Brooke Long

Doctoral Student sociologist says UNDERGRADUATE research paved the way for her success

Brooke Long, Doctoral Graduate Student, Sociology

Who are we? What defines our identities and personalities? How are these affected by the labels we claim and associations we form?

Sociology Ph.D. student Brooke Long wants to find out.

“I am a sociological social psychologist with an interest in identities,” Long said.

She studies identities and labels like “parent,” “childless,” “single,” “married,” “religious,” “non-religious,” and others, and the impact these have on a person’s self-concept, behavior and psychological well-being.

Long is well-immersed in the depths of a mixed-method research project for her dissertation. The study includes a nationally representative web-based survey with over 3,000 responses and more than 20 in-depth telephone conversations.

Long also wants to make sure other students understand the role undergraduate research played in her education and the value it has, so that other students will start on the path earlier and, she hopes, set themselves up for success.

“Undergraduate research is the main reason I am in graduate school today,” she said. “I had the opportunity to work with my undergraduate mentor on several research projects throughout my undergraduate career.”

Long worked through an entire research project from the early conception stages through interview training, transcribing interviews, coding interviews and then working with a colleague and her mentor to write a book chapter that was later published.

She said it was the challenge of the experience that contributed most to her growth.

“The hardest part of the research process for me was going from a student who had professors asking me questions, and my only job was providing the answer,” she said. “As a researcher, you are the one asking the questions, doing the literature review, collecting data, selecting an analysis appropriate to your data, and then finding answers. It was a completely overwhelming transition at first, but once I learned the theories and tools needed to answer my own questions, it was very rewarding.”

She said the collaborative nature of the research process is what shaped her experience and drove her success.

“It was a phenomenal experience, one that instilled in me a love for research, teaching, mentoring and learning,” Long said. “The teamwork and sharing of ideas was crucial as I transitioned from an undergraduate, whose main goal was to absorb knowledge and answer questions, to a graduate student and scholar, whose goal is to ask questions and create knowledge.”

Long said the social dynamic of graduate school and research is what keeps her inspired.

“I love interacting with my colleagues, my participants, and presenting my research at conferences,” she said. “Collaborating with others is extremely rewarding, and I have always been drawn to the ideas of other individuals. It is a pleasure to learn from others.”

Long said the support and influence of faculty have been invaluable to her own scholarship, and she strongly encourages students to form solid bonds with their mentors.

“I was welcomed with open arms into the sociology department upon arriving for my first semester of graduate school,” she said. “I was incredibly fortunate to have several faculty discuss their research projects with me and extend an invitation for me to get involved in a variety of ways. As I moved through the program and my own interests emerged, I sought out opportunities to engage with other faculty on research that was similar to my own interests.”

It all began as an undergraduate, though, Long said, and she wants other undergraduates to know that while research is a challenge, it’s one worth pursuing.

“You really gain an insurmountable wealth of knowledge from this experience,” she said. “From reading, writing and oral communication skills to analytical skills with quantitative and qualitative data methods, the research experience can help you with any number of future endeavors from a job application or interview, to graduate school and beyond. If offered the opportunity, take it! It is well worth the time and effort.”

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