“There are a lot of opportunities here, but you have to put yourself out there to find them.”
When Bridget Farmer came to UNH, she was, like many students, undeclared and unsure what her college path would look like. “I was flailing,” she explained,
“…just drifting and seeing what would come around.” She lived in a built-up triple, played flute in the band, worked at a day-care center, was in the Honors program, and on Sunday mornings she was the “omelet girl” at the dining hall. She took classes that interested her - political science, nature writing, wildlife ecology - but when one of her professors nominated her to do research over the summer, she still didn’t know what interested her the most. She had no idea
that her uncertainty would lead to a project that would have a huge impact on her college career.
Bridget, who is from Springfield, MA, was a busy high school student; band, swim team, community service…the list goes on. When she started looking at colleges her senior year, she was initially looking at small liberal arts schools. Her parents suggested she explore a bigger school, so she turned an eye toward UNH. After being admitted, she came to an accepted student day and was impressed. She loved the message that she heard repeated: UNH has a lot of great
opportunities, but the pressure is really on you as a student to seek them out. Four years later, Bridget is the perfect example of a student who has taken advantage
of the many opportunities UNH offers.
The Research and Experience Apprenticeship Program (REAP) is a program that is designed to give highly motivated firstyear students a chance to get involved in research in the summer after their first year. Bridget was excited to spend a summer doing research, but was unsure what area she wanted to pursue. Donna Brown, the director of undergraduate research, suggested she join the faculty at the Carsey Institute, a fairly new research facility on campus that was conducting policy research. A new longitudinal study about stu- dents in northern New Hampshire was in the beginning stages and Bridget joined as a research assistant. Though she had no prior research experience, she spent the summer working full-time with a team of pro- fessors – doing background research, building a database of articles, coding, and more.
Bridget impressed the research team, especially Dr. Nena Stracuzzi, the project manager, so she was
asked to stay on as a research assistant. Having never taken a research methods class, Bridget learned in the real world, pilot testing and putting in extra hours of fine-tuning. “Learning and troubleshooting as I go has been the best way for me to learn,” she said.
Not accustomed to sitting idle, Bridget spent two weeks of winter break in her sophomore year as an intern for Barack Obama’s presidential campaign. This experience sparked a real interest in the election and helped Bridget settle into her chosen major of political science. The following summer she did a Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) focusing on the role of the media in the presidential campaign. Working with Dr. Dante Scala, Bridget spent the summer of 2008 completing the study.
Also that summer, Bridget spent two weeks completing a Washington Center Internship with CNN at the Democratic National Convention.
At the start of her junior year, Dr. Scala asked Bridget to assist him with research on campaign finance. This time, her “above and beyond” work ethic culminated in Bridget receiving a FedEx package from Dr. Scala during winter break. She got her whole family involved and made quick work of the data.
Bridget took a six-month break from her Carsey Institute research to study abroad in France, living with a host family and immersing herself in the city of Dijon. While it was a tough adjustment, Bridget took advantage of the International Research Opportunities Program (IROP) and stayed an extra two months to do research on Muslim integration in France.
While Bridget is a dedicated researcher and student (maintaining a near perfect GPA), she is also very passionate about community service and involvement. She is active at her church in Durham and has served as the coordinator of the soup kitchen. She participated in several spring break community service trips and has volunteered with both Project Mentor and Seacoast Reads. She participates in outreach programs at her church and at the Seymour Osman Community Center, where she plays with, and tutors children. If that wasn’t enough, she has also served as president of the French Club and a French and Political Science tutor.
When Bridget graduates in May, Dr. Stracuzzi and the other researchers at the Carsey Institute will be hard pressed to fill her shoes. She has been a dedicated
student who has been intentional about seeking many opportunities at UNH. Her advice to UNH students: “There are a lot of opportunities here, but you have to put yourself out there to find them. A lot of doors have been opened for me because of faculty connections I’ve looked for. Faculty are just people – they want those connections, too.” She recommended that students stop by office hours, ask questions about their professors’ courses and research, and spend time cultivating relationships.
Bridget isn’t sure what her next step will be, though, as you might imagine , she is considering many options. She’ll be graduating with a dual degree in Political Science and International Affairs…and a cache of experiences and connections that for most would represent a