Where do you turn for inspiration? Sometimes taking a look back at where you were a few years ago and the progress you’ve made along the way can put things into perspective and provide the creative spark needed to move forward. For KU senior Sara Carlsen, learning to focus on possibilities rather than limitations has opened doors to undergraduate research experiences, internships, and connections to experts in her industry.
See what Sara had to say about her research on social media and Brown vs. Board of Education, interning for KU Marketing Communications and the KU Memorial Union, finding inspiration in her own improvement (and Beyoncé), and the advice she’d give herself as a freshman.
What are your research interests and why did you choose them? Was there a moment when you decided this is what you wanted to study?
My collegiate research interests include (1) parental use/perspectives of social media and (2) the impact of Brown vs. Board of Education. I took Dr. Germain Halegoua’s FMS 345 New Media and Society class which spurred my interest in the historical and current usage of social media by various demographics. When I was completing my Capstone course in the Film & Media Studies Department, Professor Ron Wilson encouraged me to pursue a historical project which led me to Brown vs. Board of Education. Something I was not expecting in this journey was the intersection between my interests and the interests of my professors. Their expertise assisted in the expansion of my knowledge, creativity, and post-college pursuits.
What is one thing you think everyone should know about your research project or research interests?
While parents may have a different perception of social media than the children they are raising, the ethical questions that are being posed by these authority figures are worth investigating because they are not closed off to the positive components. In addition, Brown v. Board of Education had many unintended consequences in the years that followed and the effects that we are still feeling today.
Where are you conducting your research? In archives? In laboratories? What are your sources?
My Undergraduate Research Award and School of the Arts Grant allowed me to travel to the homes of parents in Kansas City and Lawrence to conduct interviews about social media. My Capstone took me to the Kansas Historical Society in Topeka, the National Archives in Kansas City, and the Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site in Topeka as I explored oral histories, historical footage, and court documents.
Give a shout-out to a professor, mentor, advisor, or someone at KU who has helped you?
There have been countless people at KU who have helped me. I have really appreciated Dr. Halegoua’s belief and excitement about my social media project (and willingness to put up with me missing deadlines). Sitting in the front seat with Professor Jamieson on the way to the True/False Film Festival during my freshman year was one of the best decisions I have ever made because I got to experience her positive and creative attitude towards life. I consider Andrew Lee at KU Marketing & Communications to be the greatest mentor I could have ever had and his willingness to put up with my jokes is truly admirable. I could go on and on about classmates, professors, bosses, and staff that have supported me and my endeavors, but I know I couldn’t have found any of them outside of KU.
What is the benefit of being in the KU College alongside students studying sciences, arts and humanities?
The KU College promotes learning, not for the sake of getting grades and checking boxes, but to improve you as an individual and the world around you. I have found that the KU College is defined by the prospects it provides. It is up to us, as students, to accept and excel at those opportunities, positions, or events. The courses that I have taken in the College have not only introduced industry skills that are essential to my work, but they also instilled in me the confidence to succeed in my career.
Have you done any internships, study abroad programs, or had any other learning experiences you’d like to share?
I have completed internships at KU Marketing & Communications (where I am currently employed), Midco Sports Network, KU Alumni Center, and I’m currently working at an internship with the KU Memorial Union. I have presented twice at the Film & Media Studies Graduate Symposium on the Undergraduate Panel. The Film & Media Studies Department has assisted in allowing me to attend the True/False Documentary Film Festival in Columbia, Missouri three times during college. I was asked by Professor Jamieson in the Fall of 2018 to be the Undergraduate Representative for the Film & Media Studies Department. As a result of these learning experiences, I have held an Oscar, connected with international filmmakers including Mamadou Dia, and showcased my work to individuals in the industry.
What would you tell your freshman self?
I would tell my freshman self to look at the world through the lens of possibility and opportunity rather than limitations. Once I began reaching out to professors and departments on campus that could assist in my learning and career, I was far more immersed in the university as a student and employee.
What do you plan to do after you graduate from KU?
I plan to work in marketing or advertising in or around Lawrence. I hope to expand my skills in motion graphics/animation, video production, and research.
What motivates you?
Watching the work of those around me, especially Trevor Mowry at KU Marketing & Communications, motivates me to continually improve myself. I am also driven by the progress I’ve made in my life and career. I like to look back and watch the work I made in high school or at the beginning of college and compare it to my current work to see the difference in quality. This only inspires me to continue working to improve my craft. Oh, and Beyoncé’s Homecoming, of course.
Be like Sara. Look for opportunities rather than limitations. For more information, explore the Department of Film & Media Studies, the Department of English, and the William Allen White School of Journalism and Mass Communications at the University of Kansas.