock. “Even though they weren’t able to fight physically, they were able to fight artistically.”
Starr and students Escobedo and Ordonez touched on a topic that many theaters and artists will be addressing soon: the experience of COVID-19.
“Chasing America is a play that takes place in the interdisciplinary arts organization Trade City’s mobile theater truck called the PopWagon,” says Starr. “It’s an experimental traveling theater project that grapples with issues facing America today: poverty, mental health, socio-economic differences, race, and more.” Rooms ” will be the first project in the series that focuses on the question: “What will you take with you after COVID-19 and what will you leave behind?”
After several interviews with participants from across the country, Escobedo and Ordonez will integrate each interview with participants into the experimental “Rooms” project. Alongside Starr, the two will develop and push their academic work towards theoretical approaches to performance and storytelling to tell the truth and preserve experiences.
Every faculty-student research relationship is different, resulting in either faculty approaching students after seeing their work in class, or students taking the initiative to contact faculty. Since the responsibilities of a student-researcher may vary depending on the faculty-student relationship and the project itself, each research experience is unique and brings something new to the undergraduate experience.
Students can join in on-going research and help with specific aspects of the process or they can carry out their own research with the faculty in a supervisory role. Sometimes students and faculty will develop long-term partnerships and collaborate on multiple projects during the student’s time at Pepperdine. For example, Starr, Escobedo and Ordonez worked together in 2019 on the Climate Change Theater Action initiative which laid the groundwork for their relationship.
“I have worked for years researching European history and in particular the Holocaust, to see how artists came through these times of trauma and pain,” Cobb says. “Undergraduate research is really a way for us to walk side by side with a student and work together on a project.” Weinstock and Cobb meet once a week to talk about Weinstock’s findings on the project, collaborate on finding sources, and discuss the project’s relevance for today.
Cho’s experience focused more on data collection. “Each week, Dr Brennan assigned me specific areas of research that she needed to know more about: Western European royal attire vs. Chinese attire, written definitions of matriarchy and queen. , the 18th century Chinese floral applique method, ”Cho explains. Notably, Cho brought more to the research relationship than her information gathering skills. She brought her point of view.
“Guo Pei’s work is part of a visual world that I don’t know anything about, so I thought it would be a great project to involve a student. She helped me understand this aspect of pop culture and high fashion, ”says Brennan.
(Maya Ordonez and Natalia Esobedo, AYURI research students)
Importance of research
Students and faculty alike agree that the research collaboration experience adds invaluable experience to a student’s undergraduate career.
“Doing this research showed me how I can apply everything I learned in class – vocal techniques, music theory, music history. It broadened my learning into something real and tangible, ”Weinstock shares.
As well as being a great addition to a portfolio or resume, Brennan adds, “Undergraduate research gives students the opportunity to see how questions play out, resulting in more questions and carefully working each problem. creatively. It opens their minds to opportunities that connect academics and professionals. ”
Beyond the act of research, students can gain professional presentation experience through the annual Seaver College Research and Achievement Symposium (SCRSAS) where students have the opportunity to present their findings or, in the case many fine arts students, to perform their pieces. . Some faculty-student research teams also submit their results to other professional conferences, providing students with hands-on experience in the process of submitting and presenting research.
Many students advertise the opportunity to do undergraduate research as a highlight of their college years. “Pepperdine allows us to have a truly unique undergraduate experience. I don’t know of anyone else who works closely with professors on research, and I am very grateful for this opportunity, ”Cho shares.