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SROP Research Spotlight: Sly Worthy Jr.

This is part one of a series on the Summer Research Opportunities Program (SROP).

By: Sly Worthy Jr.
Social Work and African American and African Studies Double Major 
The Ohio State University

When I first thought of the word “research” I thought I would have to be in a lab, dissecting things, looking into a microscope and so much more. I could have not been more wrong. Although a lot of research takes place in actual labs, research can take place anywhere. What I thought is the reality for a lot of students from underrepresented identities as higher education sometimes seems like a foreign language. It was not until I met one of my mentors, Dr. James Moore III, where SROP or the idea of research was even presented to me. I do not think that words could explain how terrified I was of the idea of research. I was eventually introduced to a man who I did not know at the time would become my faculty research mentor, Dr. Scott Graves Jr. Our first interaction was just informational as I wanted to find out more about the School Psychology Program here at OSU. In our initial conversation he displayed how interested and invested in me he was so I went out on a limb and asked could he be my mentor for SROP. At this point, I still did not have any idea about research and what research looked like. As the summer started and SROP was approaching, I began to get more nervous. Not nervous because I did not think I could do it, but nervous because here again, I was entering another realm of the complex higher education that I did not know anything about.

Upon arrival, I was the only student that was a rising junior which made this even more terrifying. Dr. Graves was one who allowed me to be vulnerable and took his time to not only walk me through how to conduct research but getting to know me as a person. This allowed me to remain optimistic, I knew that I had no idea what research entirely was or how to conduct it, but I knew that I was willing to work as hard as I could to learn and that I had a supporting cast. SROP put together a system from the staff, the students and their curriculum that provided me with the knowledge and support that I needed to be successful. An unfortunate situation occurred that resulted in me losing not only my laptop but all my research progress halfway through the program. With the support and persistence of SROP, Dr. Graves, and myself we were able to complete the project. SROP provided me with an opportunity to explore the unknown and to meet some great individuals.

I am still in contact with my SROP cohort, some of the SROP staff, and my faculty mentor. After the program, Dr. Graves and I continued to work on our research project. He provided me with another opportunity to present my research at the College of Education and Human Ecology (EHE) Forum.

Sly with his poster presentation at the College of Education and Human Ecology (EHE) Forum.

As the year went on, we worked on an article to go along with our research project. Dr. Graves walked me through how to create an academic article and after we finished it, he walked me through the submission process. A few keys that I believe are essential for a successful research mentorship are:

  1. Trust
  2. Accountability
  3. Supportive and effective communication
  4. Putting the relationship first, and the research second.

For other underrepresented students who are not sure if they would like to get involved in research I would encourage them to find a mentor who is interested in the things you are and to explore programs like SROP that are made to walk you through the process while providing everlasting experiences and knowledge. I will conclude with how I currently think of the word “research” as someone who is a Black, low-income, male-identifying, first-generation college student. In plain terms, research is essentially the way that I get to obtain knowledge and/or evaluate the problems and systems that plague our society with the intent to find solutions.

Research Spotlight Series: Summer Research Opportunities Program (SROP)

The Summer Research Opportunities Program (SROP) through The Big 10 Academic Alliance (BTAA) is a nine-week summer experience designed to prepare historically underrepresented undergraduate students for graduate study through an intensive research experience with graduate/faculty mentors and a variety of enrichment experiences. Since its creation in 1986, SROP programs have produced more than 610 alumni who have earned their PhDs, and many more who have gone onto promising careers in a variety of sectors. Although Ohio State was unable to host a program this year due to COVID-19, The Ohio State University Libraries’ Research Commons has partnered with The Ohio State Graduate School to bring you a series of blog posts from former Ohio State SROP students.

Their stories and advice for other underrepresented students interested in research and graduate study will post throughout the week of July 27th.

At the end of the series we will be providing additional information about getting involved with mentorship, and how both students and faculty can get involved with SROP at Ohio State. 

2019 SROP Wooster cohort with mentor Gary Closs Jr., Department of Food Science and Technology Graduate Research Associate.

Save the Date: GIS Day 2020

GIS Day logo

GIS Day is an annual event for students, staff, faculty, and the broader community to learn more about Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and to celebrate the power of geospatial analysis and visualization in answering research questions and solving real-world problems. This year, GIS Day is happening on Wednesday, November 18, and we hope you’ll mark your calendars so you can participate. We’re excited to bring you a different kind of GIS Day experience this year and to tell you a bit about what we have in the works.

