SURF Spotlight Nathan Reynoso's Undergraduate Journey in Research
November 5, 2021
Nathan Reynoso (he/him) has always had a niche for audio-based storytelling and “giving a voice to the writers that have been lost over time.” Reynoso found himself exploring different research areas to pursue these passions until he found a project to which he could devote his undergraduate and post-graduate life.
Reynoso graduated with a BA in Theater with an emphasis on Audio Technology and a BFA in Creative Writing this past May. During his undergraduate journey, he applied for the Fulbright Fellowship in the Fall of 2020. Despite making it to the final rounds of the application process, he was ultimately denied. Not wanting his project to vanish without ever coming into existence, Reynoso applied for the Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) in the spring of 2021 and was awarded acceptance into the program, where he completed a project titled “Rebuilding Identities: British Radio Dramas in the late ‘40s and ‘50s.” In this project, Reynoso was exposed to a variety of radio dramas with a focus on Celtic playwrights and how they contributed to the post-war recovery effort. Upon much self-reflection and a newly acquired set of skills, Reynoso was determined to apply for the Fulbright Fellowship again as a post-grad in 2021. Through the years, Reynoso experienced his ups and downs but has shown the importance of perseverance when pursuing your calling.
It was not until he studied abroad in England during the fall of 2018 that Reynoso realized that research applies to his unique disciplines. He explains “when I first studied abroad, that was the moment when my eyes were opened to the world of research. I didn’t fully understand it until coming back to Chapman, but the approach in England in terms of the scholarly work and the assignments given to their students in creative writing classes was research-heavy.” Further, “the way they teach things in England pushes their students to advance their skills into research and into analytical writing. This is why I wanted to go back. I appreciated the culture around integrating research aspects into their everyday scholarly works which was just so different from the US and so fascinating and enjoyable for me.” With this newly found passion and exposure to the world of research, he decided to apply for the Fulbright Fellowship in the fall of 2020 with the hopes of going back to England and completing a research project studying radio dramas from the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC).
The Fulbright U.S. Student Program provides grants for individually designed study/research projects or English Teaching Assistant Programs in various locations abroad. The application process includes interviews with representatives from Chapman and working closely with Dr. Julye Bidmead, the Center for Undergraduate Excellence director, to write two essays: a statement of grant purpose and personal statement. When asked about the time spent developing his project, Reynoso explained, “the first time around the application process, I remember trying to think, okay, what is my project going to be. Because I was new to research at the time and I just recently found out that research can be applied to humanities, I was stumped on trying to figure out how I can make my project specifically about the UK and how it relates to me and my research interest.” The Fulbright program is unique as it requires students to propose their own research projects to perform in a different country.
Upon writing his first project proposal, Reynoso mentioned how he accidentally held an “English-centric” perspective of the U.K. He recognized other remarkable playwrights from the U.K., namely Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland, but fell short to explore their identities and contributions to the post-war recovery effort. Reynoso further added, “when I submitted Fulbright and found out I was denied the first time, I remember thinking, wow, I wish I would have put in a sentence that said I am trying to find more radio dramas that have been lost through the years.”
Despite the denial from Fulbright, Reynoso took his project and was accepted for the Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship, another prestigious research/creative activity-based program offered here at Chapman University. SURF is an eight-week-long, paid fellowship overseen by the Center for Undergraduate Excellence (CUE) that showcases the scholarly work of many students and their faculty mentors.
The goal for Reynoso over the summer was to step away from English playwrights and focus on lesser-known radio dramas. Upon exploring the BBC archives, Reynoso stumbled across a few Celtic playwrights that sparked his interest. “I wanted to expand the radio-drama canon from this period a bit more, especially those written by Celtic playwrights because they produced much work for the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). And at least within my research, I found that it helped create more social change and the development of a diverse society with a reawakening of regionalism,” he explains. During his eight weeks, Reynoso was able to dive deeper into understanding what the period of history was like in the 40s and 50s, particularly how the culture of radio dramas and the internal workings of the BBC all connect to the political analysis of post-war British life. Through SURF, he was able to diversify his knowledge about the topic, which left him wanting more.
Reynoso submitted his application for the new term of Fulbright in early October after spending the past summer reflecting and revising his first application to better convey what he has learned about his project and research in general over the past year. He explains how “there was definitely more confidence with the second time around. I received feedback from one of my interviewers that I was playing it too safe the first time. I was trying to be the ideal applicant, not myself.” He also admits a lack of knowledge on radio dramas the first time around the application process. “I thought to myself, oh I would learn everything about my project while I am there, but this time around, I already have a foundation. I just need to build on it. I know how to request transcripts from the BBC, and I know which particular audio dramas I need to identify in the archives. SURF has given me more of an insight into my research topic, which I can expand more during Fulbright.” Reynoso felt that he was able to fill the holes of his first application through gaining meaningful experiences and feedback over the past year. Regardless of the decision from Fulbright, Reynoso explains how extremely grateful for the opportunities that developing this research project in the first place has given him. He was able to meet wonderful mentors and peers through SURF as well as gain a new perspective on the world of radio dramas. The Center for Undergraduate Excellence is proud to endorse Reynoso in his Fulbright endeavors.
Feel inspired to apply for the Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship or the Fulbright Scholar Program? More info can be found on our CUE website regarding eligibility and deadlines. Please also reach out to Julye Bidmead at email@example.com on how to get started with the process.
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