I spent the Summer of 2017 developing my thesis through the department of political science at FSU (which involved working with/for the We the People Theatre Arts Initiative and the Hippodrome State Theatre Education Department in the city of Gainesville, Fl.) and working as a research intern at the California Civic Engagement Project at the university of California Davis (or CCEP) in Davis, Ca. My thesis utilizes a pre-post experimental control design and centers on the way that the Arts (and theatre in particular) can interact with the way that people conceptualize themselves as political actors and how this change could result in political action. I ran an experiment using a group of young people from We the People Theatre Arts Initiative’s summer program as a treatment group (with two subgroups, both of which received different interventions) and a group from the Hippodrome State Theatre’s summer program as a control group (with two subgroups).
I worked closely with We the People Theatre Arts Initiative (treatment group) as a camp director and as a researcher. “We the People Theatre uses theatre arts to foster positive character development and growth in youth. This development allows them to become productive and responsible citizens of their community; thereby becoming conscientious citizens of the world.” This experience was both academically and personally rewarding. As a part of my research, I directed a production of Julius Caesar, taught classes, and held workshops for the different treatment groups. My work with the organization culminated with the touring of our production of Julius Caesar to a number of community centers throughout the city of Gainesville and a final showing at the Thomas Center, a historic center for culture and art in North-Central Florida.
While working as a research intern for the California Civic Engagement Project, I collected resources for the organization, conducted research and subsequently briefed Dr. Mindy Romero (project founder and director of CCEP) on a number of policy issues, edited briefs and news releases, and worked to develop a pilot program, designed to serve as a model for introducing a civic engagement learning component to California schools. The latter involved meeting with stakeholders and working with a team to develop the most effective program possible.
Moving forward, I continue to develop my thesis (conducting both qualitative and quantitative analysis) and I continue to be involved in the implementation of the pilot program I worked on with CCEP. This past summer was a wonderful experience that helped me to develop as a researcher, artist, and leader. I gained a new, holistic perspective on the ways that individuals can initiate change and met many new and exciting individuals that I maintain contact with to this day. More than anything else, I feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to face such an interesting and new challenge. I look forward to continuing the work I have done so far and seeing everything come to fruition.
Edward Bonahue is a 2017 Social Science Scholar. He is pursuing a double major in theatre and political science. His research interests include social capital, political polarization, and how young people conceptualize politics.
The feature picture is from We the People Theatre Initiative.