In the past, we’ve hosted in-person GIS Day events, but we decided early in the discussions about returning to campus for autumn semester that this would not be a good idea in 2020. The first important change for this year is that we’re going virtual!

A virtual GIS Day provides us with a great opportunity to broaden participation in the program. Another important change this year is that our GIS Day 2020 program will be a collaboration between The Ohio State University, Case Western Reserve University, and the University of Cincinnati. Get ready for 3C GIS Day!

We’re in the early stages of planning, but we look forward to an exciting program that will include:

  • Lightning Talks
    • Learn about the application of geospatial technologies in a wide variety of disciplines from faculty, staff, students, and GIS professionals across Ohio’s 3C Corridor (Cleveland, Columbus, and Cincinnati).
  • StoryMaps Showcase
    • We’re inviting any students, staff, and faculty affiliated with The Ohio State University, Case Western Reserve University, and the University of Cincinnati to create and submit ArcGIS StoryMaps to showcase their work on GIS Day and beyond. More details about the StoryMaps Showcase will be coming soon!
  • Professional Networking
    • We will provide a venue for GIS professionals, researchers, and students from across Ohio to connect with one another and discuss experiences, opportunities, and current topics of interest in the world of geospatial.

Stay tuned for more information about 3C GIS Day in the coming weeks and months, and mark your calendars for a great event on November 18, 2020!

The 3C GIS Day planning committee includes Josh Sadvari and Katie Phillips (OSU), Ben Gorham (Case), and Amy Koshoffer (UC). If you have any questions about 3C GIS Day or are interested in participating and want to receive updates, please contact Josh and Katie at geospatial@osu.edu.

Research Spotlight: “Lovers, Enemies and Friends: The Complex and Coded Early History of Lesbian Comic Strip Characters

In celebration of Pride month, we are excited to present a Q & A with Caitlin McGurk, Assistant Professor and Associate Curator for Outreach in the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum. Caitlin was the 2020 recipient of the University Libraries’ Research Excellence award, for her research studying the early history of lesbian comic strip characters. You can read the full article here.

 

Your research addresses a gap in scholarly study of LGBTQ comics and cartoon art – mainstream U.S. newspaper comic strips. Why do you think such a widespread and consumed medium has been so under researched in terms of LGBTQ characters?

I can think of a few reasons why this might be. One big one is the general assumption that there just wouldn’t be any queerness in these early American strips, so why go digging for it? When we think newspaper comics, we often think of sitting around the breakfast table, or being sprawled out on the carpet flipping through them for a laugh. It has generally been believed that comics are a lower art-form, whose main purpose is to entertain. This is an unfortunate stereotype, not at all helped by the root of the word “comics”. In reality though, from the earliest days of the form in the late 1800s, comics have been political, experimental and very often commenting on or capturing aspects of all classes of society that few other kinds of visual art had ever done before. Gender and sexuality is definitely one of those themes, as has been particularly studied closely with Krazy Kat, a long-running strip that on its surface appears to be about a cat that is in love with a mouse, but deeper down was exploring gender identity and race. However, there’s a second reason that there hasn’t been much research into this area, and it’s one that reaffirms my pride in working for the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum: it is extremely difficult to access complete runs of comic strips in order to study them. In the 1960s when microfilm and microfiche was all the rage in libraries across the United States and beyond, a major focus of this early digitization process was newspaper collections. Often times, the comic sections were not included in what got microfilmed. And when they were microfilmed, similar photographs in the newspaper, the contrast was so poor that the comics could hardly be read. Once thousands of these historic newspapers were microfilmed, the physical objects were thrown in the trash. The entire field of comic strips owes a great debt to a man named Bill Blackbeard who realized what a mistake this was early on, and spent his life collecting these discarded newspapers from libraries in order to save the comics section and attempt to preserve this history. He did a very good job of it, and his collection now resides at the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum, totaling 2.5 million comic strips, making us the best institution for the study of this form. For more information on the microfilming of comics and Bill Blackbeards counter-efforts, check out Jenny Robb’s 2009 article, Bill Blackbeard: The Collector who Rescued the Comics. Since few comic strips have ever been collected and republished for a modern audience, this kind of archival in-person research at BICLM is often necessary in order to unearth such treasures.

