Amherst Students Talk About their Schupf Fellowship Experiences

Hantong Wu ’23

As a Schupf fellow, I was able to boldly pursue my project of protecting vanishing languages—specifically—the dialect of my hometown Hangzhou. I began the project in high school and continued it in college through two research projects. When I applied for the fellowship, I was hoping to transform my project from an academic inquiry to social advocacy, and the fellowship helped me do precisely that. While I casted a wide network of like minded advocators worldwide, Professor Vanessa Fong helped me stay focused on tangible goals: finding myself an appropriate role for effective intervention. Although I could not make visible impacts in just 8 weeks, I learned about making social impact as an aspiring global citizen. Now, as I apply for graduate programs and pursue a career in the humanitarian field, I find this experience a turning point for me—from a student to a change maker.

Haoran Tong ’23:

As part of the inaugural Schupf cohort during the pandemic, I was as uncertain about how the program would go as anyone else: how would I get support for my academic research? How might my advisor help me remotely? Would I research in a community of dedicated researchers? As it turned out, my Schupf experience could be characterized as "guided liberation." My advisor, Professor Ilan Stavans, integrated my independent research interest with his area of expertise. He encouraged me to explore my topic, "poetic justice," as an interdisciplinary inquiry in law, literature, and "everything in between." Conversations with him about translingual poetry's social impact helped me identify relevant cases for a closer study and opened up possibilities for our future research projects after Schupf. In addition, research librarians and writing center staff provided excellent support in identifying historical sources, streamlining arguments, and making final presentation posters. Schupf Program to me is a platform for self-exploration and research skill-building. I felt fortunate to have the privilege of navigating independent research on a topic of my choice while still receiving this level of attentive support from the college community. I could work for a professor as a research assistant through other programs, but I felt I owned my research as a Schupf Fellow.

Gabrielle Avena ’24

The top benefits of the program are its flexibility and independence. Since the project only requires an open-ended final product and poster session, my cohort was able to pursue a wide variety of projects tailored to their interests. The practice of independent research encourages self-discipline and helps to develop skills that are transferable to school courses and beyond. Working one-on-one with a faculty advisor allowed us to develop a close mentoring relationship through which we developed a critical intervention in my area of interest. Moreover, explaining my research during the poster session helped me find out how to communicate the value of humanities research to a lay audience. Finally, this program resulted in tangible benefits––a panel proposal developed from my Schupf research was accepted to the 2023 Association for Asian American Studies Conference. 

Anika Graf ’24 

I was surprised by all of the different forms of research, besides those that involve collecting and analyzing quantitative data. In particular, I learned about how ethnographic research in political science is conducted, which made me more curious and passionate about fieldwork. It also gave me the opportunity to explore an area of interest in-depth, while receiving support and insights from an expert in that field. By developing my own original research, I could go above and beyond the level of exploration that is normal in a classroom setting.

Ava Knapp ’24

The Schupf Fellowship allowed me to learn volumes about humanities research, and ignited my passion for research more broadly. The Fellowship encourages exploration within your proposed topic area -- and I certainly took advantage of that -- but working with a faculty advisor gave this exploration purpose. My faculty advisor helped me locate relevant sources, learn new research strategies, and plan my own scholarly research article. After completing my article, I felt much more prepared to take on higher-level coursework and eagerly sought out other research opportunities at Amherst. 

Ethan Foster ’25

My research focused primarily on trends and defining characteristics in Puerto Rican literature, specifically in poetry written by female authors throughout the 20th and 21st centuries. Beyond the rewarding work of the research itself, having the chance to work with Professor Schroeder-Rodriguez of the Spanish department through the program granted me great insight into the world of Hispanic literature and the research process in general. Moreover, my research has strongly reaffirmed my desire to complete a thesis during my time at Amherst, and I cultivated many skills and gained valuable insights that I will carry with me throughout my time at Amherst and beyond.

Spencer A. Michaels, ’24

The days I spent hiding from the heat in Frost, late evenings tumbling down research rabbit holes, and nights spending time with friends are ones I will long remember. I am not only a more competent researcher, writer, and student, but now can face the current global chaos with a new mindset. The ongoing conflict in Ukraine is one that has deeply impacted my family and me; having the opportunity to research conflict and international relations on my own terms allowed me to better understand events, military movements, and even my own emotions. I returned home to Moscow twice during the summer — once before and once after my fellowship — and the way I saw the world in August was entirely different in comparison to May. There is some semblance of order in this chaotic world, and my research this summer reminded me of that fact. 

I have now set the groundwork for future research on a number of topics: from environmental warfare in Vietnam to vicarious trauma, international law to obscure U.S. government agencies, Syria to Yemen. I am currently working on a draft paper to submit for publication: the first of (hopefully) many. As I think about my future thesis and studies beyond Amherst, having the opportunity to cast a wide intellectual net was invaluable in discovering how I want to spend the next years of my life. 

Neviah Waldron ’24

I want[ed] to delve into my mixed family and ancestral history and culture and explore the different elements that make my family’s country (Guyana) what it is. Before this summer, I had no idea where to start or what to do. But being able to be a part of this fellowship really helped me to structure my research and plans and become better at explaining them to others. It helped me figure out exactly what I wanted to do and even become more comfortable with doing independent research on a subject I’m very passionate about. Because of this fellowship, I can dive deeper into and spread information about topics relating to my and my family’s culture and honor my ancestors in a way that they have never been before. 

Jacinta Smith ’25

My project focused on death penalty research in times of crisis with LJST professor Austin Sarat. Our intention as a group was to thoroughly record the stories of people executed during economic recessions, pandemics, and wars. During the summer we were able to do preliminary research and look at specific trends that may have influenced a positive or negative relationship between executions and the time period that the crisis took place. For instance, we found that during World War I and the Spanish Flu there was a drop in executions of white males. There are many factors that could have impacted this relationship, like the shortage of young men in the U.S. committing crimes or states that adopted anti-death penalty legislation during war time. [The Schupf Program] was an opportunity for us to become intellectuals.