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History Major Named April's Undergraduate Research Student of the Month


A Q&A with senior history student Alyssa McClanahan, UC's April Undergraduate Research Student of the Month.

Date: 4/16/2010 12:00:00 AM
By: Dama Kimmon
Phone: (513) 558-4519

UC ingot   The University of Cincinnati's Undergraduate Research Council has announced the April recipient of the Undergraduate Research Student of the Month award. Check out the Q&A with senior history student Alyssa McClanahan. 

Alyssa McClanahan
Senior, History
Under the direction of faculty mentor Wendy Kline, PhD

What undergraduate research project are you working on?
I am the Charles Phelps Taft Undergraduate Fellow for the history department for 2009-2010, so my research project has been guided by Dr. Wendy Kline from UC’s history department and has been approved and funded by the Taft Research Center. After taking the History 400 class (junior topics seminar for history majors) with Dr. Kline, who specializes in U.S. women’s history and women’s health history, I became very interested in this area, even though I didn’t know much about it. I decided, for my project, to examine how the natural childbirth movement, the Lamaze Method (arguably the most famous childbirth method or technique even today) and the second-wave of feminism interacted or did not interact. Since they both shook America at about the same time, I was curious to see the interplay between them. I mean, the Lamaze Method, as a revolutionary childbirth method, was supposed to center on female involvement and control during her childbirth—the doctor was not supposed to be solely in charge. I thought then that perhaps two social movements/philosophies, both fringing on female empowerment, would collaborate or communicate. But interestingly, I found that they did not. That is what I tried to explore and explain in my paper.

Why did you opt to do undergraduate research?
Dr. Kline recommended me for the fellowship, and I was so excited. I enjoy doing research, and with this project, I really got to do research. The records for the Lamaze Method organization in the U.S., now named Lamaze International, are held at Harvard University’s Schlesinger Library, so I got to go there to do research. Any history major should opt to do research—it is a centerpiece to the whole major. Also, I found personally that if you enjoy doing the research and writing, then you know a little bit more about yourself in terms of what career you want to try and pursue after college.

What’s the best lesson you’ve learned?
Dr. Kline has taught me a lot about the stages of writing a good research paper (knowing the literature on the subject, showing that you know it, but saying something different, etc.). So pragmatically, that was important. But also, I had a lot of fun exploring the ins and outs and trying to understand one single organization’s history (that of Lamaze International). I didn’t ever think that analyzing an organization or group’s history could be so interesting. And I learned that I actually enjoy researching, which has helped me better (begin to) understand what I want to do after college.

What advice would you give to other undergraduates thinking about getting involved in research?
Make sure you have a topic/idea/theme you are truly interested in. Listen to the professor advising you. Have fun with it. One thing I learned from Dr. Kline is that research is kind of messy and it is supposed to be. You aren’t necessarily going to find the things you think you will find—go with it. 

What’s next?
For me? I haven’t decided yet. I had planned on attending graduate school right after graduation, but right now, I am (very heavily) leaning towards taking a year or two off from school and working for a Cincinnati nonprofit organization, doing research and community social work for them.

If you’d like to nominate an undergraduate researcher for this honor, please contact Cheri Westmoreland at cheri.westmoreland@uc.edu.

Read about March Undergraduate Student of the Month Whitney Howard