Embracing the unexpected

One of the biggest lessons that I’ve learned in doing research these past months is that some of the most significant research discoveries come from things that you least expect. Instead of chalking up the new twists and turns in my research to “luck,” I’m coming to realize that I need to tap into even the slightest opportunity that might lead to a new perspective for my research.

For example, I invited a woman who works at the WRHA to the Summer Research Showcase in September at the last minute. After discussing my research more in-depth, the woman sent me contact information for another woman who used to work at the WRHA. I ended up conducting an extremely helpful and eye-opening oral history interview with the other woman.

In another instance, my advisor and I attended a local planning commission meeting. My advisor ended up running into one of his retired colleagues who lives in Crispus Attucks, a neighborhood developed by the WRHA in the 1970s. He told her about my project and she and I set up a meeting to discuss my project at a later date. From that meeting, she suggested a list of people to reach out to, leading to the most recent oral history I just did with one of her neighbors who also used to serve on the WRHA board!

I could tell multiple other stories, but the point is that I have learned that I always need to be ready to lean into the opportunities that every day presents to me — even when I don’t expect that they might lead to anywhere.