Working with a large group of students on a research project from multiple disciplines has helped me develop my leadership, communication, and critical thinking abilities. I have learned that leadership qualities exist in everyone of us. Whether you are the director of a project or an assistant in the field, being leaders in research is being supportive and building each other up to empower yours and your peers' strengths in research. Communication is also vital in an interdisciplinary research approach. Including everyone's ideas and perspectives during the research processes is important to creating a well formed, inclusive, and impactful research project. Whether communication entails reaching out to your peers for help, or conveying difficult thought processes, communication is imperative to sustaining cohesive and lasting research results.
While I have learned that the two most important skills in a research project are leadership and communication, developing these skills has given me something else vital to being a great researcher-new critical thinking abilities. Working with students from different backgrounds, theories, and though processes has led myself to be reflective on my questions, methods, and analyses. Self reflection has opened me up new data collecting methods, inputs, points of analyses and additional research questions that I had not previously considered. For example, while my research project is focuses on how the tourism and businesses of the Menomonie community creates spaces of identity in relation to the lakes' water quality, Megan Isaacs project in the economics department has been to research the economic impact that clean lakes would have on the local economy. Working with Megan to help develop and send her surveys to business owners has aided my understanding of economics as a discipline and the importance of her data collection relative to my own project. While Megan collects more statistical data and analyses, discussing her findings together as academic peers have developed new research questions and ideas that I would have not otherwise thought of. Her findings have allowed me to ask business owners to elaborate on their survey answers and give them more of a platform to explain their participation and feelings towards lake quality. I'm excited to keep working with Megan about our projects and help each other expand on our own research methods, questions, results, and research experiences.