Spring URSP Participant Leena Halabi:
Last semester I had embarked on a mission to study the Post-Soviet bloc after I had taken Dr. Eric McGlinchey’s class on Central Asian Politics – which after taken the course had animated my fascination and intrigue with this area. My initial research dealt with the cult of personality within the Central Asian Republics. In proposing the URSP program to my professor, he introduced me to his current research on the educational environment in the Republic of Georgia with the prospects of launching distance learning methods in rural and suburban Georgia. Although I did not have any formal knowledge or study of the Republic of Georgia, my professor offered me the position to research and join the team. This is the beauty of research – you do not necessarily need to feel like you need to have a firm grasp of a country or historical phenomena in order to research it because the journey of research itself is the key to the best form of understanding and knowledge.
Participation in the URSP program makes you feel closer to achieving your dream – I know it sounds cliché, but working with a team as opposed to by yourself and on a true-to-life related issue as opposed to theories is an incomparable experience that goes beyond the classroom.
Our team – consisting of myself, Dr. McGlinchey, and, my partner in crime, graduate research assistant Ms. Diana Sweet – meet regularly on a weekly basis to discuss and collaborate on each others individual research they had done during the week. We split up the tasks and reconvene the following week. The meetings usually last 45 minutes where we each take turns discussing what each of us had discovered during the week before. The cozy meeting rooms of Robinson give us a chance to collaborate locally and efficiently.
With research you are continually learning and discovering something new everyday. The past week I have been analyzing and dissecting case studies of distance learning (D.E.) in Less Technologically Developed countries; which is a good place to learn from previous projects’ successes and failures. While our project is targeting adults for university level distance learning, I found a problem particularly intriguing that Dan Eastmond encountered while assessing D.E. in rural Asia – that adults in rural areas have not had a solid foundation in secondary, or perhaps even secondary, schooling? This would mean that our project proposal would have to develop a greater catering scope to educate those who first need rudimentary level school before attaining university level education.