1. What's your full name, hometown, major, and graduation year? What do you do now, professionally or academically?


Nikki Raye Rice Hickory, NC English Major, Creative Writing Emphasis Class of 2011


First year at Duke Divinity School, obtaining my Masters in Divinity with a Certification in Gender, Theology and Ministry.


2. What sort of research did you pursue during your undergraduate experience?


I pursued a variety of research projects at Gardner-Webb University. I found that my research changed as I searched out my interests and passions. Each year my academic interests became more and more specific, my research projects were quite often the space in which I teased out those interests. The two primary research pieces I worked with by my senior year were my thesis, which was focused on Literary Theory and Pop Culture, and a piece on Feminism and the Proverbs, which I presented at LOTS and at the Alpha Chi National Conference.


Title of Thesis:
M. Mikhail Bakhtin and Glee: A High Class Analysis of a Low Class Text


Title of Proverbs paper: Biblical Cross-Dressing: Unveiling the Masculine in the Woman of Valor in Proverbs 31:10-31 I was a winner at LOTS 2011 with this paper and I won the Religion Award at the AX National Conference in San Diego with this one as well.


3. Which professors influenced you, and how would you describe the quality of their influence on your work and your greater academic experience?


I am influenced by Dr. June Hobbs, Dr. Janet Land, and Dr. Paula Qualls. I credit Dr. Land and Dr. Hobbs for giving me the vocabulary of theory. The English Department’s course on Literary Theory opened the floodgates of language for me academically; I found myself able to articulate my ideas and synthesize information in a whole new way as each theory became a new tool to use. As I made decisions on what to research for my thesis; I found the use of theory at the forefront of my mind. Dr. Land in particular is a gifted mentor during times of research and writing and she helped me to refine and clarify my research during this time. The Fall of my senior year, I took American Women’s Literature with Dr. Hobbs along-side of The Sacred Writings with Dr. Qualls. The intersection of Feminist thought and biblical studies impacted me so powerfully and set me on the track that I am on today, pursuing Gender Studies and Theology.


4. What did you enjoy about the academic challenge of undergraduate research?


The exciting challenge of undergraduate research is that you are transitioning from student to scholar. I mean that the telos of research is no longer a good grade, but the telos of research and writing is knowledge and participation in a wider scholarly conversation.


5. Did you ever present your research in any interesting venues, either at GWU or elsewhere? If so, what was meaningful about that experience?


I presented my work at GWU’s LOTS Conference two years in a row. I also presented my work in Little Rock, AK and in San Diego California as a member of Alpha Chi. Personally, the most meaningful aspect of presenting my work with Alpha Chi was the community I built with my peers and Dr. Hobbs. You become extremely close very quickly when as a community of scholars to take the risk to share your ideas. The support and encouragement from this experience bolstered my courage as a presenter and built my confidence.


6. What sorts of doors did your academic experiences open after graduating? Did it help you in applying for jobs/grad schools, to land internships, etc.?


I know that my experiences in undergraduate research played an important role in making me a competitive applicant for graduate programs. As I have transitioned into a more rigorous academic setting at Duke, the writing and speaking skills I’ve gained from Gardner-Webb’s undergraduate research opportunities have been critical. Most importantly I have experienced truly supportive academic community and now I am able to replicate that academic community in a new setting.


7. In your opinion, what is at stake in undergraduate research? In other words, what's the value (for both the student, the University, the world...however you want to answer) of undergraduate students not only pursuing knowledge but also working to participate in the greater scholarly conversation?


I think that what is at stake is the formation of the next generation of scholars. Undergraduate research is not only about students writing papers or winning awards, it is about engaging in genuine academic community; through both conversation with your peers and mentorship from your educators. Undergraduate research is the place where students no longer linger in the stage of observation of a discourse, but actively participate in the discourse. Undergraduate Research is the space where a young scholar asks her/himself, “What do I have to offer in this conversation?” and then they do just that; offer their perspective and efforts to the greater scholarly conversation around them.


8. Feel free, also, to discuss experiences not only with the literal undergraduate research program, but also with GEM, Honors, Study Abroad, Alpha Chi, other honor societies, etc. We'd be thrilled to know anything you'd like to share about your academic experience and the programs that influenced you.


So, Dr. Hobbs suggested me, but I never officially worked with Undergraduate research. I began a project my sophomore year and never finished it due to extenuating circumstances. All of my undergraduate research opportunities fell specifically under AX, class projects, and then my English thesis; just to clarify.


Finally, I think that an observation I can see in hindsight is that Undergraduate Research is not simply an opportunity to bulk up your resume or gain academic skills, but it is a space to connect your personal formation to your academic formation, where you can seek out your interests and passions with guided mentorship and good conversation. I am thankful for this.