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Teddy Roosevelt speaking to a crowd

Student Research

Research Stories

Ember Tharpe BA‘21

“Generally, the idea of independent research has really intimidated me in my time at Vanderbilt. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the infinite questions you could ask, and the infinite ways you could go about answering them.

During my time completing the Senior Project with Dr. Jacobs, I found that all those possibilities were actually worth getting excited over. The class is set up in a way that probed my imagination and showed how magical the process of generating knowledge can be. By the end of it, I stopped associating research with anxiety, scrutiny, or numerical grades. Rather, I saw research as an opportunity. We read from brilliant authors who gathered information, interpreted it, and came up with new ideas that could help the world. With the in-depth discussions we had about these pieces, along with formal guidance in our own research endeavors, I graduated feeling confident about the value of my own ideas and questions. I recognized that I have a perspective and a mind just like any of the authors we read—thus my contributions could be special, too.”

Trey McAdams BA‘20

“The time I spent during Qualitative Research Methods and my Independent Research allowed me to focus on topics that really interested me. One topic that I have always been interested in but have been unable to devote time to in other courses is the cultural impact of video games on American college students. During my time in American studies, I was able to research the various functions video games serve for students. Uses such as alternative social spaces or competitive outlets make gaming a multifunctional tool that has become increasingly prevalent across American culture. I believe that further research into this topic will become invaluable to those seeking to understand the tools that help college students cope with the challenges of their academic career, and the relevance of this work will only continue to grow as video games continue to become more mainstream.”

Christie Rentschler BA‘20

“American studies allowed me to develop exceptional research skills while simultaneously customizing my undergraduate experience to my personal interests and passions. From looking at the rhetoric of conspiracy theories to studying the history of sex education policy in the United States, my American studies professors supported both my academic and personal development, allowing me to succeed as both a scholar and individual. These research skills have proved invaluable throughout my Vanderbilt career and have allowed me to stand out in professional settings, particularly as I pursue my career in FinTech sales and product development upon graduation.”



Mapping Nashvile

Nashville is full of opportunities to practice American studies outside the classroom! See our Mapping Nashville page to see some of these opportunities in action and some of the projects students have been involved in.