A fascination with the grotesque. I suppose that’s what drew me to spend a quarter researching the modern American political system. My PWR 2 course, Superfans and Scholars: The Rhetoric of Fan Culture, began by introducing students to the academic study of fandom; we were then challenged to employ this knowledge of fan cultures as a lens through which to understand our research topic. Ever the ambitious student, I settled upon what I considered to be an eminently manageable task: use fan studies to explain and suggest solutions to the gridlock paralyzing Washington. Ha.
A good presentation is three things: substantive, clear, and engaging. I trust any student at Stanford University to create substance for a presentation. Yet many students, myself included, struggle to be clear and engaging. We may fear that our jokes won't go over well or that our core arguments won't come across seriously; failure in these critical moments of our presentation will ultimately compromise both the clarity and audience's focus.
As my first year at Stanford came to a close, I heard countless warnings from wise, all-knowing upperclassmen: beware of the Sophomore Slump. The Sophomore Slump became a looming, mysterious presence that I could feel sneaking up on me -- a shadow of a figure that I could never quite catch a glimpse of. It was the best kept secret at Stanford: the knowing smile, the shrug, the “Just wait, you’ll see.” I spent the weeks before my second year planning for every catastrophe I could imagine.
An original contribution to the collective scholarly body of knowledge? Yeah, right. It took up until the last week of class for me to come to terms with the idea that an “original contribution” does not have to be a solution or even a clear-cut answer. It can be as simple as looking at a familiar situation in an original way. And yet, this is not exactly a comforting revelation, because seeing something in a different light is not as simple as following formulas and obeying natural laws in Calculus or Chemistry.
Slightly intimidated is exactly how I felt during my first day in Christine Alfano’s “Rhetoric of Gaming” course. For starters, the class was eighty percent male. Moreover, considering that my gaming experience amounted mostly to The Sims and Mario Kart, I was doubtful of whether or not I could even classify myself as a gamer. Nonetheless, I easily found relatable topics to write about, and quickly realized that my gaming experiences (or lack thereof) gave my voice a unique and valuable perspective.
My paper was undeniably a response to Ken Auletta's “Get Rich U.” and – in many ways – my attempt at a defense of Stanford' pedagogical mission. Over the course of conducting research for the paper, I became increasingly convinced that modern critics yearned for a return to Ivy League curriculums from the ‘60s instead of seriously attempting to understand the higher education zeitgeist of our times, and I wanted to capture this sentiment and its associated issues in the work.
Throughout middle school and high school, I heard many girls complain that they only had male friends because girls were too catty, backstabbing, or “bitchy.” I did not want to believe that girls could be inherently more prone to this kind of aggression than boys, which led me to my first research question: “why do girls engage in behaviors like gossiping or exclusion?
What drove my research-based argument was a sense of justice: all children need experiences in nature for healthy development, and yet research shows that children have substantially less access to nature than previous generations. An easy way to tackle this issue, I thought, would be to modify our schoolyards so as to re-integrate nature into the lives of children today.