As an Art History and Anthropology double major, Jessica Bocinski (Spring ’18) has been actively involved with research for much of her undergraduate career. In 2016, for example, she was selected to participate in the SURF program, a highly competitive, paid, on-campus summer fellowship that allows each participating student to pursue research and creative activity under the guidance of a full-time faculty mentor during the summer.

As a participant in the Office of Undergraduate Research and Creative Activity’s SURF program, Jessica worked under the guidance of Dr. Wendy Salmond to conduct her independent research project entitled “The Invisible Artist: Reframing William Holman Hunt’s Work Through 15th Century Netherlandish Art.” As Jessica delved into her research over the summer, she was surprised to find that many critics spoke negatively of artist William Holman Hunt’s work during the Pre-Raphaelite Movement. These overt criticisms inspired Jessica to research whether or not a new perspective on Hunt’s work might be gained by examining the influence of 15th-century Netherlandish art on his paintings.

Because Jessica had such a positive experience with the
SURF fellowship program, she continued working with the Office of Undergraduate Research and Creative Activity as an OURCA Ambassador. OURCA Ambassadors are a group of highly-motivated students who have a passion for research and/or creative activities. They serve as liaisons for OURCA at various events, discussing and highlighting all OURCA has to offer with faculty, students, and more.

According to Jessica, working as an
OURCA Ambassador “seemed like the logical next step,” because of her strong passion for research. “I wanted to make sure that other people knew about the many programs that were available to them,” she said, “especially [students] within Wilkinson and the art department.” She added that there were many surprising benefits to volunteering as an OURCA Ambassador, including gaining experience with public speaking. “It’s an important life skill that you learn [as an OURCA Ambassador].” Another benefit was “learning how to relate your research experience to other people who might be outside of your discipline.” Moreover, she added that, as an OURCA Ambassador, you’re able to talk about your “research in a way that [gets] other people excited about doing their own research projects.”

Her experiences as an OURCA Ambassador and participating in the SURF program led to other opportunities for Jessica’s life and career. She recently received a grant and is currently working in the art collections department at Chapman University, where she is organizing an exhibition for Chicano muralist Emigdio Vasquez. She’s conducting this research project in conjunction with Manon Wogahn and under the supervision of faculty mentor Denise Johnson. Moreover, Jessica has gained some exciting networking opportunities through her participating in OURCA’s many programs. For example, she was able to meet Nancy Perloff Ph.D., the Curator of Modern and Contemporary Collections for the Getty Research Institute. In addition, Jessica will serve in the new position leading the OURCA Ambassadors next year. 

Not surprisingly, Jessica would encourage all students to consider undergraduate research. “The first step,” she said, “is to find a faculty mentor and once you get that first opportunity, all the rest fall into place. You kind of just have to jump into it. [Then,] a lot of other opportunities will come with it.”

Want to get involved in one of the many awesome research and creative opportunities available through the Office of Undergraduate Research and Creative Activity? Visit OURCA’s website to get more information about the many opportunities available to Chapman University undergraduate students.