Last summer, Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies student Jennifer Ditta was one of 40 undergraduates selected to participate in the Dean’s Award for Research Excellence (DARE) program, earning a financial prize and contributing to a fascinating research project with a York professor in London, England. In this article, she reflects on the experience, providing a first-hand account of this incredible learning opportunity.
This past summer, I was one of 40 students to participate in the Dean’s Award for Research Excellence, otherwise known as DARE. This award offers Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies undergraduate students the opportunity to participate in research projects under the supervision and guidance of a faculty member. The research takes place during the summer months, from May through August, with participating students being awarded a total of $5,000.
Under the guidance of Professor Roger Fisher, I conducted research related to the development of copyright law within music and books in 18th century London. Back in 2018, I was fortunate enough to participate in the same project – but through DARE, I was offered an unrivaled opportunity to travel to London, England to conduct more hands-on research. Here, I worked at the National Archives and the Parliamentary Archives, where I examined, read and photographed bills and answers from both the Exchequer and Chancery courts from 1705 to 1715. In searching for copyright cases, Professor Fisher and I were able to piece together how publishers and authors navigated the rights to their works during a time where there were few laws to protect them.
My experience with DARE was a highlight of my time at York. With such unique research possibilities for students to explore with instructors, I can see why it’s so important to LA&PS. Prior to DARE, I was on the path to applying to law school and becoming a lawyer, but my long-term goals have changed because of this unforgettable research opportunity.
Last summer, DARE introduced me to the world of copyright and publishing, and I decided that a career in books was much more suited to me. I applied to Centennial College for their post graduate publishing program and began my studies in September. I’m not sure that I would ever have discovered this dream of mine through regular classroom learning. DARE allowed me to learn, grow and expand passions I didn’t even know I had.
Having this opportunity will surely enhance my learning in the classroom going forward. It exposed me to the early history of copyright, which paved the way for today’s laws and practices. It meant so much more to actually hold and experience these primary documents than it would have meant to simply read about them.
An experiential education enriches classroom learning by bringing the material to life. Through learning how to manage, tame and read incredibly long scrolls and documents, I felt completely immersed in the time period I was studying. I wondered about the people involved in each court case I read, and what they would have thought about a young student trying to decipher their writing or understand their complaints over three centuries later.
On my days off I wandered around the city, immersing myself in the culture and visiting places that were established long before the 18th century, such as the Tower of London. I was able to experience places, buildings and streets that were frequented by those I was researching, which added an entirely new dimension to what I was learning.
Overall, I could not have been happier with my DARE experience. I learned so many new things about this project, the time period and about myself. My research in London has opened new lines of inquiry for this project and has helped me to grow as a person. I sincerely hope that DARE continues to be offered by York for years to come, and I strongly encourage other students take advantage of this exciting and rich opportunity.
In January 2020, the LA&PS DARE program returned for its third session. To learn more, visit https://laps.yorku.ca/research/dare/.