Research for/with Gratitude and Grace

If there’s something my opportunity with the HPG internship further reinforced and also more deeply entrenched in me, then it would be thinking more critically and being more actively engaged in producing work that highlights both gratitude and grace. Throughout this process we are asked to participate in a number of different activities that enhance our experience, ultimately further cementing the importance of humanities for a public good. For me, one of the most enriching opportunities was getting to interview people outside of my field. A commonality among the three was that we take the work we do for granted because we oftentimes forget about whom we are doing the work for, and we forget that lives were impacted in the process of the work we do. All too often, our research hides behind paywalls or is written from the privileged view of the ivory tower. It isn’t that we are purposely ignoring the publics we vowed to serve, but we aren’t necessarily actively assisting them either. The bureaucracies of the academe become barriers for which to perform and provide research that serves all, not just a journal’s impact factor or ranking among other journals. My opportunities with HPG showed me that it isn’t that we are doing something wrong in academia currently; however, it isn’t as though we are doing something right either.

My time with the Brokaw collection is beyond rewarding. Not only do I get to create an interactive timeline using primary sources (his press passes and other archival materials) to help educate others on both journalism and American history, but I also get to live within the world of one of my greatest journalism idols. If it weren’t for the HPG, then I probably wouldn’t have had the opportunity (because I probably wouldn’t have thought about it for a project) to engage with the collection beyond knowing it exists. But what is more important here is that if I hadn’t had the opportunity thanks to HPG, then the projects I would pursue regarding the collection wouldn’t be positioning others ahead of my own personal gain. Yes, I would attempt to understand Brokaw’s impact on journalism ethics. And, yes, I would argue the relevance of that impact on the greater journalism industry and journalism ethics as a field. Yet, I wouldn’t be doing the work I am now: using research to better the public–in this case: education. Where I’m going, however, is not just the simple “we can do things differently” that many scholars have argued for before me. What I believe is that each opportunity I have with the collection is one I need to acknowledge my gratitude for and with. I have this opportunity because of being here, at the University of Iowa. I have this opportunity because of the graciousness of the Obermann Center and the HPG internship. I have this opportunity because of Liz Riordan and Special Collections and Archives. I have this opportunity because of Tom Brokaw.

I need to acknowledge those people and organizations because without them I would not be writing this blog post, arguably from a soapbox. I’m am in deep gratitude to those who provided me this opportunity because the research I’m doing is nothing without that thanks.

Beyond the need to give thanks, my time with the Brokaw collection has also further reinforced my belief in grace.

We were asked to create a timeline of sorts at the beginning of our internship, attempting to outline our goals, milestones, and deadlines. These were done in a variety of ways, but they all were founded on the same premise and purpose. For me, as a Type-A, ENFJ, Leo, I tend to be boldly and stringently organized. My perfectionism isn’t much of an asset–as many claim it is. Rather, it is a painful detriment. I work to maximize perfection, not to meet an objective. My experiences this summer with the Brokaw collection have helped me to realize that everything isn’t in my control and everything isn’t going to be accomplished by the time the blue box on my calendar claims it will be. Brokaw’s work, both finished and otherwise, showed me that what matters is the process. And in that process I need to show myself and others grace. The grace to fail. The grace to succeed. The grace to relax. The grace to celebrate. And so much more. Brokaw’s work is kaleidoscope of American and world history, emphasizing the heroes and villains of modern times. Yet, the work he did contributed to so much more, and was informed by equally as many. He didn’t work to accomplish something with perfection; he also didn’t do so just to check a box. Being immersed in his world helped me to realize that the process matters and who we’re serving matters even more. Brokaw’s stories changed history; they are history. But his stories are just one part of his story.

I’m thankful. I’m gracious.

I think we all could be just a little bit more of both as we continue our fruitful work in whatever field our research lives.


As a note, I received a note of gratitude from Tom himself. Something I see as just a small piece of a much larger puzzle, creating this interactive timeline from his press passes, meant so much more to him. His wonderful gift to me not only reminds me of where I once was (the book he gave me in the image is the one that inspired my desire to be a journalist), gives me gratitude for where I am, and helps me give myself grace for wherever I will be in the future.

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