Independent Study uses a narrative approach to document the summer of 2020

Delaney Zuver ’21

Major: Communications studies
Mentor: Nii Nikoi, assistant professor of film studies, communication, and global media & digital studies
I.S. Title: 2020 Summer Stories: Personal narrative, sensemaking, and memory during the COVID-19 pandemic
Delaney Zuver ’21, an Ohio native, and lover of storytelling used her Independent Study at The College of Wooster to gather narratives about people’s experiences with the COVID-19 Pandemic in the summer of 2020. Inspired by her father, a retired social studies teacher, and the idea of documenting history from a first-person perspective, Zuver utilized a narrative approach to conduct her study.

“The people at Wooster showed me what it means to value people. There is this culture of putting people first, valuing them, and holding the idea that you are doing something with your research that can create change. At Wooster, I knew I had a bunch of people supporting me that were not just supporting me for the grade and the academic honor. They saw who I was, and they supported me every step of the way.”
—Delaney Zuver ’21 

What drew you to Wooster and Why has it been a good fit for you?
“I.S. was a huge part of the draw. I was fascinated with the idea of completing such a huge project. Working closely with faculty at the school appealed to me, and I knew I would make a lot of real-world connections. Another part was having the opportunity to be involved in a lot of student organizations and being able to get involved on campus and truly find community. It was easy to get involved in creating change on campus and being a leader. It’s been a wonderful experience.”

How would you sum up your I.S. project to someone outside your discipline?
“I wanted to lean into the importance of storytelling and understand the way that we organize our time and our memory of our time during the summer of 2020 when there were so many different events happening such as the uprisings for racial justice across the country with COVID-19, an election, and climate disasters. I wanted to understand how people organize this time, how they told their own story, how they put themselves in all those events, what influenced how they remember that time and themselves during that time. I was also analyzing media influences in their stories and how the dominant culture influences folks to tell their stories one way or another.”

Were there interesting discoveries that you made?
Social media had a huge impact on folks that were working from home or in front of the screen more. One of the more relatable elements that I talked about is how a lot of people were taking social media breaks from apps like Instagram because they were jealous of other people’s pandemic situations or they were constantly feeling like they were not doing enough with their time.”

How did your time at Wooster prepare you for this research?
“Wooster facilitates an environment for you to connect with professors and mentors. These relationships are so rare, and you cannot get that at a larger school. The people at Wooster showed me what it means to value people. There is this culture of putting people first, valuing them, and holding the idea that you are doing something with your research that can create change. At Wooster, I knew I had a bunch of people supporting me that were not just supporting me for the grade and the academic honor. They saw who I was, and they supported me every step of the way.”

How did your mentor(s) guide you as you completed your I.S.?
“My mentor was always pushing me towards the creative, towards the subjective when I was so used to the traditional, very rigid idea of research. It was so wonderful to be paired up with someone who valued people and storytelling the way I do. He encouraged me to engage with people and to offer a platform for them to tell their story. Without him, this research would not have been as dynamic, interesting, fun and meaningful. His constant encouragement to embrace the messy, complicated stuff ended up being for the best because it made the whole project a lot more honest.”

What is next for you or what are your plans after graduation?
“I’m going to be doing the summer food program in my hometown for a few months for the AmeriCorps. I will be providing food to some food-insecure kids in my little town.”

Posted in Independent Study.

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