Should states have the right to secede?

Haley BrownPhoto/Mike Lovett

Haley Brown ’22

While members of the Brandeis community were likely anticipating challenges with maintaining campus connections at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Haley Brown ’22 has spent the last year conducting research with field-leading faculty members and gaining essential experience in her fields of study. These opportunities were made possible, in part, with the support of the office of Undergraduate Research and Creative Collaborations (URCC). 

“The URCC definitely helped me achieve my research goals. They have been a motivating and supportive presence,” said Brown.

Brown—a double major in American Studies and Film, Television and Interactive Media—first learned about the URCC during her sophomore year. “At the time, I had no idea what research in my academic fields really looked like,” she said. However, after speaking with Margaret Lynch, the URCC director, Brown became aware of the wealth of opportunities for undergraduates to participate in research at Brandeis. 

One of these opportunities was working with Daniel Breen, a professor of Legal Studies. Their paper, “A Case for Secession: A Constitutional and Comparative Analysis,” examines the history and legality of secession, both in the United States and internationally. “Part of what this research requires is reimagining the possibility of secession in the United States beyond the South’s infamous 1860 attempt,” Brown explained. Attempting to look beyond the association of the term “secession” with the acts of the Civil War-era American South, Brown argues for the theoretical legal right of states to secede. 

Brown was delighted to collaborate with Breen. “I am so grateful that he agreed,” she said. “Working with him on this research has been one of the most invaluable experiences of my time at Brandeis.” She was able to pursue the opportunity thanks to a Jerome A. Schiff Fellowship, which provides funding for students conducting research in any field to work with a faculty mentor of their choice. Brown applied for and received the fellowship with the support of Lynch and the URCC.

Over the next year, Brown experienced significant growth as a budding scholar. “I began this process with very little knowledge about how to actually go about a year-long research project,” she said. However, the first-hand research experience and mentorship afforded Brown taught her what sound academic research looks like. “I feel that I have emerged with a better understanding of the intricacies, way of thinking, and time management involved in conducting research.”

Brown also appreciates the effort that the URCC staff took to help her develop as a researcher. “Margaret Lynch has been such an incredible resource,” she said. “Not only did she offer us guidance in conducting our own individual research, but she also facilitated conversations between researchers across disciplines, which helped keep us on track and understand each other’s work.”

The URCC also provides opportunities for students to present their findings. On April 30, Brown looks forward to sharing her research at Brandeis’ first annual all-disciplines Undergraduate Research and Creative Collaborations Symposium. As she sees it, the symposium not only provides a forum for undergraduates to present their research and creative projects, but also facilitates interaction between scholars across multiple disciplines. “[The symposium] is a great chance to meet other students and faculty, gain exposure to different departments, learn about conducting research and support the Brandeis community.”

After the symposium, Brown’s work with Breen will continue.

“Dan and I will be co-authoring a paper that expands on much of what we will introduce at the symposium,” she said. She will then have another opportunity to present that paper at the 2021 Law and Society Association conference. Ultimately, the knowledge, experience, and mentorship Brown found through the URCC has given her the confidence that will continue to benefit her throughout her scholarship. “I feel lucky to go to a school with faculty and staff who not only care about helping me pursue my academic goals, but who also trust me enough to do so.”

Brown’s experience with the URCC and research at Brandeis has been so positive that she is eager for others to share in the experience. “I really hope to see other students at the symposium,” she said. Her advice to other undergraduates who are interested in participating in research at Brandeis is emphatic: “Take the initiative and go for it! There are excellent resources available to you, such as the URCC, which can inform you about research and fellowship opportunities.”

If you are interested in seeing Brown’s presentation at the Undergraduate Research Symposium, along with research and creative projects from other Brandeis students, please register on the symposium page on the URCC website.

Categories: Humanities and Social Sciences, Student Life

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