Joelle Jackson, winner of the 2022 Sam Burgess Undergraduate Research Award.
Image courtesy of the IU Journal of Undergraduate Research
“No one can lend a better perspective on the life of the undergraduate researcher and the impact of the IU Libraries than Joelle Jackson,” proclaims Pete Rhoda, the Executive Director of Development at IU Libraries. Jackson’s research paper “Cultural Heritage Management and International Law: Restitution of the Benin Bronzes” earned her the 2022 IU Libraries Sam Burgess Undergraduate Research Award. Her outstanding research may be found on IU Libraries’ open access repository ScholarWorks along with the work of past Burgess Award winners.
For the love of research
Jackson, who grew up in Bloomington, loves research, which she’s been involved with since the start of her undergraduate career. She decided to attend IU because of its “vast array of resources and student support.” She explains, “When I was thinking about what I wanted in a college, initially research hadn't been a major thing I was considering, but as I look back now, research has been the biggest thing I've done in my college career.”
Now a junior, Jackson is a double major in anthropology and folklore. She’s been involved with multiple research opportunities on campus and abroad. She says, “I participated in the Arts and Sciences Undergraduate Research Experience (ASURE) my freshman year, and that was foundational in getting me excited about research.” She’s also been on the social sciences editorial board of the Indiana University Journal of Undergraduate Research (IUJUR) since her freshman year. “It's been great to be on the other side of the publishing process and to learn from the exciting and diverse undergraduate research being conducted at IU."
This current year, Jackson worked as an undergraduate research assistant with Traditional Arts Indiana, which then sent her out to do field research. “I never thought there would be an opportunity for me as an undergrad to do field work, and I absolutely love it! It’s been a confirmation that ethnography is the methodology that I am most passionate about, and it has helped me learn more about what it means to be a public folklorist.”
During her sophomore year, Jackson chaired the annual IUJUR Research Slam Competition. Due to COVID-19, the event was held online until 2021-2022. “I was honored to get to be at the helm when we brought it back in person." Jackson describes the event: “It’s a research competition, in which we invite students from any discipline to present what we call lightning talks.” Contestants must present their research in five minutes or less, making it understandable to students and the public who are not in their field of study. “I think it's an important way to get students started with research, because there are few barriers to participation. We try to help everyone, so it's a good first experience; plus, they are empowered to continue conducting and presenting their research. That's a special thing at IU, and more broadly that speaks to IUJUR’s mission as a whole,” Jackson explains. “The journal works to make the publishing process a constructive and encouraging one, so that all students can have the experience of having a published piece or a formal presentation.”
The Sam Burgess Undergraduate Research Award
The Sam Burgess Undergraduate Research Award, which is given out annually, rewards exceptional undergraduate research from the Bloomington campus. A demonstration of personal growth and utilization of library resources that show the undergraduate researcher is fluent in information literacy is required. Included with each submission is an essay describing the range of IU Libraries’ resources used and to what effect. Applications are opened the first month of spring semester, and eligible research is from the previous calendar year (2022 for the 2023 award) so that research currently being written for a class has a chance to compete.
Proud of her paper “Cultural Heritage Management and International Law: Restitution of the Benin Bronzes,” which won the 2022 Burgess Award, Jackson said the process of writing it was intimidating in the beginning. “I never expected to take a law course, and at first, the task of researching and writing a legal paper was daunting.” A Wells Scholar, Jackson was required to take several seminar classes outside of her field of study. The law class she took was International Law in a Changing World with then-dean of the Law School, Austin Parrish.
Because she is an anthropology major, topics concerning international law were plentiful, especially regarding cultural heritage and cultural property. She settled on writing about a collection of over 3,000 pieces of art referred to as the Benin Bronzes, which come from the Kingdom of Benin in what is now modern-day Nigeria. In the late 1800s, British soldiers looted the artwork, and today the art exists in museums in North America and Europe. In her paper, Jackson explores the convoluted, and often patchy, international legal system governing stolen cultural property from museums and other institutions. She used Mauer's Jerome Hall Law Library resources as well as Indiana University Libraries resources, interviewed several experts, and consulted international law tools.
Writing the paper was a foundational experience for Jackson: “At the time, it was the longest research paper I had ever written, and it helped me learn how to navigate the many different resources available at IU. Having an understanding of the international legal scheme for cultural heritage management is also critical for studying anthropology and archaeology.” She is thrilled that her research is on ScholarWorks, IU Libraries open access repository for IU scholars. “It helps me share what I've written with people,” she explains. Jackson says winning the Burgess Award was “a tremendous honor.” She would also like to express her deep appreciation to Dean Parrish and the Wells Scholars Program.
As an intern with the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage in the summer of 2021, Jackson wrote an article about a database in Ireland called the Schools' Collection. The first half of this summer, she spent her time studying abroad in Dublin, Ireland, where she explored the Schools' Collection and other folklore manuscripts in the National Folklore Collection at University College Dublin, while taking coursework in Celtic mythology and cultural geography.
In addition to her summer in Dublin, Joelle has started her junior year at the University of Kent in Canterbury, England. “They have an excellent anthropology program with a lot of unique courses – I am so excited to take advantage of those opportunities.” She feels grateful to be afforded these wonderful overseas studies opportunities and is immensely grateful for the support of the Wells Scholars Program and the IU Office of Overseas Studies.
Loving undergraduate research at Indiana University
Jackson suggests undergraduates get to know their professors, and she hopes professors reach out to undergraduates as well. “It makes a massive difference in a student’s experience when a professor encourages you to continue a project, to publish your work, to help with their research, or to pursue a certain opportunity.” Though it can be intimidating, she says, “Faculty at IU are very eager to help. There probably is some program or research office that you didn’t know existed – maybe that's something which totally changes your outlook – and faculty members can be amazing resources in that regard.”
As someone who has sought out and found internships, Jackson adds, “Maybe a certain center or organization – at IU or elsewhere – has an internship where they're looking for student workers. If you're able to get involved in a way that's structured, there's a lot of excellent organizations and faculty members who are excited to help, and to offer mentorship and even funding.”
Lastly, Jackson suggests undergraduates find help in keeping themselves and their research organized. “I am a big fan of Zotero,” she says, “but more broadly, I can’t recommend using research organization tools enough.” Zotero is free, open-sourced software that helps scholars gather, organize, cite, and ultimately produce finished research. Jackson shares, “I started using it right from the beginning of university, and so I have all of my sources from every paper I've ever written, as well as all of my class notes.” She adds, “Knowing where to find all my sources and being able to trace the process that I went through to find them has been so useful.”
“It's just been fun,” Jackson says of her undergraduate experience so far. “It sounds silly to say that work was my favorite thing, but it's true. I have loved every organization I've worked for, and all the research projects I've done. Every experience builds on the next.” She feels IU has many opportunities and experiences that can translate into a job or graduate school. “My internship with the Smithsonian helped me explore my many different research interests. My work with Traditional Arts Indiana helped me experience what it’s like to conduct ethnographic surveys professionally.” She also worked as an intern with Themester, where she experienced the ins and outs of university structures, while also exploring the broad spectrum of artistic and academic activities happening on campus. “I got a real sense of the research going on across so many different disciplines, and learned a great deal, as I became familiar with how big and how exciting IU is.”