Conducting student research often consists of searching through archives, digital content browsing and faculty consultations. For senior history major Michael MacInnes, it has also included two weeks in Durban, South Africa.
MacInnes’ travel was made possible largely due to receiving a Scholarly/Creative Grant from the Center of Undergraduate Excellence. He was also accepted into SURF – the Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship.
MacInnes, who traveled to Durban from June 29 to July 14, spent his summer fellowship period studying political and ethnic violence in South Africa in the 1980s and 1990s.
“My research question centered around what motivated individual ethnic Zulus to participate in violence on behalf of the political organization Inkatha,” explained MacInnes.
During his time in Durban, MacInnes utilized archival material at the University of KwaZulu-Natal – including newspaper material, academic journals published in South Africa, and internal memos – and spoke to regional professors and experts. Without the funding and grants he received from the CUE, MacInnes said he would not have been able to travel all the way across the continent to access this material.
“In the United States, there is some information online, but not everything has been digitized,” MacInnes said. “Going to South Africa allowed me to access more archive material.”
MacInnes heard about SURF through the CUE’s outreach to his upper division History class, and then again through his thesis adviser Dr. Erin Mosely who encouraged him to apply.
He enjoyed getting to know other SURF fellows’ projects, and the “sense of comradery” that existed between them. He also liked that SURF gave him the freedom to carry out his individual research, and the space to develop key career skills such as composing professional emails to academics half the world away.
“I went from having done little archival research to engaging in a full blown research project in a foreign country. That experience was certainly challenging but I learned a lot and am so glad I was able to do it,” said MacInnes.
While in Durban, MacInnes was also connected with Dr. Mchunu, who has a PhD in political violence. Dr. Mchunu gave MacInnes access to his own personal experiences and research. When asked why he chose to pursue this area of research, Dr. Mchunu’s answered simply: “If not us, who?”
If you are interested in becoming a SURF fellow, or applying for scholarship and grant opportunities, stop by the Center for Undergraduate Excellence or email us at email@example.com.