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Angela Leone (left) and professor Cindy Koenig Richards visited local grange halls as part of their research into history and identity.

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Rory O'Brien meets with professors and other students in his LARC group.

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English professor Lynn Makau discusses research with her LARC learning community.

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A New Type of Collaboration

Students and professors in the Liberal Arts Research Collaborative pursue independent research while working closely with others.

In Eaton Hall one recent summer, historians met with scholars from English and from rhetoric and media studies to debate the relationship between history, memory and identity. Politics majors worked alongside environmental scientists in Collins Hall to study Latin American landscapes.

And on a boat on the Columbia River, professors from English and biology guided a group to examine nature with both a scientific and an artistic eye.

The 11 Willamette professors and 16 students were participating in the Liberal Arts Research Collaborative (LARC) — a program that allowed them each to pursue their own topics of interest while collaborating with a larger group of people from different academic fields.

“Devoting two months to conducting research on a topic of interest is a special opportunity that not many students get,” says Seth Cotlar, associate professor of history and director of LARC.

“It’s beneficial for getting into graduate school, but it also allows students to show prospective employers that they have the ability to work on a large-scale project that involved research and ended with a product they created.”

Ability to Collaborate

Angela Leone, a rhetoric and media studies major, most appreciated the chance to solicit feedback on her research from students and professors in other departments.

“The ability to converse with academics with such diversified viewpoints was truly game-changing for the way I was able to handle my artifacts and analysis,” she says. “LARC allowed me to develop my research at a much deeper level and to expand my understanding into different disciplines.”

Long-Term Benefits

The LARC experience benefits students in the rest of their Willamette classes and long after graduation, says Megan Ybarra, assistant professor of politics.

“The students determine the scope of their research and the argument they want to make in the papers they write about their projects.

“They have done a remarkable job of setting their own goals and deadlines, and then meeting those goals. These are skills that will help them be successful in their careers.”

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