Last year, I worked with Professor Christopher Winship, Dr. David Ager and Kim Pernell on a program evaluation of the Commonwealth Seminar, a legislative training seminar designed to empower and educate minority leaders in Massachusetts. This experience was highly valuable because it provided me the opportunity to develop meaningful relationships with members of the faculty (including graduate students) and learn from them in a much more intimate way than class and office hours alone could ever accomplish. In fact, it helped me form a strong working and personal relationship with the faculty member who is now my thesis advisor. Additionally, this opportunity helped me hone my research skills, something which I feel has uniquely prepared me for my senior thesis work. Learning about methods in class is very different from actually implementing them for a project in which you are held completely accountable for the results. Consequently, this program facilitates a deeper understanding of how to conduct and report research effectively. IQSS provides undergraduates with a very unique opportunity and it should be embraced by those individuals that want to develop professional skills and cultivate relationships with faculty outside the classroom. I think that any student can benefit from this experience and participants may even find a potential career interest (or decide against a career) based on their experiences with this program. I would encourage everyone to seriously consider this opportunity. It has the potential to have a positive and powerful impact on your undergraduate experience.
-Shadman Zaman, AY11 Undergraduate Research Scholar
I worked under Professors Winship and Ager on an evaluation of the Commonwealth Seminar - a legislative training workshop for diverse leaders in Massachusetts. We employed both qualitative and quantitative methods, giving me the opportunity to really hone my research skills. As a sociology concentrator who is going to write a thesis, it was the perfect venue through which I could gain exposure to the research process front to back, learn from those with experience, and get out in the field on my own. Now about to go into my senior year, I feel confident in my ability to do independent research for my thesis and in the years ahead. IQSS is a whole different type of learning than sitting in class, and I think anyone who does it will come out with a whole new set of skills and perspective on research.
-Whitney Donaldson, AY11 Undergraduate Research Scholar
I conducted a year-long program evaluation of the Commonwealth Seminar, a Boston-based non-profit organization, which entailed a good deal of qualitative (30+ in-depth interviews and coding) and quantitative (statistical analysis of 170+ survey response sets) data collection and analysis. The evaluation took the form of a paper and a presentation of findings to the board of directors and funders of the Commonwealth Seminar. My project manager was Kim Pernell, currently a PhD candidate in the Sociology department, along with two fellow undergraduates. The overall project was directed by Professors Christopher Winship and David Ager.
This project was an unparalleled opportunity to work closely with faculty members in a relaxed and informal setting. I looked forward to every one of my team meetings because they even though we worked hard, we all really enjoyed each other's company. Unlike a classroom setting, where the students are all essentially competing with one another to come up with the most insightful comment or score the highest grade on an exam, this project encouraged us to work together towards a common goal. We depended on and encouraged each other to produce good results. For the first time ever during my time at Harvard, I had to really learn how to work in a team setting.
The work itself was a good chance to apply the theoretical concepts we've learned in the classroom to a real world problem. I never realized how difficult it would be to keep yourself from introducing bias to an interview or analysis, how important understanding how to read regression results would be, or how well certain sociological theories explain real world phenomena. I gained a whole new appreciation of my studies.
Being part of IQSS was great! We enjoyed free, terrific meals every other month, learned about the cross-discipline research other teams were working on, and got a chance to spend time with really cool faculty members. I believe this group has the potential to become a truly incredible community of undergraduate research scholars. IQSS offers a unique opportunity to undergraduates who want to work closely with Harvard faculty, apply their knowledge to some really interesting work, and just have a really good time!
-Victor Wong, AY11 Undergraduate Research Scholar