Becoming SURE of Myself

by · September 29, 2014

Emily DiBiase (center) views a book at Thornwillow Press in Newburgh, NY with Dr. Stephanie Pietros (left) and Stephanie Weaver (right) during the SURE program in 2013.

Of all the work experience that I have gained at the Mount, one of the most unique and personal adventures has been my work with the Summer Undergraduate Research Experience (SURE) program here at MSMC.

It all started when my RA at the time, Stephanie Weaver, introduced me to the program and encouraged me to apply. After looking at the list of available projects for the summer of 2013, I kept coming back to the project proposed by Dr. Stephanie Pietros involving lyrical ballads and poetry by Anne Bradstreet.

I will never forget the moment that I opened my acceptance letter. It was the first big accomplishment that I had achieved at the Mount and I felt very special, like the college already saw something in me that I didn’t see in myself.

Working with Dr. Pietros was one of the greatest parts of my summer. Under her guidance, I learned how to conduct sufficient research in my field and cultivated skills that I can apply not only to my current studies, but also to my graduate work and career in the future. Throughout the summer, I learned how to navigate literary databases, toured a publishing house, and discovered great organizational strategies vital for research. In addition, working one-on-one with Dr. Pietros allowed me to establish a special connection with her that most students do not have the opportunity to develop with their professors.

The project culminated in a presentation in front of the SURE faculty about my experiences in the program. I absolutely loved being able to share our findings (which included discovering a unique connection between a specific play we had studied and Shakespeare’s Othello). The fun wasn’t over though; in September, I had the opportunity to present my findings again, this time to the entire college community.

This past summer, I joined the program again, this time collaborating with Dr. Marie-Therese Sulit on a research project that explored the literary and political history of the state of Hawai’i. I focused on one particular book, Song of the Exile by Kiana Davenport, which really exemplified the state of the Hawaiian culture during the decades that led to its annexation. Performing several close readings of the text allowed me to make inferences about the way in which the fictional characters represented the historical and political situation of the state. However, I also had the opportunity to explore several other aspects of the topic, including the way in which Hollywood portrays the culture and historical background of the state of Hawai’i and some of the current independence movements in the state.

As I prepare to graduate in May, I look back on SURE as being one of the greatest experiences that I was involved in here at the Mount. Not only did it help me cultivate research and public speaking skills, but I also had the satisfaction of knowing that my work meant something to the academic community. The research done is not just for our own benefit – as a part of SURE, many students’ projects are put toward faculty research that have the potential to be published or utilized in other ways. For example, Dr. Pietros used the information that we collected to further her own research, which she presented at an iROC lecture in the spring, and integrated our findings into a class on lyrical ballads that she taught in the fall. Dr. Sulit also plans to use the research we completed over the summer as the basis for an article that she wishes to write on the topic.

SURE also holds a special place in my heart because it was the first “big” thing that I became a part of at the Mount, which gave me the confidence to continue my involvement in other major organizations on campus. My research projects helped me to establish a rapport with my professors, as well as cultivate academic confidence and independence.

If you are interested in learning more about SURE, come and visit our research symposium on October 1st in the MST Atrium from 5-6 pm. This would be a great way to get a feel for the program and view the projects that several students completed over the summer.

I would encourage anyone interested in the program to apply in the spring. It changed my academic experience and I believe it could change yours, too.

Emily DiBiase, Class of 2015, is an English major with a concentration in writing and a minor in religious studies from Mahopac, NY.

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