The Rewards of Research

Monday, May 2, 2016 - 10:30

“Everyone here is going to pick a neighborhood. A Chicago neighborhood. You’re going to do research, conduct interviews, and go out into that neighborhood and find something that’s never been found before.”

On my quest to find a suitable major, I found these instructions before me as I entered into an Urban Sociology class my second year.  At the time, those were some of the most terrifying words I had heard in my college career. 

Urban Sociology is a sociology elective class, filled with undergraduates and some graduate students.  Most of the undergraduates and graduates in my class were well versed in the art of sociological research, however.  I, somehow, thought it was a brilliant idea to jump into a research class with no training whatsoever.  That is where my terror came from.

Despite my worries, I picked one of Chicago’s 77 different neighborhoods and proceeded to draft my report.  I chose Old Town, a quaint historic neighborhood on Chicago’s north side. I took a Red Line ‘L’ train (one of Chicago’s means of public transportation) that dropped me off right at the border of Old Town and Gold Coast.  Armed with a clipboard and a survey, I followed the beautiful “Old Town” archways and marched up Wells Street, walking into several local shops and restaurants. 

To my delight, the local business employees and owners were more than happy to fill out my survey. They chatted with me about how the neighborhood has changed in the last 10 years and whether these changes were good or bad – just what I needed to hear for my project! I returned home to Hyde Park, excited to put my findings on paper.

The final product encompassed the results of my surveys and interviews alongside historical and modern articles about Old Town. What started off as fear turned into something else – excitement and pride.  I then realized that sociology was definitely the right fit for me. 

Today, I am in not one but three sociology research classes.  Each research project brings its own challenges and rewards. I’m continuously building off of the skills I gained during my Old Town project.  Finding things that have never been found is, for me, a way of living.