Senior, Kate Frisch loves the academic environment at Roanoke, because it has always challenged her to think critically. Last semester when Kate heard about the Summer Scholars program she did not have to think twice about applying, for her the decision was all too easy.
Kate says Dr. Bucher (of the history department) approached her in the fall to consider the possibility but at the time she did not have a set research project in mind. Then in the spring Kate enrolled in Dr. Buchner’s the South Africa history seminar. It was as Kate was developing her project for the class, that she was trapped between two research questions. In the end she decided to use one for the seminar project and the other for her summer scholars project. Kate adds, “I decided to do summer scholars over a more traditional internship, as I believed this would be a better opportunity for me to utilize the skills I had learned throughout the major. Further, I was truly interested in developing my own research based on my own interests and curiosities without the writing prompt and time limitations that appear in a classroom setting.”
For Kate’s summer scholars project, she focuses specifically on South Africa. South Africa had a series of four constitutions over an eighty-year period, which is relatively unique in the context of world history. She argued that each answered what she termed the ‘Native Question,’ or the need for the white majority to politically, socially and economically exploit and subject the black majority population. Kate’s project argued that each of the four constitutions from 1910, 1961, 1983, and 1994 were part of a larger historical trend based around the idea of absolute white minority control over the black majority in South Africa.
Kate says that through her summer scholars project she developed a much greater understanding and appreciation for using a discourse analysis. She shares, “Although the idea of analyzing primary source documents is familiar to me, I did not fully understand the power of language and the significance of the specific ways in which a document was written prior to this project”. This has also helped Kate as she prepares to undertake her seminar class this spring. Furthermore, the generalizations that she was able to make in the context of South Africa have helped her to conceptualize the importance of case studies and their implications in the framework of International Relations. Before this experience Kate’s research methods class gave her a basic understanding of research skills for political scientists. She adds, “The Summer Scholars program gave me the opportunity to develop my research skills far past any class assignment.” Kate also adds that this project complemented the historical background required for those under the umbrella of Public Affairs.
For the first time I was able to develop a project purely based around my curiosities and it has made me more eager to explore different historical patterns as well”. It seems that while students have the potential to do great things in the classroom, they also have the potential to do great things outside of the classroom. Kate encourages her peers to seize any opportunity, even if they are not sure about it. The program allowed Kate to develop a relationship with her professor outside of the classroom, and the one on one planning that went into her project allowed her to generate a polished product at the end of the summer.