Student-faculty collaboration abroad

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August 22, 2013

By Dr. Jeanie Bukowski

Mikalynn Katlack, a junior majoring in International Studies and Spanish, now can add “research in Spain” to her long list of experiences as a Bradley University student. Mikalynn spent the first part of her summer break interviewing members of the Fundación Nueva Cultural del Agua (New Water Culture Foundation-FNCA) as part of a student-faculty collaborative research project, “Science Into Policy: A Reevaluation of Epistemic Communities in the Iberian Transboundary Management Regime.” 

For Katlack, the interviews were the culmination of a year-long collaboration with faculty mentor Dr. Jeanie Bukowski ’86, associate professor in the Institute of International Studies. Supported by funding from Bradley’s Office of Teaching Excellence and Faculty Development (OTEFD) Special Emphasis program and the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Sherry Endowment, Dr. Bukowski made Katlack and Laura Doolin ’13 an integral part of her research. 

Their involvement ranged from preparing a literature review and constructing interview questions to presenting a paper at the Midwest Political Science Association conference in Chicago in May. Katlack and Doolin also presented the research at the 2013 Undergraduate Student Scholarship Expo, where their project received the highest honor, the President’s Award. The ultimate goal of the study, which explores the interface between scientific research and public policy in the area of water management, is a peer-reviewed article in an academic journal co-authored by Dr. Bukowski and her student collaborators.

“Because of her courses in IS and Spanish and our specific work together on the project over two semesters, by the time we reached Spain Mikalynn was very well-prepared to collaborate in carrying out the interviews. She has been a valuable colleague in the research,” Bukowski said.  The student-faculty team started their journey on May 16 in the small village of Jimena de la Frontera for the annual meeting of the FNCA. In addition to observing the many meeting sessions and interviewing several members of the group, they joined in hiking excursions to the fortress above the village (constructed by Muslim rulers in the area around 750 A.D., most likely on top of Roman ruins) and through one of the most extensive cork-oak forests in the world to wade in the (very cold) Hozgarganta River. Over the subsequent two weeks, Katlack and Bukowski interviewed epistemic community members in Seville and Madrid.

“The research trip was a multifaceted blessing. I was able to work with Dr. Bukowski while in Spain and experience to some degree the life of a researcher in the field. I also previewed, in a way few people are able to, my study abroad semester in Spain which I anticipate taking this upcoming spring. Living in Spain for two weeks and being immersed in the language and the culture, having the opportunity to meet really amazing people (and converse with them in Spanish about their work), and being able to test drive my ultimate dream of working and living abroad were the highlights of my May experience,” Katlack said.

Kim Willis ’04 MA, OTEFD interim director, describes the goals of Bradley’s Special Emphasis support. “The Special Emphasis Program focuses on faculty-student collaborations as a vehicle for learning, serving to provide opportunities for academic enrichment that extend well beyond the boundaries of the classroom. The goal is to link student learning to the discovery of knowledge and provide students with an experience that models professional activities performed within the discipline. Students can collaborate with faculty and/or professional staff mentors on research, creative production, or service projects and develop confidence in the abilities they will need in their professions.  This contributes to an enriching and rewarding part of their experience here at Bradley.” 

For Mikalynn Katlack, this collaborative project quite literally made the world her classroom.