Do undergraduate research, find passion, challenge yourself

Abigail Carlin, Columnist

One of the reasons I chose to become an EIU panther was the promise of independent studies and the opportunity to write an undergraduate thesis.

Though I have always loved school, I would finally have the chance to take an active role in my learning, not to mention the personal gratification of discovering something new. For over two years, I mulled over what I could study. As an English language arts major with a high school teaching endorsement, it would make sense to talk about methods of teaching English, new pedagogical strategies, emotional development through fiction or whatever.

The more I thought about having to sit down and essentially synthesize what I had been learning already in all of my other classes, the less excited I was to start the impending and overwhelming project I volunteered for. Thankfully, inspiration struck in the funniest of places and I was reminded of what it was like to get excited about researching for fun.

Over the summer, I heard the tale of the Dogman, a seemingly obscure urban legend that captivated an entire quadrant of Michigan. I wanted to learn everything there is to know about the monster. Who saw him? Where did he came from? How has his alleged existence shaped the communities in his part of the state?

Brimming with curiosity, Dr. Beebe (if you get the chance, take one of his classes because he is incredible) allowed me an outlet in which to investigate. I wrote a grant proposal and the beginnings of a prospectus in his class. Although I spent more than 30 hours on those two projects alone, I could not have been more excited to do the work.

The niches one finds to discover what they are truly passionate about is what makes college so fun. Lucky for me, the English department has allowed me to explore my passion for education, literature, and of course, the paranormal. I just began my first semester of the research and thesis process, and I could not be more excited to spend hours upon hours upon hours researching another aspect of the paranormal: ghost hunting.

At this point in my research, I have yet to narrow my focus completely, but how lucky am I to have a nearly a whole semester just read, watch and listen to what others have to say about haunted houses and abandoned asylums? I have no idea where this project may lead, but I cannot wait to find out.

My advice to you is to take advantage of these opportunities. Too often, people dismiss honors programs because employers “do not really care.” Well who cares what they think? Allow college to be a time that will challenge you. Let your department push you to do things you never thought you could. Have the courage to ask questions and pursue them all the way until graduation (and beyond!).

Make your college career count, for wasting these years is a decision that will haunt you for years to come (pun intended).

Abigail Carlin is a junior English language arts major. She can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected].