Undergraduate Research Fellowships
boston college fine arts department
Undergraduate Research Fellows (URFs) work closely with individual faculty members on various kinds of projects. A fellowship may provide opportunities for you to cultivate relevant skills and foster relationships with those working in a field that you're thinking about pursuing. Although you will not receive academic credit for the fellowship, the program's funding will pay you for up to 20 hours per week of work during the semester (and up to 40 hours during semester breaks or the summer).
The University Fellowships Committee reviews applications for the program three times a year – once for each semester, and once for the summer. Faculty members submit the application, so if you are interested in working with a particular instructor on a project, let her or him know!
Below, former URFs describe their experiences.
During the summer of 2015, I conducted a fieldwork project to document Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) architecture in Beijing as part of an Undergraduate Research Fellowship undertaken with Professor Aurelia Campbell, a specialist in Chinese architectural history. My professor recommended a book, The Historical Architectural Map of Beijing, that included basic information on the ancient architecture remaining in Beijing. This book helped me focus on a few of the best-preserved places. My professor also suggested that I visit several sites that she knew still maintained their original Ming style. In the end I successfully made a list of sites I wanted to visit. Before visiting each site, I also conducted research about the buildings that I was going to see to learn more about when and why they were built, what construction materials they used, etc.
While walking among the ancient buildings at these sites, I felt a deep sense of past. I had never before conducted on-site fieldwork, and it was especially exciting when some of my previous research of these sites was confirmed by my actual observation. Working with a camera and taking photographs was also a valuable and inspiring learning experience for me. Sometimes, for instance, it was hard for me to fit the whole building in one shot. By trying to fit the scene in my photograph, which I did probably over a hundred of times, I started to notice something interesting. In some Ming buildings, such as those at Changling, it was easier to take pictures of an entire structure because the buildings were organized in the original Ming style with enough space between each hall. But at other sites, such as the Emperors Shrine, I noticed that there were several Qing (the dynasty that followed the Ming) additions of pavilions that were built right next to the main shrine hall. These later buildings stood out so much in style and position that they blocked the view of the main shrine hall. Visiting the sites in person thus helped me achieve a much more detailed understanding of Ming architecture than I would have gotten only from reading books.
At the end of the summer, I shared the photographs I had taken, along with identifying information for the images, with Professor Campbell so that she will have them available to illustrate future publications. In the process of my research, I had also compiled a bibliography about ancient Chinese architecture that I expect will serve me well in my future studies. I am grateful that I had the opportunity to do a URF during this summer, and I will continue my research and learn more about traditional Chinese architecture.
Shunjia Mao, MCAS '16
"It has been a great learning experience and I am grateful for all the skills that Professor Sherman has taught me so far. This semester I have been helping Professor Sherman with her non-profit, TransCultural Exchange, and participated in her biennial International Opportunities in the Arts Conference. Though I am not a Fine Arts major, I have learned that there are many different types of work that go behind holding such an event. I was able to put my organizational and time management skills to the test and even reevaluate the skills I thought I had. Through this experience, I have developed many practical skills that are not really taught in classes, especially technical computer skills and management of events. These are practical skills that I plan to apply when I join the workforce next year. It has taught me to work carefully and responsibly for something that does not measure my ability in a grade, but in being able to help someone else in their work and passion. I appreciate the ability to continue to work for Professor Sherman, as next semester she will introduce me to preparing and writing grants for her next Conference. I believe that this will be another essential skill that will help me in the future and am excited to start."
Farhin Zaman, A&S '14
(The Conference on International Opportunities in the Arts included over 100 speakers from around the world: members of the International Art Critics Association; cultural attaches; curators from such renowned platforms as Documenta and the Venice Biennale; gallerists; artist-in-residency directors; and artists such as Laurie Anderson and Florian Dombois, the winner of the 2010 German Sound Prize.)
"My Undergraduate Research Fellowship with Professor John Michalczyk has opened so many professional doors to me over the course of this past year! Aside from the practical experiences of working with equipment, assisting in research, etc., the URF has put me in contact with numerous opportunities for freelance projects–all of which have added considerably to my resume. This past summer I worked with the West Suburban YMCA to produce a feature video for their annual giving gala, which in turn has networked me with other potential employers in addition to working with a local documentary film producer to edit condensed vignettes for his latest web development project. Directing, editing, or producing, my skills have grown substantially since participating in the URF, all the while making it fiscally feasible to remain in Boston for the summer and continuing to work."
David Riemer, A&S '14
My URF with Professor Stephanie Leone offered me the opportunity to have practical experience in upper-level research in art history. One of my main responsibilities was collecting sources from bibliographies and reading essays and chapters of books. With my research, I helped Professor Leone determine which of these sources, if any, would be appropriate to integrate into her classes. I found this task enjoyable as well as beneficial to my academic development, as it allowed me to hone my research skills and learn more about the topics she teaches. I also spent time researching possible websites, podcasts, and other technological media that might be relevant for Professor Leone's classes. In addition, I assisted Professor Leone in planning her lectures by streamlining her PowerPoint presentations and searching for clearer and more extensive images of the artworks on which she lectured. I came out of this experience with more efficient research practices and a depth of knowledge on academic study that I could not have gained without it, and it strongly contributed to my decision to pursue a career in academia in the future.
Molly Phelps, A&S '14
"As an Undergraduate Research Fellow I learned about the practical side of being an artist. I had opportunities to meet with artists, fashion designers, photographers, curators, and collectors. Working with Professor Mark Cooper brought new ideas and tasks into every single day. He is extremely open to collaborations and encouraged me as a student to jump at every opportunity, increase my exposure to the market, and to learn as much as possible. I also developed skills as an artist myself, building large-scale sculptures in a variety of mediums, including ceramics, wood, and fiberglass. I learned how to master several new tools which I had never used before. Mark is a wonderful teacher and has the patience to follow through with these projects so that you feel connected to each part of the process. This is crucial to understanding all of the time and energy that goes into being an artist as well as the benefits. I was involved in the planning process of finding grants and prospective buyers as well as the grant writing for certain proposals. This is necessary for artists to continue sharing their work and expanding into new areas. It is essential as an artist to be open to all kinds of opportunities. This fellowship will teach you exactly how to do that."
Sarah Webber CSON '14
"The Undergraduate Research Fund has provided me with the opportunity to immerse myself in a wide range of distinct projects. In addition to aiding Professor Michalczyk in his research for academic publications, I have participated in the production of various media projects. This past summer, I helped to create a promotional video for the West Suburban YMCA, which was presented at their annual fundraising gala. I am currently aiding in the editing of Professor Michalczyk’s latest documentary titled Who Takes Away the Sins: Witnesses to Clergy Abuse. Overall, the Undergraduate Research Fund has given me the chance to apply what I have learned in the Boston College Film Studies program to real film productions that will most definitely help me in my professional endeavors upon graduation."
Liliana Peraza, A&S '14