Student Engagement Colloquia Series wraps up for spring

Shanay Murdock
Shanay Murdock

NIU’s Office of Student Engagement & Experiential Learning hosted a brown bag colloquia series this semester to showcase the work of students who achieved success in their independent research, artistry or civic engagement projects.

The colloquia series wrapped up with presentations from four undergraduate students.

Senior Jessica Sandlund from Community Leadership and Civic Engagement discussed her recent trip to Tanazania, where she learned how to addressed social issues of gender based violence as a community and the functioning of non-profit organizations in developing countries.

This experience was provided for Sandlund through funding sources from the Student Engagement Fund and USOAR.

Sandlund’s advice to students who might be interested in an experience like hers?  “Go for it. This project and the study abroad trip that aligned with it were some of the best experiences I had at NIU. Also, ask questions and ask for feedback every step of the way, because that will make your end result stronger and you will be more prepared when sharing your research with others.”

Junior Rebekah Ernat from the departments of Biology and Anthropology presented her research on the primitive primate species native to Madagascar, the Aye-Aye.

Ernat explained that the opportunity to travel to Madagascar helped her discover her passion for research. Since returning from her trip, she has continued research at NIU in Karen Samonds’ paleontology lab.

Her advice to students interested in research? “Don’t be scared to try new things, or reach out for guidance or assistance when you need it. Especially use your resources here at NIU: friends, mentors, different offices and organizations. There are so many people who want to help you.”

NIU student Rebekah Ernat visited Madagascar.
NIU student Rebekah Ernat visited Madagascar.

Sophomore history and Spanish major Suzanne Serrano shared her experience working with mentor, Kristin Huffine, at the Archivo de la Real Audiencia on Indigenous Mexican Studies in Jalisco, Mexico.

Serrano said that her project allowed her to work with documents that dated back to the 16th to 19th centuries.

“I enjoyed this so much because I imagined the day each document was written with different ink, different paper and the person who wrote the document. I imagined how the person was dressed, how he or she was feeling that day and what type of world issues were happening at that time.”

Her advice to students?

“Do not limit yourself,” she said. “You may think you are not good enough or smart enough to participate in undergraduate research while studying abroad, but honestly, anybody who is passionate and highly intrigued in colonial Latin America is able to have the opportunity to take part in a project like this.”

Senior anthropology major Shanay Murdock presented her research, “The International Criminal Court: An Analysis of the Prevention and Deterrence of Atrocity Crimes.”

Murdock’s research allowed her to visit the International Criminal Court and interact with experts in the field of transitional justice. This experience allowed her to learn what true research passion looks like and propelled her forward into her future career path.

After graduation, Murdock will attend the University of Amsterdam to complete a one-year master’s program in the history of Holocaust and Genocide Studies.

Her advice to students? “Take every opportunity, apply for every means of funding, find a way to organize your research in a way that makes sense to you, and network yourself! You never know when an opportunity like this can lead you to further research referrals, internships or meeting a future adviser!”

Interested in engaged experiences involving research, service learning, study abroad or traveling to conferences or competitions? Apply for opportunities through USOAR or the Student Engagement Fund.

For more information, call (815) 753-8154 or email engage@niu.edu.

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