Undergraduate Research: Department of French and Francophone Studies
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Julia Schrank

Julia Schrank

Paterno Fellow
Hometown: Monroeville, PA
Majors: French and Francophone Studies; Spanish

How did you learn about this opportunity?

I asked my thesis adviser if she had any projects for this summer with which she would like assistance. She was more than happy to have me and we found an appropriate side-project for me that gave me independence while furthering her research goals.

Tell us a little bit about your experience.

I conducted research under Dr. Willa Z. Silverman that contributed to her current research while simultaneously exploring new questions and uncovering new information. Dr. Silverman’s current project is a transcription of the diaries of the jeweler Henri Vever, whose primary activity took place in turn-of-the-century Paris, where he rubbed elbows with the biggest names in the art, politics, and entertainment spheres. However, one period of Vever’s life that has not yet been brought to light is his service as the mayor of a small town in northern France called Noyers. During that time, Vever’s diaries recount his life as a bureaucrat, an urbanite in the boondocks, and an avid bicyclist.

With the information that I gleaned from Vever’s colorful personal diaries, I reconstructed Vever’s world by creating an online cartographic resource that displayed Vever’s adventures from a geographical standpoint. Furthermore, this resource raised questions about certain areas of Vever’s stomping grounds that were depicted by Impressionist painters in works owned by the affluent jeweler himself. In conclusion, the map paired Vever’s “impressions” of the landscape recorded in his diaries with the Impressionists’ paintings to create larger questions of the nature of perception in written and artistic works.

How did this experience impact you academically?

This project solidified the research habits that I already gained from working on my Honors Thesis and allowed me to learn, on a project basis, how to code literary texts using a language called TEI (Text Encoding Initiative).

"This project gave me even more experience towards those goals and allowed me to gain skills that will be useful in my chosen field."

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

I want to become a professor of French and also make a contribution to the growing movement known as the Digital Humanities. This project gave me even more experience towards those goals and allowed me to gain skills that will be useful in my chosen field.

Would you recommend this experience to other Liberal Arts students?


I would recommend summer research to anyone considering going on to M.A. or Ph.D. programs because it gives a great picture of the nature of research, which is, more often than not, a relatively solitary endeavor. I often found myself alone working for days at a time, and I know that working in such a way does not appeal to everyone. Hence, I would only recommend projects like this for students already interested in a serious academic career.

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