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Research: Social Change & Democracy in America
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Megan Wisniewski

Paterno Fellow
Major: Sociology
Minor: International Studies
Hometown: State College

How did you learn about this opportunity?

I learned about this research opportunity by talking with my professor, Dr. Samar Farage. I visited Dr. Farage in office hours, and she explained her research interests. After we realized our research interests aligned, we decided to take on a research project together.

Tell us a little bit about your experience.

Every week, Dr. Farage and I meet to discuss my research progress. I am writing a paper about social change and democracy in America. I analyze current news articles as well as read books revolving around the subject. One of the main focuses on the paper is the use of social media in regards to social movements, such as the Occupy Wall Street movement as well as this presidential election. The paper also touches upon public health, and how the use of social media can unite as well as alienate us as a society. Dr. Farage has conducted prior research in this area, so her insight and guidance is invaluable in this enrichment process.

Having a faculty mentor like Dr. Farage helped me shape my undergraduate career and my professional pursuits after college.

How did this experience impact you academically?

I earned three credits for independent research in Sociology for undergoing this research project. Through this research experience, I have established a strong personal relationship with Dr. Farage. She has guided me in the research process, which is critical to be successful in my undergraduate studies. The skills I have learned from this experience I have employed in other classes, including writing my honors thesis as well as my capstone paper. In addition, Dr. Farage has been a great career and academic advisor. Her advice has helped me mold my future academic and professional pursuits in Sociology. Dr. Farage also serves as a great reference for future employers and graduate schools due to her immense credibility in the field and our time spent working together.

What are your career goals and plans?  How did this experience impact them?

In the future, I wish to earn a dual PhD in Demography and Sociology. I want to focus on population studies. Research experience is critical for admittance to these programs, as well as great preparation for future graduate studies. This enrichment experience has increased my knowledge regarding sociological research. I have utilized software such as EndNote that will help me excel in my graduate work. Once I complete my graduate degrees, I aspire to enter academia and be a Sociology professor. I also want to mentor undergraduate students in hopes they can conduct a great research project similar to the one I conducted with Dr. Farage.

Would you recommend this experience to other Liberal Arts students?

I would absolutely recommend an undergraduate research experience to other Liberal Arts students. Research helps increase your credibility in your field of study, as well as truly prepare you for future academic and professional pursuits. In addition, my having a faculty mentor like Dr. Farage helped me shape my undergraduate career and my professional pursuits after college.

How has the Paterno Fellows Program had an impact on this experience?

I found out about the Liberal Arts Enrichment Funds through the Paterno Fellows Program (PFP). The PFP has brought to light so many undergraduate opportunities like the Liberal Arts Enrichment fund to enhance my studies. In addition, I would not have developed a passion for research if it was not for the PFP exposing me to various areas of undergraduate research pursuits through their weekly emails and student presentations. I also developed a close relationship to Dr. Farage by taking one of her honors classes in order to fulfill PFP requirements. All in all, PFP helped created this entire research experience!

For more information on research opportunities for Liberal Arts students, visit our website.
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