Testing the Waters

By Brendan Hogan, Peer Research AmbassadorTesting the Waters. By PRA Brendan.

I started my independent research project with the goal of expanding my analytical skills and experience in political science research, but I did not expect that it would solidify my decision to attend law school. Not only has my research solidified my direction, it has also helped me build upon and focus my career aspirations.

The Project

The summer after my junior year, I worked on an IDEA Grant research project examining the alt-right movement in the United States. I spent time exploring the projects of numerous other researchers and centers focused on countering hate groups. Through this research, I became aware of research as a career option, which is something I had not considered before. This was the first time I considered pursuing a career as a researcher.

The Reflection

While I found value in my research, through further reflection, I recognized that I wanted to pursue a career in law so that I could give back to others.  Reflecting on this realization, I have come to understand my research as a gate into my path beyond UConn. Through research, I have grown as an individual who has learned to stay committed in the face of challenges and to work diligently over a scheduled period with multiple deadlines. I have become experienced in collecting and analyzing data and thoroughly combing previous research for literature reviews. Ultimately, my passion for this research project had shown me how invested I was in the problem of the alt-right movement. I continued to ask questions and attempted to figure out why the movement had become so popular, what drove it’s supporters to support it, and what could be done to mitigate the violence and hate stemming from it. Knowing this, and recognizing I did not want to pursue a research career, I was left considering the alternatives.

I realized anti-hate centers hired lawyers to work for their organizations and legally counter hate groups’ violence and hate speech. These were the positions I became drawn to, as they combined my research interests and desire to pursue a career in law. I want to actively work to mitigate the hate and violence stemming from the alt-right movement and would like to pursue a legal career to do this. Without the research project, I do not think I would have become exposed to this potential career path.

The Take-away

My research project reinforced my career aspirations to go into law school. It has directed my interests towards a career in the public interest sector, with a focus on civil rights and constitutional law. Although I cannot guarantee that everyone’s research project can lead to a determination of a future career path, it can help you consider your own interests and potential career aspirations. Research exposes you to the professional world through the work in your own project. It can showcase what other individuals are doing in a field and lead to networking with those individuals. I would encourage you to pursue research at UConn and take the time to grow as an individual within your undergraduate experience, to consider your future career path, and to dive into what motivates you in your own work.

Brendan is a senior majoring in Political Science, Psychological Science, and Philosophy. Click here to learn more about Brendan.