Classically Liberal Arts Kayla Monaghan ’24 is collaborating on a Summer Research Scholars (SRS) project to enhance resources available through Leyburn Library.
“I really love that I have been able to experience the research process from start to finish.”
~ Kayla Monaghan ’24
Name: Kayla Monaghan ’24
Hometown: Blacksburg, Virginia
Majors: Classics; Business Administration
Minors: Creative Writing
Q: What factors led you to choose W&L?
There were many factors that led me to choose W&L. Being about the perfect distance of 90 minutes from home, the small class sizes with intentional professors, the incredible opportunities the school’s amazing network provides, the welcoming community and a feasible financial situation were the main factors that made it a simple choice for me.
Q: Why did you choose your course of study?
My dream is to create my own classical Christian school someday, so I chose the combination of business and classics to give me the skills to run an organization effectively as well as to be equipped to teach a myriad of subjects in the humanities. The creative writing minor came later in my W&L journey and I’m about to officially switch over to it in the fall. I took a few creative writing classes to fulfill part of the requirements for my degree and have loved spreading my wings in a new way.
Q: How did you find out about this opportunity? Did anyone at W&L help?
I found about the Summer Research Scholars (SRS) program through my work study. I have worked for Emily Cook in the library for the past two years. She approached me in the winter about the prospect of working with her during the summer on a project evaluating research guides as well as helping the director of institutional history on another project. I investigated the SRS program more and thought it was an exciting opportunity to work on something fascinating with someone I was already very comfortable with.
Q: What kind of work are you doing?
For our project evaluating students’ actual research needs, I have helped brainstorm the design of the study we are going to conduct midway through this experience, worked on a proposal for review by the Institutional Review Board (IRB), collaborated with the director of assessment and am a co-investigator on our project. For our project to create a system that will help to answer commonly asked questions about our institution’s history, I have been digitizing the end notes of some massive collections of the school’s history and tracking down the original primary sources digitized in various archives. For example, I spent a few hours the other day perusing digital scans of the Rockbridge County News back in the 1800s, which includes firsthand stories about the college. We plan to take all the primary sources and create a research guide on different topics that the director of institutional history is often asked about. This project is more of a practical approach to the concept of what the actual research needs are and how the library can create tools that address those needs directly.
Q: What do you like most about it, and what has been most challenging so far?
I really love that I have been able to experience the research process from start to finish. I did a lot of background reading to kick off the summer which then prepared me to be able to collaborate in creating the study and submitting an IRB proposal, a skill I’m sure I will have to use eventually more in life. The most challenging part has been the fact that I’m not on a team; it is just my advisor and me working through everything together. Also, doing research in the humanities is not as clear-cut as working in something like a biology lab, so learning about the way qualitative research is developed has been a growing process for me.
Q: What aspect of the work has surprised you the most so far?
The more practical project of digging through old archives has surprised me twofold. First, I have learned a lot about the history of the university. Even just small things like the “Tallyho incident” in the 1800s, a moment of tension between W&L students and VMI cadets after a rowdy football game, have been fun to research. Second, it is painstaking to have to comb through end notes and discover that digital archives don’t magically make themselves. Every time you see digitization of sources that were handwritten, be grateful for the person and/or computer that worked on that for you because it is tedious yet rewarding work.
Q: How do you think your current summer experience – and others you’ve had in the past, if applicable – will impact your future career path?
My dream is to have my own classroom and eventually start my own school in the long run, so the skills I am learning through evaluating research guides and systematically figuring out how to best meet students’ needs will directly apply to my own future students. I am also learning more about humanities research which, with my classics degree, I will be able to apply to any future projects I might pursue in the field where I am most passionate.
Q: Outside of your internship, what have you enjoyed the most about living and working in Rockbridge County this summer?
I have thoroughly enjoyed living in the third-year apartments this summer. My roommates and I have gotten close; we’ve done many random things together including bad karaoke nights, spontaneously temporarily dyeing parts of our hair, and visiting the Hulls Drive-In movie theater on Wednesday nights where they show a children’s movie for cheap that benefits charity. Having time to explore the town and the surrounding area without the weight of a full academic load has been so fun. I’m looking forward to other adventures my friends and I will have before the summer is up.
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