By: Gwyn Harris
Gwyn Harris is a Senior and will graduate in May 2021. Her majors are Public History and Anthropology. While COVID-19 has halted many of Gwyn’s extracurricular activities, she has spent her years at Ball State playing violin in the Campus Orchestra and teaching for the Youth Symphony Orchestras of East Central Indiana. On the history side of things, Gwyn worked as an Undergraduate Teaching Fellow for the department of history for three years, where she got to experience the trials of grading and truly appreciate the value of Ball State’s history faculty. In 2019, Gwyn pursued an informal internship in Wales, where she began an ongoing project preparing materials for the online J.M. Barrie archive. In the summer of 2020, she interned at the Indiana Medical History Museum, where she cataloged patient newsletters from the 1990s and sex education manuals primarily from the 1940s. Gwyn was homeschooled her whole life up until college and owes any intellectual capacity to her mother, who wonderfully homeschooled all of her five daughters at once. Gwyn hopes to pursue a doctorate in history after she graduates from Ball State.
Tell us a little bit about your fellowship position!
I am a student assistant researching, writing, and revising exhibits for the virtual Hoosier Civil Rights Museum. My fellowship is in the field of history and supervised by Dr. Ron Morris from the History Department! I do my work in the Applied Anthropology Laboratories in the Burkhardt Building on campus. Burkhardt has been my second home since coming to Ball State, so I love the chance to expand my activities there. At the lab, I research prevalent people, places, and events that are integral to Indiana’s Civil Rights history. Then, I use my research to write articles that are revised and eventually uploaded to the museum website.
How and why did you get involved in an Honors fellowship?
This is my first semester as an Honors fellow. Dr. Morris reached out to me over winter break, and I immediately knew I wanted to take the opportunity. I spent my first three years at Ball State as an Undergraduate Teaching Fellow for the History Department, so I knew I loved working with faculty to learn and create beyond class. I tend to jump at every learning opportunity Ball State throws at me and this one promised a chance to work on a subject I am passionate about so, of course, I accepted!
What is your favorite part of your fellowship?
Primarily, I love the material with which I work. I have always been passionate about Indiana history, and in recent years have discovered my interest in African American history. I also love setting aside time each week to research and write about a topic I am passionate about. Throughout my years at school, I have never set time aside to research or write unless it was for a project or paper. While I do work against deadlines and my work is supervised, my fellowship work still feels like an escape from the pressures of school. It is time set aside for pure and passionate research. Be still, my heart! I have always loved writing, too, and being paid to do something I love feels like I am finally turning into the adult young Gwyn always wanted to be.
How has your fellowship helped you grow professionally, academically, and/or personally?
Academically and professionally, my fellowship has pushed me to research and write more efficiently. While I have always loved writing, I know I have a lot of room for improvement. The feedback I receive from my direct supervisor, Christine Thompson, has pushed me to refine my writing by acclimating to her suggestions. These museum exhibits are not complex essays—they are short summaries of important people, events, and places. This style of writing is new to me. I am excited that this fellowship is teaching me new skills to include in my writing repertoire, all while refining my preexisting skills. I rarely realize I’m learning until I sit down to write for my classes and find it easier than in the past.
Of course, growing academically and professionally has pushed me to grow personally, too. School is a huge part of my life. I love learning and plan to pursue it indefinitely. This fellowship has further cemented my love for research and writing and helped me realize that I want these things to be a part of my future. I feel the fellowship gives me an opportunity to flex my skills I have picked up in classes over the years while developing others from unique experiences with faculty and staff. I have also learned the importance of setting aside time to do something I love without the looming consequences of a grade.
What advice would you have for any Honors students interested in pursuing a fellowship?
My advice to anybody considering an Honors fellowship is to take the plunge and do it. Fellowships offer so many opportunities for personal, academic, and professional growth. They also offer chances for connection. These can be human connections with peers and faculty, connections with history and the environment, and, most importantly, it allows you to connect with yourself.
To learn more about Gwyn, you can connect with her on LinkedIn.