People of SU / Research

Insightful and Interesting Research on Display

Written by Tina Potterf

May 31, 2023

A graphic of the cover of the latest edition of the SU Undergraduate Research Journal
The cover of Volume 7 of the research journal and the student editors who worked on the issue: (l-r) Tripp Ceyssens, Olivia Moretta, Katrina Manacio, Riley Flanagan, Masami Carpenter, Olivia Merrick and Nicole Beauvais (Not pictured: Emelia Vonada).

The Seattle University Undergraduate Research Journal (SUURJ) showcases the research of undergraduate students through a peer-reviewed online publication. 

When English Literature major and Honors student Brandon Teola, ’25, was researching the literary traditions of the Ottoman Empire for a class paper, he likely didn’t know that his work would one day be published in a notable journal specifically showcasing undergraduate research. 

But that is indeed what happened when Teola’s paper, “The Value of the Nazîre: Comparing the Poems of Nejâtî and Bâkî in the Tradition of Ottoman Lyric Poetry,” which explores the complex tradition of Ottoman lyric poetry spanning many centuries, became one of nine research papers published in Volume 7 of the just-released Seattle University Undergraduate Research Journal (SUURJ). 

“I mainly decided to submit this piece to SUURJ because of my research experience while writing my paper. It was difficult to find scholarship (in English) that had Ottoman lyric poetry as a central focus. The anthology I used was the only anthology of Ottoman lyric poetry translated in English that was available,” he explains. “When I heard about SUURJ, I thought that this would be a great opportunity to highlight this literary tradition, as it is something that is rarely present in published research.”

The Seattle University Undergraduate Research Journal provides a platform for undergraduate students like Teola to showcase their research and scholarship across a wide range of academic disciplines. Through this journal, students have the opportunity to publish and share their work—filled with innovative ideas, critical insights and meaningful discoveries—with a broader audience that extends across campus to across the globe (yes, this journal is read internationally!). By highlighting the work of undergraduate researchers, the journal nurtures intellectual curiosity while promoting academic excellence and professional formation.  

SUURJ offers a multitude of incredible opportunities for students of all disciplines on campus, be it in the form of having their research papers published or in serving as student editors,” says Olivia Merrick, ’25, a student editor on this year’s volume of the journal, who worked on Teola’s paper. 

The editing experience working alongside peers was rewarding, says Teola, crediting the partnership with Merrick, her valuable feedback and insights that he says, “allowed me to grow as a person and as a writer.”

“I think what is so great about having a student editor is that they can empathize with your experiences. We are both students. She has been understanding of the fact that I am a student like her, juggling academics, work and extracurricular involvements,” Teola says. “She always offered me substantial time to make revisions. What I appreciated most about working with Olivia is that she consistently emphasized her intention of keeping this paper my own and letting my voice and argument shine. This was so validating and she truly contributed to the evolution of this paper.” 

This year’s edition marks the seventh volume of the journal, whose origin story began in 2015 with a proposal by a group of consultants in the Writing Center who collaborated on work with faculty from the College of Arts and Sciences and the English department. The pitch: Create a journal designed to provide a co-curricular experience for student editors to earn course credit in the Writing Studies minor while learning the principles of editing and publishing. And for student authors, it’s an opportunity to gain professional insights into the peer review and editorial process that comes with submitting research papers for publication. The following year, the cohort of student editors embarked on what would become the inaugural volume of SUURJ, which launched in spring quarter 2017. 

The process of getting the journal together is part of a 10-credit series of courses that begin in the fall—submissions come in through late October—and continue through the journal’s release each spring. Along with Associate Teaching Professors Hannah Tracy, PhD, and Tara Roth, MA, who are co-chief faculty editors, student editors read through the papers and narrow the pool down to roughly 15 papers. They then present their picks to a faculty advisory board to assist in winnowing the submissions to the final 9-10 that will be published. Then the student editors are paired with a faculty content editor, someone who is an expert in a specific area of research, and they work with the student author to get the piece ready for publication in the spring. During fall quarter, the students learn how to copyedit, with winter quarter devoted to copyediting the paper they are assigned. Learning the ins-and-outs of the publishing world adds to the professional formation aspect of this type of experiential learning. 