 

What were some of the challenges you faced in researching a topic that has been historically overlooked?  Is there any advice you would give to researchers in similar situations?

I would say the greatest challenge I faced – and this is probably not unusual for humanities research – is wanting to make sure I wasn’t overly interpreting the artist’s work, intent or identity. In all three of the comic strips that I studied for the article (Lucy and Sophie Say Goodbye, Terry and the Pirates and Brenda Starr, Reporter), at no point does the artist come right out and say “She’s gay! This character is a lesbian!” because to do so would have been a death sentence for the strip, let alone a massive controversy. Keep in mind these characters arrived on the scene between 1903-1940, not a particularly open-minded time in America. At one point Brenda Starr, Reporter was dropped by a number of newspapers simply because Dale Messick drew a belly-button on Brenda, which was considered far too racy. So to get back to my point, there is a certain level of interpretation necessary to understand these characters as queer. It is pretty obvious of course, but still, it can make a person uneasy to state a claim about someone else’s creation without that person being around to verify it. I was so lucky that I was able to interview Dale Messick’s daughter (aptly named Starr), who confirmed what I believed about her mother’s intent with the character Hank O’Hair. I suppose if I had to give advice on that balance between interpretation/assumption and hard facts, I would recommend that researchers tread with caution and respect for the creator, not make blanket statements and do their homework. It can be so tempting to project what we want to see in art, and not what is actually there. Since scholars are in a privileged position of writing history, it is so important to do so with a healthy level of emotional/personal distance from the topic.  

Dale Messick’s Brenda Starr, Reporter, comic strip starting in 1940 featured two career-women, one being lesbian character Frank O’Hair.

 

In analyzing Milton Caniff’s lesbian character in Terry and the Pirates – Sanjak – you caution against reading the inclusion of the character as progressive due to Caniff’s reliance on negative stereotypes. You provide some passages from fan correspondence praising the character and urging Caniff to not make her a villain. What was your reaction to seeing positive responses to a character considered taboo in the 1930s?

Not unlike most cartoon art researchers, I absolutely love reading correspondence. There is something so thrilling about imagining the personality behind the handwriting, and the passion and motivation that it takes to inspire someone to sit down and write a letter to a cartoonist. I was so happy to see those letters to Caniff about Sanjak, and at a time when there was basically no representation of lesbians in mainstream culture, any representation (even a negative stereotype) could have been impactful to see. I’m using the word “impactful” and not “exciting” or “positive” because it’s also very likely that reading Sanjak further embedded a sense of self-loathing in, for example, a closeted reader. However, she clearly had some cheerleaders in the audience, as indicated by those letters.

The character Sanjak, from Terry and the Pirates oftentimes portrayed negative stereotypes.

 

Conversely, the lesbian character Hank O’Hare in the comic strip Brenda Starr, Reporter defied stereotypes and was considered groundbreaking. In your research you talk about the negative response from some fans and pressure from both fans and (potentially) editors to have the character conform to a more conservative lifestyle of heterosexual marriage and children. If this strip were still running today, do you think author Dale Messick would have editorial freedom to present Hank as an openly lesbian character in mainstream newspapers?

Yes, I do, primarily thanks to artists like Lynn Johnston and Garry Trudeau, who introduced gay characters into their comic strips (For Better or For Worse, Doonesbury) in the 1970s and 1990s. Even for those two artists, the choice to do so was met with much controversy, but the strips prevailed. I would like to think that the same would be the case for Hank O’Hair in Brenda Starr, as we see more LGBTQ representation in comics now than ever before.

A paper doll of Hank from Brenda Starr, Reporter featured with a mix of feminine and masculine outfits.

 

In the earlier comic strips you analyzed where LGBT representation is more subtle, do you think the majority of people understood the subtext and read the characters as lesbian at the time? How has the passage of time and additional perspective changed the interpretation (if at all)?

