I remember undertaking my first extensive research project as a rising senior in a program similar to UROP. I loved the process of conducting interviews with San Francisco Chinatown community activists from the 1960s and 1970s and researching movement newspapers of that era. Writing, however, was another thing. It was so challenging to figure out the focus of the topic, my argument, how to select and interpret the evidence, and articulate the significance of my project. These challenges still persist for me today, but I have many more years of experience to help me, and I try to share these insights with my undergraduate and graduate students. Since research is so individualized, at least in the Humanities and some Social Science fields, it is important to offer personalized feedback and guidance to help us grow as thinkers, writers, and cultural creators. I include myself in this statement, because I benefit enormously from participating in writing groups.
As I work with students, I learn that they have different passions, strengths, as well as areas that they need to develop. One of my mentees, for example, is incredibly creative. He is an artist, poet, and spoken word artist. However, writing a traditional research paper is not necessarily his strong suit. So, we eventually figured out that he would create a series of tarot cards, inspired by a similar set of cards that focused on Asian American mental health. His cards featured his art work, poems, and interviews with Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders who are undocumented. So, every time I work with students, I both learn from them and learn how to better mentor student research.