When I first came to Rutgers-Camden for the Fall 2011 semester, I was somewhat dubious about majoring in English, not just because I was uncertain what I would do with my degree once I graduated but also because I wanted the opportunity to participate in the types of undergraduate research opportunities that my counterparts in the sciences and social sciences were engaged in – opportunities that would extend the life of my work past the boundary of a specific class or semester, opportunities like CURCA, our campus-wide undergraduate research fair. I spent that first semester eyeing the numerous calls for creative writing submissions emailed out to the English department dejectedly, feeling like the only way to distinguish myself as an English major was through creative writing, my least viable skill. But just a semester later, I was participating in undergraduate research communities at both the campus and national level.
During the Spring 2012 semester, I took a course in contemporary and classical approaches to style taught by Dr. William FitzGerald, the director of our new Teaching Matters and Assessment Center (TMAC). Though I felt an immediate connection between my own academic interests and the modes of analysis we were learning in the course, I was still unaware that undergraduate research opportunities existed for the sort of research I was doing. When Dr. FitzGerald recommended that I present my work on the rhetoric of human rights debates at CURCA, I was thrilled by the chance to have an actual audience for my research and was thoroughly surprised to find out, after several semesters of wanting to share my work with a research community but not knowing how, that my project was worthwhile enough to win the Dean’s Undergraduate Research Prize.
Both my experience at CURCA and Dr. FitzGerald’s mentorship encouraged me to submit my project for Volume 10 of Young Scholars in Writing (YSW), an undergraduate research journal featuring articles in rhetoric and writing studies. My submission, “The Stylistic Effects of Human Rights Rhetoric: An Analysis of U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton’s 2011 LGBT Human Rights Speech,” was accepted to the journal pending YSW’s extensive, semester-long editing process, during which time I had the opportunity to work with a professor in my field to rework my project.
My experiences participating in undergraduate research both at the local level here at Rutgers-Camden, with opportunities like CURCA, and at the national level, through YSW has been a key factor in my career choice as well as my decision to continue my education in the field of rhetoric. More importantly, participation in the undergraduate research community, through my poster at CURCA and my paper in YSW, not only gave my work an audience but taught me how to engage an audience, a critical skill for any writer/researcher.
Natalie’s paper, “The Stylistic Effects of Human Rights Rhetoric: An Analysis of U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton’s 2011 LGBT Human Rights Speech,” will be published in Volume 10 of Young Scholars in Writing in the spring of 2013. She will also be presenting a poster on undergraduate research in the humanities, titled “Can We Call it Research?: Undergraduate Anxieties in the Humanities,” at this year’s Conference on College Composition and Communication in Las Vegas, NV.
About Natalie Midiri
Hometown: Mount Laurel, NJ
Expected Camden College of Arts and Sciences Graduation Date: May 2013