The Balancing Act

Hello again,

The time has come for another update on the research process.  With classes in full swing and midterms upon us, it is increasingly difficult to ensure adequate time is available for class work, thesis research, friends, activities, and the oft-sacrificed sleep. I have found that scheduling and staying focused is crucial to making progress on my bibliography. I tease my roommate almost daily that I want minions to answer all the small, tangential questions that come up as I’m reading my documents and momentarily divert my curiosity from my topic. The time constraints of balancing a thesis with coursework (both the fascinating and mundane) and a part-time job have forced me to focus my time on doing valuable, relevant research.  A little pressure has helped me be more productive.

Another helpful change since the last post is that I have finally been able to meet regularly with my advisor. Each week, I come prepared with questions and concerns. She challenges me to keep pushing myself and asks important questions of my research but is always encouraging. She even came to see my poster presenting my progress at the Charles Center Summer Research Showcase this past Tuesday.  I am so grateful for the Charles Center’s resources and my advisor’s constant help. With their support and that of my friends, I feel confident at this point in the research process. Actually, I’m only becoming more excited as I gain a better sense of the big picture.

Since I mentioned it, I want to spend a moment reflecting on the research showcase.  I was surprised at how much I enjoyed learning about the various subjects that people have chosen to explore. There were several moments when I looked around in awe of my peers. I talked with other students engaging in Honors projects that sounded incredible. I cannot wait to see their results in the spring. I also spend time talking with student who had explored everything from gestures to Jim Crow era travel guides on other Charles Center scholarships.  William and Mary is full of fascinating people doing great work, both students and professors.  I appreciated the chance to talk about my own work, refining my summary into something manageable and getting valuable feedback.

Although I had hoped to go to Boston for Fall Break to explore a collection of documents from the Northern schools developed in this antebellum era for the education of idiots, that trip now seems unlikely. Not only are the sources proving a bit difficult to track down but also I think I can use them more effectively later in my research. I am still interested in this repository so I will most likely travel there over the winter break. Instead, I will use the October days off to complete more research with the Galt papers here in Williamsburg. Oh the thesis life.

I had initially intended to talk a little bit more about my campus involvements on this post to give you a better sense of what informs me as a researcher. Given the length already, I think I’ll save that for another time but I will leave you with a quote that captures the spirit of much of my involvements, on campus and in the greater community.

“In a world where there is so much to be done, I felt strongly impressed that there must be something for me to do.”- Dorothea Dix



  1. Thanks Brianna! I’m equally impressed by your work and I’m looking forward to keep following your progress!

  2. Hi Ellie,

    It truly is a balancing act! So much to do, so little time, and of course we want to do it all, because that’s just the type of people we are. Everything will end up well though, just keep at it.

  3. Brianna Frentzko says:

    Hello Ellie,
    I’ve just been going over all your posts, and your project sounds truly fascinating. Your obvious passion and dedication to this, which seems a very important and overlooked portion of history, impresses me.

    I know what you mean about the balancing act of recent weeks. Finding time around classes to get things done seems difficult, and you’ve very much set yourself a lot to do! I really wish you the best of luck and can’t wait to see how your thesis developes in upcoming months.

    I’ll also be here editing my novel over Fall Break. Should be quiet at least:-)