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Joe Reynolds - Research Abroad

Joe ReynoldsFor Joe Reynolds, an Art & Design undergraduate student, adventure and new cultural experiences are two things he strives to incorporate into his life.  Joe developed a Research Abroad program to work on a research project in a rural Brazilian town.  In this Honors College program, he received a Student-Faculty Collaborative Research Grant (SFCG) and an International Education (IE) Scholarship to help fund this special project.  Joe explained that he spent 7 weeks conducting a photographic investigation in Cristalandia, Brazil. Initially, he aimed to examine the work of Brazilian elementary school teachers in “connecting the next generation to a modern world that the community as a whole has only recently encountered.”   However, once on site, Joe switched the focus of the study from the teachers to the students, primarily ages 9-15.  During his study, he visited every school in Cristalandia and made over 2000 photographs reflecting the lives of these children and their community. 

Joe became attracted to this project while searching for an opportunity to venture out of the area with his photography.  “I wanted a chance to do something outside of school and away from Johnson City.  The opportunity to receive funding to do something I was interested in and wanted to do was appealing and motivating,” said Joe.  Although he already had chosen this topic, Joe explained that the hope of additional help from the Honors College gave him an extra push to get started.

ETSU programs in Undergraduate Research & Creative Activities (URCA) offer a variety of opportunities to help undergraduates support formal research projects.   The Research Abroad program is a designated combination of a Student-Faculty Collaborative Grant from URCA funded together with an International Education Scholarship from the International Programs Office.  Joe took full advantage of this opportunity.  “I had access to this subject and had the opportunity for help with funding for it from the Honors College, so I went for it,” said Joe.  He also received plenty of help from his faculty mentor, Mike Smith.

Smith, photography professor in Art and Design, encouraged Joe to develop the project and to apply for the research grant from the Honors College.  “He [Prof. Smith] encourages his students to apply for grants or undergraduate research fellowships every year,” said Joe.  In addition, his classmates gave him additional motivation ---Joe says, “We are a pretty tight-knit community in our department.  I knew three former students who graduated in the past couple of years that had gotten a Collaborative Grant or a Summer Research Fellowship in the past.  Seeing their experience, I saw what could come of these grants, which attracted me to apply.”  The motivation and support that Joe received from the ETSU community was only one thing that added to his interest in pursuing this research topic.

For Joe, the most appealing element of photographing the lives of the children in Cristalandia was the small town atmosphere.  “I think the interaction within a small town community attracted me most to this topic. In this particular community, everybody knows each other,” said Joe.  He added that the proximity of the town and people were especially helpful in conducting his research.  “My subject matter was compacted around me.  I didn’t have to get in a car and drive somewhere. Everywhere I went I went on foot or on bike,” said Joe.

Not only did he get the opportunity to explore and build his artistic talents in the rural Brazilian town, but he was able to connect with his heritage, as his mother is a native of Brazil.  “This was an area that I had never known.  I wanted to go and do something I enjoyed in a new area,” said Joe.  Although the Brazilian culture is not completely unfamiliar to him, he did face some challenges along the way. He noted that he chose this specific town because he felt that a new culture would enhance his creativity. Although he speaks Portuguese fluently, the different region, dialect and customs presented a new challenge during the research experience. He said, “It was very challenging to know and learn their customs---like what’s polite and what’s not. I wanted to be focused on my work, but I wanted to interact in a cordial manner.” He also reported that his host, a local soccer coach, had one of the heaviest dialects he encountered. But Joe jokingly added, “On the flip side, it was a tough love kinda thing because if I could understand him then I could understand everybody.” Joe pointed out that unforeseen expenses were a challenge but that the results far outweighed the costs.  “I’m thrilled I did it, and I don’t regret the money I personally put in.” He said it was a great opportunity to practice developing a project all the way to completion. It has given him a formal body of work that he can use when applying to graduate schools as well as for future grants. “This experience has helped me put together a solid portfolio that I can carry with me and physically show people what I can do,” said Joe.

Joe encouraged other students who may be interested in a Research Abroad experience, SFCG, Summer Fellowships, or International Education Scholarship to pursue the opportunity.  Joe said, “Don’t hesitate.  Very rarely do people get this kind of opportunity.  Take advantage of it because it is a good chance to do something you love with few limitations.”

As for Joe, after graduation this May, he plans on returning to Chattanooga where he will continue working on his portfolio and begin applying to graduate school for enrollment in Fall 2010.


Student Spotlight


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USPS Mailing Address:
  Undergraduate Research & Creative Activities
The Honors College at
East Tennessee State University
PO Box 70589
Johnson City, TN 37614-1708

Phone: 423.439.6926 or 423.439.6076
Fax: 423.439.6080
email:  Foster Levy

Street Addresses of The Honors College offices:
  Administration: Yoakley Hall, Room 129
161 S. Dossett Drive
University & Midway Scholars: Ada Earnest House
310 S. Dossett Drive
Honors-in-Discipline Programs: Yoakley Hall, Room 206
161 S. Dossett Drive
Fine & Performing Art Scholars: Yoakley Hall, Room 206
161 S. Dossett Drive
Undergraduate Research: Yoakley Hall, Room 129
161 S. Dossett Drive
International Programs & Services: Yoakley Hall, Room 122
161 S. Dossett Drive

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