In the case of Lucy and Sophie Say Goodbye, the subtext may have either been lost on readers who interpreted the characters to just be “crazy” (which is how the strip ends, as they are hauled to an asylum), or as a joke on close female friendships. Either way, compared to Terry and the Pirates and Brenda Starr, Reporter, Lucy and Sophie Say Goodbye was so short-lived that it probably was not given all that much thought. The creator, who I have estimated to be George Frink, went on to create much more successful and long running strips with Circus Solly and Slim Jim and the Force.

Lucy and Sophie Say Goodbye was one of the earliest strips that may have featured lesbian characters, beginning in 1905.

 

Most of the characters you analyzed appear to be white women of middle to upper-class standing. When do we start to see lesbian characters with intersectional identities emerge in mainstream comics?

Some might say that we still haven’t, at least not in mainstream comics. Cartoon art has always been a very white and very male field unfortunately, and that has only recently started to shift. Barbara Brandon-Croft became the first African American woman to have a nationally syndicated comic strip with characters from diverse backgrounds in mainstream newspapers in 1991, and remained the only one until the past year when Bianca Xunise and Christina “Steenz” Stewart entered the mainstream with Six Chicks and Heart of the City, respectively. In alternative newspapers, comic strips have included queer characters of all races in series like Alison Bechdel’s “Dykes to Watch Out For” and Rupert Kinnard’s “Cathartic Comics.”

 

You mention that newspaper comics are oftentimes a bellwether of the opinions and perspectives of a wide array of people at the time. Contextually speaking, what sort of societal or political issues/events were going on at the time the strips were running that may have impacted the portrayal of the characters you analyzed?

I think that the lack of transparency about the identities of these characters says plenty about the time-period and what would have been acceptable or not. However, each individual strip is tapping into some bigger notions from the time. For Lucy and Sophie Say Goodbye, it would be the awareness of what were called Boston Marriages, romantic but non-sexual relationships between woman. For Sanjak, in Terry and the Pirates, she is physically coded as the embodiment of a new (for that era) gender-bending stereotype that one might have heard about in Europe at clubs like Le Monocle (and to that end, even donned a monocle.) Caniff’s work also takes a lot of inspiration from cinema of the time, in which queer themes were occasionally explored. I think in the case of Brenda Starr and Hank O’Hair, they are both examples in contrast of women entering the workforce. Hank being the mannish working-woman stereotype, and Brenda being (supposedly) more of a regular gal in a role that was more commonly held by men, which is what made her so unique.

Milton Caniff’s Terry and The Pirates ran from 1934 – 1975.

 

Was there anything you uncovered in your research that you found surprising or unexpected?

I think the most surprising part was just how much more there is left to discover in comics scholarship, and that even for comic strips as massively popular as Brenda Starr, so little had been written. And I don’t mean written about queerness, but written about the strip in general! I find this to be equally frustrating and exciting. Frustrating because it can be difficult to find sources, but exciting because it makes you realize just how much untapped potential there is in this field.

Your Guide to Black Lives Matter Data

With the death of George Floyd and increased visibility of the Black Lives Matter movement, The Research Commons in collaboration with our African American and African Studies Librarian, Leta Hendricks, has put together a list of resources for researchers interested in looking further into issues of policing, the Black Lives matter movement, racial discrimination, health information and issues of educational access. Please see the list below for data and reporting resources at the university, state and national level.

United States

PolicyMap: Available data includes demographics, home sale statistics, health data, mortgage trends, school performance scores and labor data like unemployment, crime statistics and city crime rates. Allows you to display data visually through custom demographic maps, tables, reports and an analysis tool

Social Explorer: provides quick and easy access to current and historical U.S. census data and demographic information. The easy-to-use web interface lets users create maps and reports to illustrate, analyze, and understand demography and social change. Social Explorer includes over 40 billion data elements; 500,000 variables; and more than 25,000 interactive maps

Mapping Police Violence: A interactive map of police killings in the United States, with downloadable data. Tools allows researchers to compare states, cities and national trends

Bureau of Justice Statistics: The Bureau of Justice Statistics’ Law Enforcement Unit maintains more than a dozen national data collections, covering federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies and special topics in law enforcement. Most data collections are conducted every two to four years and focus on aggregate or agency-level responses, meaning the information that is collected pertains to units, such as police departments, training academies, and crime labs. The data from law enforcement agencies provide national estimates for personnel, equipment, operations, agency policies, budgets, and job functions across agencies

