Archives for September 2017

Joe Barnello: Washington Center Experience


When I first applied to The Washington Center, I was simply excited to be in Washington D.C. for the summer. I could not wait to see Arlington and the National Mall, visit the various Smithsonians, and see the Supreme Court in action. I soon learned that my D.C. experience would encompass so much more. This experience, which an ELF grant from the Schedler Honors College made possible, gave me many other opportunities that will benefit me immensely in my academic career. The two main areas I gained experience in were knowledge on law schools and work experience at the National Archives.

The most beneficial opportunities I had for the short run pertained to furthering my knowledge of law school, which occurred in three ways: taking my first legal-minded class (Philosophy of Law), attending Law School Admission Council’s (LSAC) law school forum, and making connections with people within the legal field. A part of The Washington Center experience is taking a night class once a week. My class was titled Philosophy of Law: The Supreme Court and the Constitutional Tradition. The class covered the different legal mindsets of Justice Antonin Scalia and Justice Stephen Breyer by reading both of their books and analyzing their philosophies by reading different Supreme Court cases. Even though this class was three hours at night at the end of a full day of work, it always kept my interest and attention because I was constantly intrigued with this material. I think this class cemented the belief that I want to go to law school.

Once I knew that law school was the next step in my academic path, I needed to know how to evaluate law schools and what type of law would be interesting to me. I utilized The Washington Center’s informational interview assignment and my supervisor’s connections to make connections of my own and learn about the legal field. The first person I talked to was Mrs. Rashee Raj, the General counsel for the Department of Forensic Sciences. She advised me that I would enjoy appellate law because it involves research and constitutional aspects. I then talked to Mr. Stephen Vladeck, a professor at the University of Texas School of Law. His advice for me was to not look at overall ranks as much as clinical programs, graduate work locations, and clerkship opportunities. These were just two people of many who gave me great advice while in D.C.

The last opportunity I had in D.C. to help me with my law school decision was the LSAC law forum. Over one hundred eighty law schools attended this event. Loaded with the knowledge I had from my own research, Mrs. Raj, and Mr. Vladeck, I was able to narrow down my decision to the handful of schools I am pursuing today.

The most beneficial opportunity I took advantage for myself in the long run was interning at the National Archives with Mrs. Karen Needles and the Lincoln Digital Archives Project. Mrs. Needles started this project fifteen years ago with the mission, “The first and only project digitizing the federal records of the Lincoln Administration. All executive, legislative, judicial and military records! If you want to truly understand Lincoln as President, you have to see the BIG picture!”

My small job within this large project was digitizing legislative records. To narrow the lens even further, I worked with documents from the Committees on Indian Affairs, Invalid Pensions, the Judiciary, and Military Affairs from the first session of the Thirty-Seventh Congress. The digitizing process has eight steps: locating the documents in the finding aid, ordering the documents, scanning, transcribing, cataloging, coding web pages, “cleaning” images, and uploading everything to the website. My job comprised the first seven steps, and Mrs. Needles would upload all my work at her house since the Internet in the Central Research Room and the National Archives was not fast enough to efficiently upload the data.

While in D.C., my experiences went beyond the simple tourist attractions. None of these experiences (not even the typical tourist places) would have been possible without the generous ELF grant from the Schedler Honors College. The grant allowed me to research my thesis in the Library of Congress, visit the Supreme Court, connect with people in the law field, and even intern at the National Archives for an entire summer.

Adrienne Thompson: Shanghai Language Immersion

In May and June of 2017, I lived in Shanghai, China, and studied Chinese for just over six weeks at East China Normal University (ECNU). My UCA classmates and I were dropped into the program in the last month of their semester, placed in different level classes, and studied accordingly. I had class four hours a day, five days a week. There was a day of listening, two days of reading, and two days of speaking class every week. Not only did I study but I got to experience so much culture in such a short amount of time. I visited temples, ancient gardens, marketplaces, tons of Chinese restaurants, museums, and even took a selfie with a Tibetan monk. The first two days, I was unpacking. I was uncomfortable, confused, and very excited. The last two days of the trip, I was packing. I thought, “Is it really almost over? Has it really been six weeks?” Somehow, my little hotel room had become home to me. That’s what travel is, making a new place your home.

I had a month to learn a semester’s worth of material at East China Normal University and make a comic about my experiences in China. What I actually did was create a small visual guide specific to this particular language immersion program by making a comic of fourteen pages in first-person perspective. It introduced some of the cultural differences between the USA and China and gave visual explanation to what someone who enters the same program might see. In industry terms, I was the penciler, inker, colorist, story boarder, editor, and designer. The comic is titled Round Peg in a Square Hole. The title very much conveys my feelings during the program. I was never the right shape for the country or the people in it. I either pushed at the sides too much or I left too much space open or both. Do I regret the experience? No. Would I do it again? Yes. The way I talk about it may not seem to coincide with those other sentiments, but what I created is my honest interpretation. I felt I needed to depict my truth and hopefully promote change by doing so.

I have Chinese ancestry on my mom’s side. I thought this trip would help me reconcile that part of my identity. I don’t know that it did. While I am even more interested in is Chinese language and culture, I still feel like an outsider. I’m not fluent, nor was I raised in China, but even if I was to spend the rest of my life in China and become a citizen and fluent, my dark skin, height, size, and features would instantly give me away as foreign. That sounds kind of harsh and sad, but I don’t think that matters. I am Chinese. I’m learning Chinese. It doesn’t matter if you can see it or not, it’s there. That’s where my problem was with my Chinese identity. I was dependent on having other people notice it. I was so used to people noticing the other parts of my identity, why not this one too?

The most important thing I realized while studying in China was how to learn a language. I can’t just memorize words, phrases, and sentence structures. I can’t just throw it in my freezer, let it thaw after three years, and expect that it’ll be any good when I meet a Chinese person at the grocery store. Language is not something to be collected and wasted. It and the culture it comes from should be engaged with every day. It’s a diverse way of living that can be difficult to accomplish. It’s all the more rewarding when it happens.