Researching Voluntourism this summer with Dr. Emily Welty has been a rewarding experience. Not only have I learned a great deal about myself and Alternative Spring Break, but I have also gained knowledge of how different and taxing it is to research and write for journal publication.
The experience has proved to be particularly useful in that I am researching with a professor in the field I plan to pursue. Because Peace and Justice Studies is interdisciplinary, the process of narrowing our focus for publication has been difficult and lengthy.
The journal article we are currently writing will focus only on Alternative Spring Break trips. Utilizing the preexisting research on Alternative Spring Breaks and transcripts from interviews conducted, we are arguing that there exists a gap in the ASB literature that needs to be filled. The outcome of our research will conclude with a set of best practices for ASB participants, leaders, and advisors to follow.
These best practices will minimize the risk of harmful discourse, incomplete or incorrect understanding of structures of power and privilege, and harm done on host communities. If these best practices are followed, our hope is that Alternative Spring Break trips will become beneficial not only to a student’s development, but also to their understanding of systems of power and privilege in place while also providing a positive impact on host communities.
My work on this research has included working on a literature review, compiling Alternative Spring Break testimonies, and completing an IRB proposal. In completing comprehensive research on literature that covers Alternative Spring Breaks, Dr. Welty and I have encountered a substantial gap in the literature. Most of the literature focuses on the effects ASB has on a student’s leadership skills and personal development, while the host community and a student’s understanding of an issue remain unaddressed.
My biggest task this summer has been to compile the body of literature, read it all, and begin a system of annotating to aid me in writing a literature. Although I am just beginning the literature review now, I have spent a great deal of time annotating the literature and categorizing it by theme. While this task has been both challenging and daunting at times, Dr. Welty has been immensely supportive by providing me with the resources to complete the research effectively. I have thus far learned a great deal about the intricacies of writing a literature review for a journal article.
I have also been able to complete our Internal Review Board proposal for interviewing ASB participants. Learning basic proposal writing skills from Dr. Welty has been invaluable, as I will most definitely need to write proposals in the future.
Although interviews have not yet begun, Dr. Welty has also spent a significant amount of time teaching me about conducting interviews and analyzing them. I have spent some of my time this summer thinking about interview techniques and formulating the interview questions for our upcoming interviews.
Although this process has been challenging and often stressful, it has provided great insight into life as an academic. I now know that I will thrive in a career in academia if I apply and fine-tune the skills that I have acquired throughout this process.
As I have been selected as a participant for the Fall/Spring Student and Faculty Research Initiative, I look forward to continuing my journey to publication with Dr. Emily Welty.