This post comes from one of our undergraduate research assistants, Jada Lamb, currently a senior at the University of Maine majoring in Elementary Education. During the academic year, Jada works part-time with the lab and in the summer of 2019 worked as a full-time research assistant with Transforming Rural Experience in Education (TREE) research-practice partnership.

Three women sitting on a boat smiling in the sun
Research Assistants out on a lobster boat at our Summer TREE Research-Practice Partnership Retreat
From left to right: Meghan Charest (Colby, undergraduate research assistant); Jada Lamb (UMaine, undergraduate research assistant); Maggie Burgos, (Americorps VISTA at CCLC and Colby project alum)

Over the summer, I’ve had the great pleasure of working as an undergraduate research assistant for the Rural Vitality Lab. When I first started in my role, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but as it turns out, being a research assistant has been one of the most influential aspects of my college career. This position has given me the opportunity to travel, to meet new people, to build stronger relationships with both sides of the research practice partnership, to dive deeper into my own area of research interests, and to learn more about the world, myself, and others.

Some of my responsibilities as a research assistant this summer have included: conducting interviews, collecting and coding interview data both for TREE and for my own research in collaboration with TREE, presenting on emerging data, traveling, and taking notes on RPPT meetings noting how we are working as a research team and as a school program. One of my favorite aspects about working for the Rural Vitality Lab is its structure- we are a virtual lab, meaning we primarily use research software in different locations and then use technology to communicate and collaborate on our work. This structure has allowed me to create my own work schedule and to work independently, yet easily collaborate with others. Another aspect of this job I’m especially grateful for how supportive the team has been in allowing me to explore my own research interests of how education can be used to support resilience for families facing the specific adversity that sometimes come with living on Native American reservations. As part of my responsibilities as a research assistant I have also been doing some listening work in my own tribal community, in an attempt to target the specific adversaries that might be preventing youth from achieving educational success. I’ve learned so much from this work, and have had a lot of fun doing it.

I’ve loved learning about and advocating for trauma-informed and equity-driven practice in education through my work with RVL and TREE, it’s been incredibly rewarding and fulfilling. Being a part of the TREE team has given me the chance to meet new people from all across the nation, including well-known researchers, lawyers, and activists from as far away as California. As a research assistant I’ve also had the opportunity to travel across the state, presenting data, visiting schools, and learning more about diverse communities that were once unfamiliar to me, but I have now grown to support and love. And, although I was pushed out of my comfort zone this summer with presentations and traveling to unexplored places, taking part in these activities has given me the confidence to believe that I have the ability to help create positive, permanent change through working in education. I feel that I have not only gained valuable work experience through this endeavor, but also valuable insight as to who I am, and what I want to do with my career.