Field Notes: A CLAS Tinker Field Research Grant Roundtable

“What you put into your grant will be very different to what actually happens,” advised second year Anthropology student Steven Schwartz to an audience of attentive peers. “Don’t take logistics for granted [and] do as much research as you can in advance in order to avoid any surprises that might disrupt your plans.”

Schwartz, a recipient of a 2016 Center for Latin American Studies Tinker Field Research Grant (CLAS TFRG), was one of three presenters who discussed the experience of conducting graduate field research at the first annual Field Notes roundtable on April 2. Joining Schwartz were Franco Bavoni, a 2016 graduate of the Master of Arts Program in the Social Sciences, and Agnes Mondragon, a second year doctoral student in Anthropology.

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Annually, CLAS awards graduate students in their first years of study modest travel grants to support preliminary thesis/dissertation field research in Latin America through the CLAS Tinker Field Research Grant. In 2016, 11 MA and doctoral students in the Social Sciences received grants to undertake exploratory research in Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Cuba, Guatemala, Mexico, and Peru. As part of their grant requirements, each of these students was required to present on their findings at a scholarly forum during the 2016–17 school year. While each cohort of grant recipients may choose to satisfy this requirement through a presentation at a conference or graduate workshop, each year a number of them prefer to do so through a CLAS-sponsored colloquium.

Historically, the CLAS Tinker Field Research Grant Colloquium gave students a space to present on their research experiences to an audience of faculty and graduate peers. It was a venue that provided professional development but didn’t quite allow for a robust exchange of ideas. In an effort to energize the dialogue surrounding field research, and to open it to a wider body of students, CLAS converted the 2017 colloquium into Field Notes, a roundtable for the discussion of the ins and outs of conducting field research in Latin America.

In its first year, Field Notes successfully encouraged undergraduate and graduate students alike to discuss research best practices with the CLAS Tinker Field Research Grant recipients, and facilitated lively discourse about how to synthesize field research into usable material for academic work. Attendees from the College and Humanities and Social Sciences graduate divisions posed questions that ranged from how to put together a good research proposal, to the logistics of time management in interviews, to obstacles in archival work. Presenters and participants alike left the event with a number of new ideas to explore.

Field Notes will return in spring 2018 with a new batch of presenters from the 2017 CLAS Tinker Field Research Grant recipients.