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Undergraduate Researchers

Kevin Triplett

Kevin Triplett, Gender and Women's Studies

The Gendered Asylum: Nineteenth Century Asylums Used as Tools of Female Socialization ~ UMBC Review

How did you find out that you could do research in your field as an undergraduate?

Research is encouraged within the Humanities Scholars program. We were given the tools and understanding to seek the answers to our research questions by actively engaging professors and scholarly sources. When I found that the professors were just as excited to enable us to do our own research, it became a matter of finding which professors had the same interests that the questions required.


How did you decide on your research project?

My primary research concerns have dealt with reexamining various topics in terms of sex and sexuality. The piece published in the UMBC Review was a comparison of primary sources to the admission records and latent goals of the mental institution system. My sources were from nineteenth century America and detailed the expected roles of women at the time. This research was meant to examine the ways the asylums were used to socialize women who stepped out of their prescribed roles, pushing them back to the conventional traits of passive femininity.


Who did you seek out as a faculty mentor? How did you know that would be the right person? Was he/she easy to approach?

Dr. Phillip Seng was one of the professors who co-taught my Humanities seminar my freshman year. As my advisor he encouraged me to submit my paper.


How long did you work on your project? Did you get academic credit for the work?

The paper began as a final research paper for my Humanities seminar and underwent a graduated process of outlining the topic, composing a thesis, collecting sources and solidifying the argument. After the class was over, my mentor encouraged me to polish the piece and submit it to the UMBC Review.

What did you know about how to do this research when you started? How did you learn?

I knew the general pattern of research, but synthesizing the primary and secondary sources in a meaningful way was definitely a new experience. The epistemology of the research project allowed for a better understanding of how the researcher himself is a part of the knowledge he acquires and produces.

What was the most interesting or unexpected thing that happened in your research?

When the research for the asylum project finally had pieces of evidence that supported my thesis, there was also an interesting consolidation of my academic majors (psychology/sociology/gender studies) in the piece I had produced.

What difficulties did you encounter?

The issue was organizing the research in a meaningful way to support both the claims I had presented and purposely use the knowledge I had collected. Mapping out my goals in the research helped resolve the confusion of excess information.


What else were involved in on campus at the time? Did you have time for anything other than course work and research?

As I continued my research I was also working on-campus. While the research process took a considerable amount of time, it did not heavily dominate my free time.

How did you find out that you could submit your research to the UMBC Review?

Dr. Seng encouraged me to submit the piece to the UMBC Review after the seminar finished. A majority of professors have encouraged students to continue their research and utilize the pieces they write as foundations for further research.

Was it hard to prepare your manuscript for initial submission? What about revisions and working with the Review editors to get your article ready for publication?

The primary preparations required the proper formatting of the paper for style guidelines. I was asked to examine my topic in new perspectives for my revisions; for instance, although the paper relied heavily on the construction of femininity, I was asked to put a short piece on the state of manhood in nineteen century America as well.


Are you doing further work that expands on your original research or on the research skills you developed on that project?

I’ve been working in the gender studies department on other topics involving sex and sexuality. Under the advisement of Dr. Jodi Kelber-Kaye, I’ve looked at the process of emasculinization in the popular music of Ke$ha and Katy Perry as a form of empowerment and the consequential negative side-effects. This paper used content analysis that involved the combination of lyrical themes and research on manhood, as well as a situational analysis comparing current female music to the Riot Grrrl Movement.


What advice do you have for other undergraduate about the research opportunities at UMBC?

I would definitely advise students to work with what they have: use final papers and personal endeavors as a jumping board to ask bigger questions and pursue research. Professors are often happy to hear the ideas of students and will be willing to provide some advising on where they can take their research.