Lee Sottile (they/them) has always been a huge fan of musical theater since high school. Continuing this love for theater, Sottile decided to pursue their interests in a combination of art and humanities. Sottile graduated from Chapman in May 2020 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Television, Writing, and Production as well as a Bachelor of Arts in History.

Headshot of Lee Sottile

Last summer, they were awarded the Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF), an eight-week program overseen by the Center for Undergraduate Excellence (CUE). SURF is a paid program that connects students to faculty mentors to work on research or creative projects during the summertime. 

Sottile’s SURF research built off of their undergraduate senior thesis focused on challenging military themes in war musicals. They researched three musical shows: Allegiance (2015), Bandstand (2017), and Alice by Heart (2019) to compare to the messaging of older musicals during World War II, which do not portray war in an objective manner.

Instead, Sottile argues the older musicals romanticized and undermined the associated trauma and displacement of wartime and postwar experiences. “There are a couple articles or chapters in some books, but there’s not a lot of research on how musical theater represents war…so there’s a big gap in historiography.” 

Alice By Heart Musical (2019) from New York Times

Their unique topic highlights that research is not bound to a specific set of topics to choose from. In fact, research is catered to one’s particular curiosity. “I think it’s frustrating that a lot of people think research means STEM and lab work and that’s not all research entails. The humanities do valuable research, it just looks very different,” Sottile emphasized. 

They mentioned the beauty of research, more specifically during SURF, was the blending of students and faculty from different backgrounds. Without participating in these types of programs, they would have rarely interacted with someone in a different college, like Schmid or Crean. 

When asked about giving advice to undergraduates interested in research, they said to make sure you find a project that you’d love to learn more about. “If you don’t love what you’re doing, and aren’t really passionate about it, it’s really hard sometimes to just push through and get that paper done—you’re living, breathing, and eating this material all the time,” they added. 

After finishing their master’s degree, they have some ideas on what they want to do in the future. Sottile either wants to work in the State Department or maybe even pursue a Ph.D. in theater and performance studies. 

In addition to conducting research, Sottile is also a student scholar ambassador on campus. If you’re interested in connecting with them through a peer advising appointment, check out the ambassador webpage


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