A Transformative Undergraduate Research Experience

Marian University student and McNair program participant, Maria Weeks, reflects on her experience conducting an undergraduate research project on the combined therapeutic power of art and nature.

As part of the McNair research experience, I developed an Art Therapy/Nature Therapy intervention and led three groups of abuse survivors and counselors through the intervention on three separate occasions.  The work was meant to determine the mental, physical and spiritual benefits of converging the two types of activities.

I believe that the findings of this research will impact how people view healing from trauma. It is not one type of experience or opportunity that counts when trying to heal. It is instead a combination of many small courtesies and kind offerings that experienced simultaneously truly allow healing to begin occurring.   It’s a long and delicate process that doesn’t begin or end at convenient times or likely places, yet those who survive find they need to locate ways to carry on and function the best they can…they are resilient without even knowing it sometimes.  I think society may also consider the many varied benefits of having wooded recreational areas available to people who seek solitude, and peace, for the sake of healing and rejuvenating after life-given turmoil.

I had many supportive people surrounding me. Among them were: Dr. Janet McCord, Dr. Susan Bornstein-Forst, Teri Durkin, Garry Moise, Chelsea Sievert, and Leah Klapperich. I‘m grateful to them one and all!!  I also would have been lost without the companionship and support of the other McNair Scholars!  I had a great time getting to know everyone.

I feel it went incredibly well!  I grew so much from this experience–having come to the program a meek and uncertain person, I found ways to blossom and grow–taking the lead and making things happen that I never thought I could.  It fulfilled a dream of mine to be gentle, kind, and mindfully caring leader — losing the fear of incompetence to strive to do all that I can to make sure I’m prepared and capable.

Conducting a full-scale research project is long and arduous. Often times, it leads us to strange and difficult impasses both personal and intellectual. Yet, it’s so very worth it to see what comes forth at the end of the experience.  I feel like a butterfly newly emerging and transforming.

The research experience was harder than I thought, and more involved–it was also more emotionally complex!  Yes, the work contained elements of logistic and numeric driven results, but it also contained a whole lot of content and meaningful life messages imparted from one person to others.  It made my heart sing and cry to hear and see and understand the pains and triumphs that in this life occur.

While working on this research project, it has helped me learn that I’m stronger than I think and that sometimes when it seems that I have just messed up or made fatal mistakes, I’m the only one who sees things that way.  I’ve been my own worst enemy when really I just needed a great friend.  I’m starting to learn to make that happen in my life more and more and this process has really made a difference for me as I go forth chasing my dreams.

After completing this research project, I’m hoping to gain admission into either Marquette University, or Mount Mary College to engage in Graduate School studies. I plan on furthering my education while working in the field helping others to continue trying to find ways to heal.

Maria Weeks, of Hartford, Wis., is a senior at Marian University, majoring in both Expressive Therapeutic Art and Studio Art. She will complete her undergraduate degree in May 2013


2 thoughts on “A Transformative Undergraduate Research Experience

  1. Pingback: Art Therapy and Its Role in PTSD Treatment for Combat Veterans | TRiO/McNair News – Marian University

  2. Pingback: McNair Student Reflects On Domestic Violence Research Project | TRiO/McNair News – Marian University

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