by Francis Cuadros Bloch
Hi! I am Francis Cuadros Bloch, a rising senior double majoring in Economics and International Affairs. I was in the 2018-2019 International Politics cohort of WLP. Ever since, my admiration, gratitude, and respect towards the WLP staff, alumni, and the amazing women that I have had the chance to meet, engage with, and learn from, have grown exponentially. As an international student from Bolivia, the strong engagement and connection that I developed towards the WLP community at GWU led me to apply for the WLP Archival Summer Research Award. Upon realizing that I was given the research award, the first thing I felt was excitement, I immediately called my mom back in Bolivia to tell her the amazing news. Yet, when she asked me “what is the research about?” how will you perform the research? a sense of doubt and concern invaded my head. I did not have clear answers to her questions. I realized then, that honestly I did not know what I was getting myself into with this research project. Despite the fact that I had already taken various research-focused classes and had written various research papers, little did I know that performing a research project by organizing a schedule, compiling quantitative and qualitative data, learning research and organizational tools, and assembling master documents containing more than 20 years of striking information and data of the WLP symposium events, were going to be the tasks that characterized my day-to-day work as a researcher during this past summer.
Now, looking back at what Megan Ortman, my fellow intern, and I have done during the last two months, it is pride and satisfaction that I feel. Because what started with a Zoom meeting, various, unrelated datasets, a vague research prompt, two confused interns, and the unresolved question of “what do we do,” ended up as two master documents loaded with crucial datum items like visuals, emails, and first-hand experiences, which were the building blocks of the information recounting the magnificent trajectory of the WLP symposia. I evaluate Megan’s dedication and commitment to the research project, as well as mine, both quantitatively through the use of quantification and numbers, but also qualitatively through the growth, experience, feelings, and actions perceived by us while performing this research.
Within weeks, Megan and I have compiled more than 20 years’ worth of research and data. Quantitatively, the end product of this summer research contains more than 1,000 entries of symposium speakers and events, it is divided into cohorts and event types, and it includes links to photo albums from the particular symposium event. Although it was exhausting to uncover and wrestle with data that was incomplete and all over the place, I was amazed by the fact that I was reading emails that contained information about symposium events that were circulating even before I was born. I was observing visuals from events taking place in 1999, and reading symposiums’ syllabi composed more than 20 years back.
Qualitatively, as a WLP alumna, this experience has been both empowering and amazing. I feel extremely lucky not only to have been selected to be a part of the WLP program my freshman year but also to have had the chance to perform this research and help compile and uncover more data of what I consider a network of empowered women with a prominent and incredible legacy: the WLP community. In a google document, with an outline containing the speaker’s biographies, distinguished events, theater plays, museum exhibitions, field trips, research nights, and many more entries, Megan and I have compiled the qualitative data where the experiences, feelings, and actions of all of these symposium events concerning with women’s leadership can be found.
As we were compiling the data, I realized the importance of the process of connecting dots while doing research. I vividly remember moments when I was reading the biography of a speaker that, for example, was present in a symposium back in 2008, and recalling that I had attended a symposium in 2019 where I had the chance to hear from the same speaker. I share this experience of making connections in my head and with the data because it thrilled me to discover the magnitude and importance of the WLP network and community. Yet, I am sure that it will continue to grow with the years to come.
So this is how I define my summer as a researcher. It included moments of uncertainty, fear, realization, amazement, understanding, and empowerment. I have put my research skills and knowledge into practice while at the same time expanding both exponentially. Within these few weeks of intensive research, I have grown so much, I have learned so much, I have strived so much, and above all, I have enjoyed performing this WLP Archival Summer Research so much.