Washington Post’s Fatal Force (Police Shootings Database): includes downloadable data for police-involved shootings of a civilian from 2015 – present, as well as an interactive map. The database can be searched for different demographic data such as race, gender, history of mental illness and more

Black Lives Matter four-year anniversary report: The Black Lives Matter movement was started in 2013 after the acquittal of George Zimmerman, the man who shot Trayvon Martin. The movement has put together a 4-year anniversary report outlining the history of the movement, guiding principles, advocacy work, a call to action and more

Use of Force Project: a database that provides the use of force policy for over 100 police departments across the United States

Pew Research Center: provides a number of datasets for secondary analysis on topics such as U.S. policy, social and demographic trends, journalism/media and more

Racial Equity for GIS Hub: Esri’s racial equity hub is an ongoing, continuously expanding resource hub to assist organizations looking to address racial inequities. The hub includes data layers, maps, applications, training resources, articles on best practices, solutions and examples of how Esri users from around the world are leveraging GIS to address racial inequality.

Ohio

Ohio Department of Education Data Query Tool: This tool allows researchers to pull data on K-12 disciplinary action, enrollment data, attendance, graduation, testing and more. Reports can be disaggregated based on demographic selections, including race.

Using this data, The Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity provides reports and analysis of Ohio K-12 school discipline actions, with breakdowns that look at race, ability and other categories

The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections Bureau of Research: provides data, statistics and reporting on prison population projections, jail reports, DRC census data and more

The Ohio Department of Health: provides data and statistics on health in Ohio that can be broken down into different demographics, such as race. Includes:

  • Ohio Public Health Information Warehouse: A self-service online tool where researchers can obtain most recent public health data. Researchers can create custom reports, charts and maps from a variety of data sources
  • 2019 Online State Health Assessment: The 2019 SHA is a comprehensive and actionable picture of health and wellbeing in Ohio. This interactive website displays state and county-level data on topics such as demographic trends, leading causes of death, population health, healthcare spending, access to health care, public health and prevention, social and economic environment, and physical environment.

The Office of Criminal Justice Services: Provides Ohio data on crime statistics (by county and city), hate crimes (2005- 2018), policing, prisoners and more.

Vice News: provides downloadable standardized and raw data on killings by police in the nation’s 50 largest police departments. Includes data for Cleveland, Columbus, and Cincinnati police departments

 

The Ohio State University

Office of Enrollment Services Analysis and Reporting: Provides a variety of reports and data on students enrolled at Ohio State, with breakdowns by race. OESAR’s standard reports include:

  • The New First Year Student Profile provides a quick overview of recent incoming classes by highlighting characteristics such as ACT and SAT score averages, high school graduating class rank, and residency and minority student counts
  • The Admissions Comparison and Summary Report is the university’s only all term, all student admissions report. The Course Distribution by Academic Program Report summarizes enrollment for each term by course subject and catalog number
  • Each term, OESAR publishes the Official 15th Day Enrollment Report. This report serves as a census of student enrollment and includes breakdowns by a number of academic and demographic categories, including academic program, and counts by gender and ethnicity. These census reports support a number of trend reports available on the site

Researchers can also initiate a specific data request regarding enrollment or admissions data on OESAR’s website. Responses typically take 2-4 weeks. OESAR also provides reports focusing on graduation and retention rates for:

The OSU Bias Assessment Response Team (BART) and campus climate reports: For researchers interested in looking at the climate on The Ohio State University’s campus, the Bias Assessment and Response Team releases its yearly reports on bias-related incidents on Ohio State’s campus. You can view incidents of racial bias, and bias related to religion, sexual orientation, gender identity and more.

Reports from the Center for the Study of Student Life (CSSL): CSSL provides data on the student experience at Ohio State. The following reports provide information that include breakdowns by race.

Status on Women at Ohio State Report: The Women’s Place provides their 2020 and list of previous reports since 2002, which include information about women of color who hold tenure-track faculty positions, and breakdowns of professional (non-faculty) staff and department chairs by race.

Department of Public Safety: The annual security report provides data for conduct referrals and crimes reported both on-campus and off-campus as defined by the Clery Act; report also includes information about reported hate crimes.

The Office of Human Resources: Provides data and reports about employees, salary/earnings and also reports that provide diversity data (gender and race) for faculty and staff by unit:

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