My first day at the office, Abigail informed me that I wasn’t getting involved in a straight-line process; rather, it more resembled a labyrinth. She said you just have to jump in and see where it leads. I chuckled but didn’t take her too seriously.
This summer, I have become part of a multi-year project that looks at communicating food safety messages to underserved audiences. It’s been a month since I joined the office, and I can confirm that Ag Comm research is indeed a maze that may not have a nice, clean “END HERE” point.
I come from a more scientific background where there is always an answer if one looks hard enough and ask the right questions. The social sciences, however, don’t seem to have the same strategy. With people, even asking the right questions is hard; when one starts searching for the answers, it gets downright messy.
In the past month, I have read interviews and focus groups, researched news topics, looked at peer-reviewed literature, took trips to the library, went back to the library, and brainstormed with Dr. Tucker, Abigail, and Abby Maurer. The more we research, more blank spaces and question marks seem to come up. We backtrack and try another path.
On the other hand, it’s exciting to be involved in this search. One of the main reasons I came into the Ag Comm program was to work with people—not organic compounds, small organisms, or soil monoliths. My days are filled with people, and the conversations are fascinating—especially morning conversations with Dr. Tucker and Abigail about spelling quirks, Andy Griffith trivia, and crime shows.
Better yet, I have the opportunity to read people’s stories—people who truly want the best for their families. From interviews, we can figure out how to make a message that fits their culture and their needs.
Deep down, I think I might be a social science person, after all. I love the labyrinth, the less-than-linear approach to research and life. Check back throughout the summer for updates “live from the labyrinth.”
~Lisa Schluttenhofer, Ag Comm Senior and Summer Research Assistant