En route to a local convenience store yesterday evening I remarked to a fellow research intern that it felt as though we had been in Menomonie far longer than the short four days since our arrival. Feelings of comfort and belongingness in Menomonie ensued shortly after unpacking and settling in at Red Cedar Hall in the late afternoon of Sunday, June 12th.
Menomonie is an exceptionally charming community, reminiscent of idealistic small town America. A town dichotomized by streets lined with locally owned small businesses and the surrounding University of Wisconsin-Stout, Menomonie evokes comparison to a modern-day, Andy Griffith-esque Mayberry.
Our team of eleven undergraduate researchers kicked off week one with a picnic on Lake Menomin, a bike tour of the UW-Stout campus, and a short hike around a nearby geographical feature called the Devil’s Punchbowl. Near the end of our first week, we were formally welcomed into the Menomonie community with a meet-and-greet hosted at a local coffee shop and catered by a neighboring restaurant. It is these experiences, amongst others, that have manifested in me a sense of belonging in the Menomonie community.
My immediate high regard for the community is paralleled only by my first impressions of the LAKES REU mentors and the work environment they have created for us. A team of five, the LAKES mentors quickly demonstrated their passion and dedication to the research initiatives, betterment of the Menomonie community, and their commitment to fostering academic and personal growth in the research interns.
Working with LAKES REU director, sociologist Dr. Nels Paulson, my research partner (Clare Salerno) and I were given a hands-on introduction to several software programs, including Qualtrics, Zotero, Kumu, and SPSS. In order to efficiently gain thorough knowledge of these programs, Nels guided Clare and me in a mini research project for which we designed a small survey and collected data from over 100 respondents. We then conducted a Social Network Analysis (SNA) using SPSS for statistical analysis and Kumu to create a visual representation.
All of this in focus, I cannot have expectations any higher than those developed during this first week. The stage is set—Menomonie, Wisconsin creating a beautiful backdrop for a remarkable cast of dedicated mentors and eager research interns. I wait expectantly for the LAKES REU plot to unfold.