My name is Camille Blackford and I am a senior cultural anthropology major and Korean minor here at UMBC. I am also a part of the Humanities Scholars Program, and I am expecting to graduate Spring 2021. The title of my research project is “An Ethnography on the Happiness of UMBC Students During the Corona Virus Pandemic”.
Describe your project:
With this project I want to examine how the happiness of UMBC students has been impacted by the corona virus pandemic. Additionally, I want to examine what social and cultural resources (i.e. family, friends, student services, unemployment, etc.) students have to draw on that have positively and/or negatively impacted their happiness in the midst of the pandemic.
Who is your mentor(s) for your project?
My mentors for my project are Dr. Sarah Chard and Dr. Bambi Chapin from the Department of Sociology, Anthropology, and Health Administration and Policy. I met Dr. Chard when she was my professor for my anthropological theory course, and I met Dr. Chapin when I took her anthropology/Asian studies course on South Asia. I chose them as my mentors because I felt like I really learned a lot when I took their courses and I learned more about myself as an anthropology major. I feel like they will be able to guide me throughout this process and help me find my voice as an anthropologist.
How did you become interested in this project?
I became interested in this project after I was sent home early from my semester abroad in Bhutan. I was interested in Bhutan and going to Bhutan since my senior year of high school when, one morning, I was watching CBS Sunday Morning News with my mom and they did a segment on Bhutan. During this segment they talked about the idea of “Gross National Happiness” and how the Bhutanese government decided to prioritize the happiness of its citizens over things like GDP. Ever since I learned about Gross National Happiness I fell in love with Bhutan, and last semester I had the opportunity to study abroad there. Unfortunately, due to the corona virus, I was sent home early. I became interested in this research during this period of time where I was on my way back home and then during my self-quarantine that followed afterward (which actually wound up coinciding with the quarantine order for everyone). Everything in my life was changing and this made me wonder how other students at UMBC have been impacted by the virus as well.
What has been the hardest part about your research/what was the most unexpected thing about being a researcher?
The hardest part about my research, so far, has mainly been just fleshing it out and developing it. This is my first time doing an independent research project like this on my own and it can be very intimidating, but I am taking it step by step and trying not to get too overwhelmed. The other hard part has been the fact that the campus itself has been shut down because of the corona virus. This means that instead of doing participant observation in-person on campus, I will have to do it via social media through things like Facebook groups, etc. This also means that I will have to conduct interviews via my computer instead of in-person and applications like WebEx have not been working on my laptop.
What has been the most rewarding part?
The most rewarding part of this research will be being able to hear other students’ stories and experiences and getting to hear how other people my age have been handling everything that has been going on. The other rewarding part is that this research could provide insight into how students cope with times of uncertainty like this. I have never experienced anything like this in my life, and this is the case for most of the other students as well. Hopefully, this research will be able to show the different ways in which people cope/deal with something like this in which their whole world is turned upside down.
How will you disseminate your research?
I will present this research at URCAD in April.
What is your advice to other students about getting involved in research?
My advice to other students getting involved in research is that even though the whole idea of starting an independent research project can seem very intimidating, you just have to believe in yourself and your abilities and take a leap of faith. Find something you are passionate about and reach out to your professors, they are there to help you and they have experienced what it is like to do a research project for the first time and will probably have some very valuable advice. Lastly, trust yourself, believe in yourself and don’t give up, even when it gets hard or you get frustrated.
What are your career goals?
I am currently in the process of applying for a Fulbright research award and I hope to be able to do a comparative study at a university in South Korea. This means that I want to do a similar research project in South Korea and compare my findings from a university in South Korea to my findings from UMBC. After this, or if I don’t get the research award, I plan on applying to graduate school and continuing to study anthropology.