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Humanities to launch research practicum

By Hannah Todd     11/18/15 9:33am

The Humanities Research Center is partnering with Houston institutions and university archives to provide semester-long student practica in the fields of medical humanities and cultural heritage starting in spring 2016. John Mulligan, a Rice University lecturer, will be managing the program.

The students will receive three hours of humanities credit under HURC with the expectation of spending five to 10 hours a week on site. Mulligan will check in with students weekly and institutions monthly. Students will submit a mid-semester write-up on their work and will present at a symposium at the end of the semester on the results of their research.

“The research the students will engage in is flexible with respect to the institution,” Mulligan said. “It will draw on some unrealized potential an institution has that a student can make the most of and learn some skills along the way.”

The practicum is sponsored by the Public Humanities Initiative, an Andrew W. Mellon Foundation grant managed by principal investigators Melissa Bailar and Fares El-Dadah. 

“The grant is designed to take humanistic potential at Rice and give students an opportunity to plug into the cultural landscape of Houston,” Mulligan said. “We want to try to make what we do as publicly relevant as possible and find a way of reminding people how important to daily life the humanities can be.”

10 of 14 students have already been placed and three others will be placed next week. Five students will conduct medical humanities research and eight will focus on cultural heritage.

“We have a really interesting mix of students -— some science-y people, some double majors,” Mulligan said. “Nobody has done deep archival work though.”

Lovett College senior Emily Higgs plans to pursue a master’s degree in library and information science after graduating and applied for the practica to get a better idea of the field. 

“I am going to be processing small collections at the Houston Metropolitan Research Center,” Higgs said. “Once we know what’s in these collections and organize them in a way that is accessible to researchers, they can be mined for a wealth of historical information about Texas and Houston.”

Higgs said she is most looking forward to going through the collections.

“You never know what kind of material you’ll stumble on,” Higgs said. “The archivists I’ve talked to love to tell stories about the treasures they’ve discovered in these collections.”

Psychology major Christian Capo said he wants to work in pediatric mental health in his future career. He was placed in the Institute for Spirituality and Health to focus on improving children’s knowledge of these topics.

“I hope to instill true understanding and appreciation of interfaith practices into Houston-area children, as well as alleviate their mental and physical health crises,” Capo, a Jones College sophomore, said.

Capo said he is most looking forward to the novelty and uniqueness of the experience.

“I am excited to be doing something so new and so different from anything else that I have ever done at Rice,” Capo said. “I never thought that I would have an opportunity like this, especially as a non-humanities major working with the Humanities Research Center.”

Mulligan does not expect students to continue their research in subsequent semesters. However, he is open to that in the future.

“I don’t believe we will be rolling students over but have discussed for larger projects and especially for group projects,” Mulligan said. “Once we are certain the one semester with one student on one given project is working, we will revisit making changes.”

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