QEP: Does our research reach out?
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Mercerians don’t live in a vacuum, and we can’t do research in one either.
Six months ago, I loaded onto a bus with the rest of my Mercer on Mission team and drove down a highway in Cape Town, South Africa for the first time.
South Africa is still suffering the effects of apartheid, the legal system of racial segregation that ended in 1994. As a result, racial and socioeconomic inequality manifest themselves in all realms of society. I realized that education was no exception. Students’ educational outcomes remain largely dependent on their race and class.
I began conducting surveys to learn more about if race relations were improving in the eyes of the students and teachers with whom we worked. I also wanted to know how they felt race relations could be improved in each of their schools. The results were uplifting as they indicated that students had more positive perceptions of race relations and lower experiences of racism than their teachers.
I could hardly contain my excitement to present my paper at the inaugural World Congress on Undergraduate Research (WCUR): “Intergenerational Differences in Perceptions of Race Relations in Cape Town, South Africa.”
While I listened to others present their research, I realized that to effectively address world challenges, research must cross disciplines and national borders. The problems facing the globe right now are far too complex for any one discipline or any one nation to tackle them. We live in the age of globalization, and with that comes a responsibility to engage not only with the local, but also with the global. As Mercerians, it is essential that we adopt this same mindset when it comes to our research.
I encourage you to make the most of your experiences abroad at every stage in the process. Do not settle for being a passive participant in your Mercer on Mission or study-abroad program. Ask questions so that you can begin to identify the challenges of the community you are serving. Propose research initiatives that will help solidify your understanding of these challenges. Only then can you begin to work towards possible solutions. Fortunately, as a Mercerian, you are encouraged to do “Research that Reaches Out,” which is designed to make these goals possible for you!