Undergraduate Research @ UMKC

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andersonDr. Henrietta Wood
Assistant Teaching Professor

Department: Honors College
EUReka Course: Honors 215, Researching Kansas City
See Dr. Wood's Syllabus.

How was teaching your EUReka class different from other similar classes you've taught?
I have helped students conduct research on many topics and share their findings through papers and presentations in composition, literature, Discourse, and Anchor classes. Teaching Honors 215: Researching Kansas City, which was open to students outside the UMKC Honors College, allowed me to draw upon my knowledge of important issues of the past and present in Kansas City as well as my access to community sources. The class also allowed students more freedom to choose and explore subjects that they really care about, which made the course more productive and fun for all of us. For the first time, I required students to present their work to people they did not know—students in my Discourse 300 class—and that assignment encouraged them to produce engaging presentations and consider the responses of a new audience.

How did teaching a EUReka class allow you to more tightly intertwine your research interest and your teaching responsibilities?
My research interests include the rhetorical activities of young women during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries in the Kansas City area. As I was teaching the class this semester, I was writing an essay about African American journalist Lucile Bluford, the longtime editor of the Kansas City Call newspaper, for a conference in April 2016 co-sponsored by the UMKC History Department and the Kansas City Public Library. I also was proofreading my monograph, Praising Girls: The Rhetoric of Young Women, 1895-1930, which addresses young women in the Kansas City area. This intersection of my research and the EUReka class encouraged me to talk to students about my challenges and successes as an archival researcher and interdisciplinary scholar of rhetoric and history. My familiarity with local archives and Kansas City history and resources enabled me to help students locate primary and secondary sources relevant to their projects and understand the historical contexts of their topics. Preparing my book for publication this semester reminded me of the importance of emphasizing accuracy and research ethics to students. The fact that we all were working on projects to share with wider audiences was mutually inspiring.

What do you think your EUReka students benefited from being exposed to undergraduate research early in their academic careers?
At the end of the semester, I asked students in my Researching Kansas City class to reflect upon their work. Here are some of their responses.

Tyler Evans, a freshman business administration major, documented the life and legacy of Buck O’Neil, an African American baseball pioneer and a co-founder of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City. Tyler comments: “I really enjoyed Researching Kansas City, for it was different from my other courses. I was allowed to focus on something I desired to learn about, while gaining excellent research experience and developing essential writing skills. The goal was not to complete the paper in order to attain an ‘A,’ but to write an excellent research paper in order to receive the accolade of publishing it in a journal, such as Lucerna. This goal is what made me passionate about the class and project.”

Dao Ho, a sophomore biology major, pursued a project on the history and preservation of the J.C. Nichols Memorial Fountain, an important Kansas City landmark. She remarks: “Despite the complications and constant writer’s block I faced as I progressed through this project, I believe that I have been successful because I have learned different ways to research. I learned how to create a research question properly, I learned how to organize my work through MANY revisions, and I learned how to think critically and convey my ideas in an academic paper.”

Elie Hudson, a junior English major, researched Arthur Bryant’s barbecue restaurant in the 18th and Vine neighborhood, and the ways in which it created and was supported by interracial community. Elie observes: “I believe my research topic and thesis is extremely relevant to Kansas City because it brings light to racial issues/segregation, a historic district, and a way to understand why some businesses are more successful than others. This class helped me become a better researcher because I was able to devote the class to really researching and developing a strong paper and argument. I learned how to get IRB approval and stay focused on one topic for an entire semester.”

Zakary Roberts, a freshman business administration major, used archival sources to investigate the career of L.P. Cookingham, the first city manager of Kansas City. Zak notes: “Before taking on this project, I had no idea who L.P. Cookingham was or the impact that he has had on Kansas City. I initially just wanted to write about something vaguely political, but visiting Special Collections at Miller Nichol’s Library and talking with archivist Stuart Hinds completely changed my topic. Being able to work with Cookingham’s datebooks has been great. I never thought that I’d be working with primary historical sources for my first college-level research paper. The opportunity to be one of the first people to use Cookingham’s datebooks is amazing and it makes me want to further my research on Cookingham as my academic career continues.”

What advice would you have for colleagues thinking of offering a EUReka course
Find ways to present research opportunities both within traditional projects (e.g., papers) and other less common projects (whether a poster session, or collaboration with grad students, etc.). Stress to the students that materials learned and explored in your class can be expanded and studied in greater depth, and that there are resources for further support. I think this designation also can make a class more meaningful, especially if it is a core class, if the instructor does some work to make research integral to the class.