An Open Letter to My Cohort

Dear fellow Fellows (and any other readers),

My name is Christine Wang, and I’m an accounting major with a double minor in political science in history at Northern Illinois University. I’m a McKearn Fellow and like the other nine McKearn Fellows in my cohort, I’ll be conducting research this summer. What I really love about the McKearn Fellows program is that every Fellow has such a wide diversity of interests and capabilities. Some Fellows are working on STEM-related issues, which is usually the first thing that pops up when people think about conducting research. Others are looking at issues in education, or business–these normally “non-traditional” research topics that are actually far more prevalent than what the average layperson thinks of. I, myself, am conducting research into fraud, specifically fraud within governmental and not-for-profit sectors. This summer, I will be conducting a literature review and essentially learning the ropes for future research projects, and will be mentored by Dr. Chih-Chen Lee of the NIU Accounting department.

Last week, on Sunday, I began my eight week journey as a McKearn Fellow and summer researcher. While this summer program has certainly been in the works for ages now, and I knew that this work was coming, it still felt unreal when I walked into the orientation on Monday. A year ago, I had just graduated high school, not even knowing what to expect in the next few months to come. Yet here I was, attending orientation for a major undergraduate research program as a second-year undergraduate–my fancy way of saying “not yet a sophomore.” I was a little nervous about starting this project. I’ve had zero experience in research, and I was relying heavily on my mentor’s capabilities and past experiences to help me get the ball rolling.

After the orientation, I felt a bit better, but still overwhelmed by the sheer amount of things I had to complete. When I sat down to begin looking up articles, I was immediately lost. It’s frustrating to know that all of the resources you could possibly need are a simple click or keyword away, but you don’t know what to click on or what your keyword is. Thankfully, with a quick email to my mentor, I was able to dip a toe into the world of research that I would be fully immersed in for the next eight weeks. After a bit of experimentation, I was able to find several promising articles and I promptly set about reading and annotating them. That was my life on Monday and Tuesday–annotating, sending emails, revising proposals, and discovering this whole new world.

On Wednesday, I went to the White Sox game to represent the McKearn Fellows and Honors, and though I missed half a day of work, it was well worth the extra work I would have to do to make it up. It’s always a pleasure to talk with alumni, prospective students, and to meet Victor E. Huskie and Dr. Baker. Unfortunately, I spent the next few days sick, and the week concluded with a lot of lessons learned and a lot of work to be done.

I’m really looking forward to learning more about researching and connecting with the people who helped make this amazing program happen. I’m also very excited to create close-knit bonds with my cohort–living in a cluster will definitely help us grow closer! I suppose if I had to give advice to these already very motivated and intelligent cohort, I’d tell them to keep doing what they’re already doing. They’ve gotten this far on who they are–the only way they can go now is up. I’m so very excited to see what the next two months will bring and how much we will change as students, leaders, and researchers.

Welcome to the journey, and I hope to see you there for every step of the way.

Christine

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