Reflections and goals for the end of the year

It’s Fall Break here at Penn State and things have been extra quiet in the library. For me, this break means shifting my focus to some bigger projects (like undergraduate research) without being pulled in a million different meeting directions. It’s a needed lull, but I will say that I miss the students and chatting about this project with Ally!

This morning, I sent out the sixth round of recruitment emails. Up until today, Ally and I had been only emailing a handful of our potential subjects, trying to take it a few colleges at a time. We felt that was a way to keep everything manageable and it has worked well so far. However, as we look at our completed interviews (6) versus the ones still left (18), we figured we should try to kick things into a little higher gear. 18 students across 11 colleges received an email from me today. Hopefully a few will be interested and Ally will come back to some scheduled interviews. After this round, we plan on doing two more recruitment periods before December 20, the last day of finals. I’m hoping that as the semester comes to a close, more students will have free time and interest in participating. Ideally, we’re trying to have 12 interviews completed by the end of 2019. It seems possible. We hope.

I feel that we’ve reached a new point in our research project. We’re confident about and competent with our interview techniques; we’re getting the data we want and learning a lot from those we interview. However, we’re not close to the end of our interviews and then the coding that’s ahead of us. I feel like I need to prepare myself for this squishy middle section. Things might be a little slugish as we attempt to get our other interviewees. I’m thinking a lot about momentum and movement; what can we do to help conceptually move our project along, even if interviews are slower than we would like? How can we set ourselves up for future success once we get our 24 interviews? I don’t have all the answers but I’m trying to focus a bit more on coming up some potential solutions.

At the same time as I’m trying to keep the project moving forward, I’m also competing with myself about what happens after this initial exploratory project. Research proposals and requests for funding always come earlier than I would like. So now I’m thinking, what’s the next research question? How much funding do I need to make it happen? How do I extend this work, both conceptually and across the Commonwealth? What changes based on what Ally and I find? How do I keep my promise to students that this research should both include and amplify their voices and experiences AND make better experiences for future students? Needless to say, there’s a lot floating around in my brain right now.

Lucky for me, this isn’t my first time with a lot of competing interests and priorities. I know how to handle all the floating thoughts. Step one is to really dig into the recruitment. I feel that Ally and I can get at least six more interviews in before the end of the year. If we got more than six, I would love that. Our plan is to try to finish all 24 interviews by Spring Break (March 6). We’re holding ourselves to that. After that, we can focus on the coding, presentations, and publications. In terms of next research project, well I’m going to keep thinking on that and remind myself that research agendas are subject to change. Stay tuned for updates on our progress to 12 completed interviews!

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Student Engagement Coordinator at Penn State University Libraries. When she's not in the library, Hailley is an avid oatmeal connoisseur, baseball scorekeeper, bike rider, embroidery queen, and reader of memoirs. Check her out on Twitter @hailthefargoats.

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