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University of Arkansas at Little Rock College of Social Sciences and Communications Summer Fellowship

Ray Little & Scottie Traylor both had the opportunity to work as members of the University of Arkansas at Little Rock College of Social Sciences and Communications Summer Fellowship. Ray worked alongside Dr.Slagle, and the School of Public Affairs, while Scottie worked with Dr. Chris Etheridge. Here's what the two had to say about the experience!

Ray Little

This summer I participated as a member of the University of Arkansas at Little Rock (UALR) College of Social Sciences and Communications summer fellowship. I specifically worked with Dr.Slagle, and the School of Public Affairs. In conglomeration with the School of Public Affairs, I assisted with qualitative data analysis and the summarization of data collected from surveys and reports. Projects I worked on varied from analyzing responses from members of the UA at Little Rock community regarding Covid-19, to summarizing research findings regarding the health of rural Arkansans. It was a bit of a learning curve at first due to me working remotely instead of being at the UALR. Working remotely made working more self-driven than it would have been otherwise and getting help would sometimes require a back and forth email chain. Despite these difficulties, I learned a lot about data analysis, and the ways in which information is gathered and sorted from surveys. Surveys are a list of questions with self-reported answers used to glean information from people about any variety of subjects. On surveys such as the Covid-19 report, participants are asked a variety of questions to inform the administration of what people want. Questions are segmented by response, meaning that people who report that they are students might have different questions than people who report that they are teachers. Doing this allows for the separation of responses by demographic. Student needs might be different from faculty needs. On the Covid 19 report, I was tasked with sorting through the free response questions and assigning common patterns or themes to respondent answers. Themes could be as simple as agreement or disagreement, or could be more specific and pertain to certain interest areas. On other reports, such as the health report of rural arkansans and the Arkansas Game and Fish survey regarding the Mid-Continent light goose, I assisted with summarizing findings and reporting methodologies.

From those reports I learned the value of wording. When reporting findings, words such as “significant” and “major” need to be used sparingly due to them sometimes being misleadingly. All in all, the internship was a very valuable experience for me. I helped with four different reports, some of which were published.  I plan on doing research work in the future, and what I learned through the fellowship with the UA of Little Rock will be very beneficial for me. I would like to thank Dr.Slagle, Mrs.Campbell, and Episcopal Collegiate for providing me with the opportunity to participate in ongoing research and learn from it this summer.

 

Scottie Traylor

I began my Fellowship with Dr. Chris Etheridge from UALR the same way I ended the school year, online. We began meeting through Google Meet the week after school ended to decide what specifically we would be working on this summer. I came to the table knowing I was interested in journalism and wanted to know more about what that looked like at the professional level. Dr. Etheridge proposed creating an educational podcast aimed at high school and collegiate journalism students which I quickly agreed to. 

Even though I felt ready to just jump into the research and recording booth, it turns out all the preparation for a project that’s required by our teachers actually reflects what the world is like outside of campus. Before we began anything close to a script, we reached out to three professional podcasters to ask how they come up with ideas, find interviews, edit and everything in between to ensure we were producing a high-quality product. 

When Dr. Etheridge first asked me to reach out to podcasters for an interview, I thought I should be looking for local and small stations, because surely a high school student in Little Rock, Arkansas wouldn’t be able to book someone in the big leagues. But after encouragement from Dr. Etheridge I sent emails to several hosts, and sometimes agents of those hosts, of podcasts I’ve listened to and enjoyed in the past including Personology by Dr. Gail Saltz and Brain stuff by Christian Saeger which were my personal favorites. During these first couple interviews Dr. Etheridge and I would both ask questions so I could get used to the process. But when we started recording for the podcast itself rather than just research, I was the only interviewer.

Once again to find these interviews I was tasked with sending countless emails a day to reporters, editors, lawyers, professors, and more all over the US. And once again I had doubts that some of these nationally and internationally acclaimed professionals would even respond to my email. Fortunately, I was wrong and received responses from almost everyone I reached out to. From there, I was in charge of finding a time that worked for everyone, which was especially difficult when we talked to someone in Alaska Standard Time, but with many emails I scheduled almost 40 virtual interviews ranging from reporters of the LA times, to history professors in North Carolina, and revenue specialists in Chicago.

We recorded the audio of each interview and then uploaded it to a software called otter which made a mostly correct transcript. In between interviews I would go into the transcripts to correct any mistakes while using Google Spreadsheets to index. This means I would write a brief summary of what was talked about in certain sections of the interview and include timestamps so it would easier to put episodes together. Dr. Chris and I would then make a rough draft of a script and insert clips of the interviews where appropriate. When we actually began recording our own parts for the podcast he would go into one recording booth and I would go into a neighboring one and talk to each other virtually to ensure safety measures. After some rerecording and rewriting we would have one 10 minute episode focused on a specific journalism aspect.

This certainly helped my organizational and conversational skills, but more importantly I learned what it takes to be a journalist. That word, that entire profession, has acquired a stigma that is not always deserved. There is a code of journalistic ethics, there are editors, there are lawyers, true journalism isn’t as simple as posting to a blog. I heard stories from reporters who have been brought to the ground while attempting to cover protests, who have been screamed at when asking for an interview, and who have had to own up to mistakes with an editor's note or reprint. One question we asked every journalist from political coverage to lifestyle, was why they thought journalism was important. Every single answer included service to the public: to inform, to entertain, to offer advice or tips. While there are always exceptions, the journalism I got to know through my summer of interviews with people from all different locations, different fields of journalism, and different backgrounds paints a very different picture of journalism than I initially believed. True journalists do research, find interviews, and write a presentable piece of writing in a time frame that truly amazes me. This fellowship taught me many skills that I will use in whatever profession I end up in, but most importantly it has given me an understanding and respect for the stressful role journalists play in our society. 

 

Way to go, Wildcats!

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