This year’s edition features papers that cover a gamut of subjects, including topical issues—from the examination of Florida’s controversial law banning teaching or discussing LGBTQ+ issues in classrooms and the “Crisis Intervention Team” in the Memphis Police Department to arsenic removal in water and bee conservation. The student authors represent multiple disciplines, including nursing, English, environmental science, biology, chemistry, cell and molecular biology, public affairs and, for the first time, kinesiology. Although the journal doesn’t focus on a single theme, it does strike a tone that aligns with SU’s mission and values, as well as racial and social equity and justice, with an emphasis on authenticity. 

For Roth, this is her third year in the co-chief faculty editor role. Working with students is one of the highlights of being part of this project.  

“The process is very collaborative between student authors, student editors and chief faculty editors. Each of us has our own deadlines and important roles to play,” says Roth, “but there is also a careful exchange of ideas and ongoing deliberation between all team members throughout the year.”

Elements of location and mission—being in the Pacific Northwest and a Jesuit university—are evident throughout the publication, which adds to its distinctiveness, says Roth. 

“If you read the journal, you will see how our university mission has shaped much of the research our students engage in,” she explains. “You will also find work that is regionally specific, such as ‘Urban Campus Native Bee Conservation Guide.’”

The aforementioned research paper is from first-time SUURJ author Breann “Bre” Kniffen, ’23. “Urban Campus Native Bee Conservation Guide” was originally written as part of her research fellowship with the Center for Environmental Justice and Sustainability. After completing her research Kniffen thought that her findings and the resources she uncovered would be worthwhile to a wider audience. 

“The research paper I submitted is an accumulation of resources I found to be useful during my CEJS project or resources I believe would be beneficial for other campuses to utilize when looking to begin a native bee conservation project,” says Kniffen. “Being a published author means having a platform in which I can share my work on a large scale that will hopefully help others to pursue conservation efforts.”

English major Riley Flanagan, ’23, was the student editor working with Kniffen from start to finish. The experience, including excitement upon learning her research was going to be published, was exceedingly positive, says Kniffen. 

“Working with the student editors has been an amazing experience. They are all sweet, talented, patient and hard-working individuals who take pride in producing quality work,” says Kniffen. “I’m extremely thankful to everyone who has helped me to produce this work and for everyone involved in this process.”

Students should consider submitting their work to the SUURJ, Merrick says, to share with others their meaningful research. Plus, it’s pretty cool to be called a “published author.

“As an undergrad you spend a lot of time doing your research and it kind of sits in your Google drive,” says Merrick. “To create a space for undergrad students to have a platform to share their research with people is really special.”

Resumé-boosting and bolstering interpersonal skills are some of Flanagan’s biggest takeaways working on the journal.

“It’s a great thing to have on your resumé not just for career building but also for the team-building experience,” she explains. “The authors have to work with the faculty content editors and it shows that you work well in collaboration. Plus, it gives you a chance to meet and interact with faculty and individuals from across campus.”

“The student editors have to learn about a wide range of disciplines,” explains Tracy, who notes that an English major was the reviewer and editor on a biology-focused research paper and Merrick, who is majoring in Criminal Justice, edited an English paper. “The student editors also learn how to judge what makes a good research paper.”

For Teola, being a published author in the research space means being part of a bigger conversation and elevating a particular topic that may be unfamiliar to the masses.

“Honestly, for my topic, the conversations are slim. Thus, in this paper, I have worked to acknowledge the research and commentary of recent scholars that have dedicated their work to providing information about the Ottoman literary tradition,” he says. “Other than my faculty mentor, Dr. Allison Meyer, and my peers who took the course that inspired this paper, there probably aren’t a lot of people in the Seattle University community—and throughout the world—who have heard of or read Ottoman lyric poetry. I have really seen this opportunity as a way for more people to become familiar with the tradition.”

Check out Volume 7 of the Seattle University Undergraduate Research Journal.