My JCURA Experience

Maddy MorrisonIf you’re like me just over a year ago, you have no idea what a Jamie Cassels Undergraduate Research Award (JCURA) is. That’s okay! I’m here to tell you about my experience, why you should consider applying, and how it’s one of the many programs that make UVic an amazing school to attend!

Founded in the 2009-2010 school year by our former university President Jamie Cassels, the JCURA champions undergraduate students who have a passion for research and who have innovative ideas that will enhance their academic learning. Sounds cool, doesn’t it?

This year over 100 undergraduate students across 46 departments became JCURA scholars, bringing the total number of JCURA projects to 1342.

I can’t believe I’ve gotten the privilege to be one of those students. So here’s how I did it!

Where the research began

Halfway through my second-year at UVic, in January 2021, I started a directed reading course with one of my all-time favourite professors and a true mentor, Janni Aragon.

We met when I took a few of her Technology and Society classes, and because we have similar interests, she asked me if I’d like to do a directed reading course with her that culminated in a research project.

I read several interesting books and articles for this course, including #Hashtag Activism and Invisible Women. But one article really stuck out to me: Jason Parham’s TikTok and the Evolution of Digital Blackface. I couldn’t believe how cultural appropriation of Black creators was happening on an app that I use every day and I had no idea. So I decided I needed to dig deeper.

TikTok and the Evolution of Digital Blackface by Jason Parham

Researching what I’m passionate about

Investigating this issue of Black cultural appropriation on TikTok became something that I needed to know more about, so I began making a spreadsheet of what I was seeing on my TikTok For You page and researching other articles like Jason Parham’s.

What I found out is that this huge success of TikTok as a social media platform we see in all areas of our life arguably hinged on Black creators’ contributions to the app. The most popular music, dances, trends, languages, sounds are from Black creators’ imaginations and efforts, yet they rarely see credit for these contributions.

From this research and these conclusions, I was able to put together my research paper for the directed reading with Janni Aragon. It was then she suggested we put it in for JCURA consideration.

The detailed TikTok research spreadsheet

Applying for the JCURA

In July 2021, we submitted my research on TikTok and Black creators to the JCURA program, and within a couple days, I was accepted!

This meant that I got access to events with other JCURA students, I got to further my research and synthesize it in a research poster, and most of all, I got to share my important research with a bigger audience!

Creating my JCURA poster

Over the next few months, I worked on creating my poster for my JCURA project entitled: Investigating how the Success of TikTok Hinges on Black Creators’ Contributions.

Through this process I was also able to develop skills such as communication, summarizing my material in a short space, speaking to my research, and effective visual design on Canva!

See my full project, and leave a comment or question.

My JCURA Poster

JCURA Celebration

Although the JCURAs usually culminate in a poster fair at the SUB, the event was moved online for COVID safety concerns. We did get to have a virtual Zoom celebration in March 2022 where we heard from the current UVic president, Dr. Kevin Hall. We even did a mind map to answer the question, when you think about your JCURA experience what word comes to mind?

JCURA Celebration Zoom

Officially a JCURA Scholar

The final recognition for this experience was pretty cool-– a certificate and pin recognizing my award!

JCURA certificate and pin

You can (and should) become a JCURA scholar as well

Clearly, what is great about the JCURA program is that students are able to explore whatever they are passionate about through innovative ways of thinking and researching–even if, as in my case, that partially means scrolling through TikTok!

Truly, if you care about a subject, it is worth studying because the discoveries you make will be important to you and therefore worthy of an audience!

So if you have that one thing you’re passionate about, chances are you can find a way to relate it to your academic studies. Be passionate about it, dig deeper, and when you’re in that process, talk about it widely!

While you need a research supervisor to complete a JCURA project, chances are, there is a professor out there who would love to support your research, just because of YOUR dedication.

Learn more about the JCURAs and how to apply.

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