The Elliott School Undergraduate Scholars Program

By Jenny Schuch

My name is Jenny Schuch and I am a senior majoring in International Affairs with concentrations in Asia and Conflict & Security.  I am also involved with the Elliott School as a Peer Advisor and have worked as a staff assistant in the Office of Academic Advising and Student Services.  This semester I am writing my Elliott School Special Honors thesis through a new program called the Elliott School Undergraduate Scholars.  When the Elliott School announced this new program for student research last fall, I was very excited about the opportunity to conduct my senior thesis through a structured program that offers incentives and advice.  It also adds a little prestige to student work.

The application process was in October and included a detailed research project proposal and a resume.  Only 16 students were ultimately selected, so the program is small enough for individual attention and peer consultation.  As a bonus the program offers $200 to each student for research-related costs such as books, journal subscriptions, or conference fees.  This has come in handy for really useful books that I have wanted to write in or that Gelman Library does not have access to.  Each student joins the program with their own self-selected faculty advisor who is the main point of contact and guidance.  Additionally, the program matches each student with an Elliott School graduate student mentor who has a similar academic focus and can offer extra advice.

Since it is also a for-credit class (we meet once a week for a couple of hours to discuss our research), students can choose between using the program for doing an independent study or a thesis.  I chose to use this program to carry out my thesis for receiving Special Honors, which means it is a 30-page paper for three credits.  For my topic I am researching the role and impact of Middle Eastern actors on the growth of Islamic fundamentalism in Indonesia.  Our weekly classes have been very helpful in covering different aspects of the research process and offering advice.

Last week we went to Gelman Library where a librarian gave us extra tips on using lesser-known resources.  He talked about different kinds of sources we should use as appropriate with our topics and also showed us specific journal databases that would give us better results than the regular ProQuest or EBSCO research tools.  It was surprisingly beneficial because his advice was personally tailored to the type of research we are doing and each student’s individual field of study.  Even though I am a senior, I feel that I have definitely not utilized the library’s resources as much as I should have and I would highly recommend speaking with a librarian at the beginning of every research project.

I am currently working on a five-page mini-draft of my research thusfar.  It will be a good step to get my ideas on paper and make sure I am on track before I am too far along in the research process or the semester.

Jenny is a senior in the Elliott School, majoring in International Affairs and double concentrating in Asia and Conflict & Security.  She is currently interning at the U.S. State Department and hopes to conduct a Fulbright Research Fellowship in Indonesia after graduation.

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