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Netflix and Research


Student Kaitlin Schneider talks filmography, academics, finding the right professor
By Sydnee Bartruff

Academic Research isn’t all fun and games until it truthfully is. UNK student, Kaitlin Schneider, watches and analyzes her favorite TV shows for Academic Research, an out-of-class research that enables students to apply their new knowledge and skills to unique challenges of their choosing.

Multiple programs offer funding to assist students in conducting research or creative projects. After meeting with her adviser from her previous college, Schneider chose Undergraduate Research Fellowship. She has paired up with a UNK professor to draft a project plan.

“I’m about to sound like a total nerd but I absolutely love doing the research and writing essays for my literature classes,” she said.

Schneider, a senior majoring in English with a women’s and gender studies minor, became involved with research because she was looking for an additional challenge on top of her course work.

“My project involves viewing Joss Whedon’s filmography and analyzing it for feminist qualities or, more commonly, a lack thereof. I am using four different media critiques on every episode, issue or film involved in my proposed plan,” said Schneider.

Right now she is watching all seven seasons, repeatedly, of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” but analyzing it for a specific purpose takes more time.

TV shows that are next on Schneider list to study include “Firefly,” some episodes of “Glee” and “The Office,” as well as major films Whedon is responsible for writing, directing and/or producing, such as “The Avengers.”

Schneider said, “Critics and fans praise Whedon as this huge feminist icon, but I’m arguing that his work is actually problematic and not as progressive as people claim it to be.”

Her faculty mentor, Dr. Megan Hartman, would probably agree with her.

“From the first day in (Dr. Hartman’s) grammar course when she referenced Magnus Chase in discussing grammar lectures, I just thought to myself, ‘We’re going to get along brilliantly,’” she said. “And we have.”

“I can say that UNK research is incredibly valuable for students such as Kaitlin, who are thinking about pursuing master’s and PhD degrees, because it gets the students started on the type of research that they would be doing in graduate school and creates opportunities for them to share that work at conferences and other professionalizing settings, where they can get feedback and make connections,” Harman said.

For the URF program, a student picks a professor who has expertise in the area of interest for research. Dr. Hartman teaches classes such as “Grammar,” “History of the English Language,” and “Linguistics.” Schneider and Hartman meet every two weeks to talk about progress.

“We have a lot of similar interests—especially in the programs and texts listed in my project plan. When I’m working with her, it doesn’t even feel like work,” Schneider said. “It just feels like a casual conversation about pop culture, but there’s so much more to it than that. It’s just awesome, really.”

Schneider will be presenting her work at Student Research Day on March 28. She will present her paper on the Buffy series and how there are still several instances of heteronormativity and characters being forced into certain characterizations.

Through poster sessions, oral presentations, musical performances, and art exhibitions, students showcase their scholarly works around as well. Many students also present their projects at conferences sponsored by other institutions.

“It’s fascinating stuff, and as someone who wants to go to grad school, I hope to publish it someday. With as much as I will have found on Whedon by the time I finish, I could probably write a book,” Schneider added.

Finding time for projects offered to students outside of class can be a struggle. Schneider juggles a full-time class schedule and works two jobs. It’s a good thing she has a knack for binge-watching.

“With me, since my research is analyzing some of my favorite shows and movies, it doesn’t feel time consuming at all,” she said.

For most students, their projects for Academic Research last one semester. Schneider is stretching the project into a summertime independent study so she can keep going on it and not set aside the massive list of films to watch and analyze for three months.

“Am I crazy? Probably,” said Schneider.

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