CW student, Ryan Pink, is an i3 Scholar at the iSchool Inclusion Institute of Information Sciences. In 2012, he spent the month of June in Pennsylvania with 18 other college students from across the country. They were broken up into five different teams to work on separate Team Research Projects and, since returning home after his month in Pennsylvania, Ryan has been working all year with his team long distance to complete their project. This Sunday, he’ll be returning to Pennsylvania for a two week program where all five teams will finally get to present their projects. I sat down with Ryan to get some more information about his experience as an i3 Scholar.
Olivia: You’ve been working on a project since last June that examines the relationship between social media and politics. Can you talk a little more about this project?
Ryan: What we’re doing is monitoring Twitter tweets with their hashtags and analyzing the traffic at times during the elections to see how it can be used more efficiently. We’re trying to see the engagement at that time using social media, which is why we chose Twitter as our main engine. We actually came up with the topic through brainstorming. We all threw out ideas, mostly consisting of media and then one person said something about politics and then another person said something about the elections, so we just put all those ideas together and came up with monitoring Twitter engagement during the political elections. That’s how it came about.
My specific role was trying to monitor the Twitter engagement. We found that doing that was kind of tedious and difficult, so we ended up actually asking for grant money to buy some tweets from Twitter. From that, I think we had to analyze ten thousand tweets, or even more, and I was assigned 5,000 tweets to see how often an individual tweeted during that time. We had to go through them by hand because sometimes Excel messed up the data. The final project we’re presenting is a PowerPoint, an oral presentation, and a poster we have to include with the data and the percentage engaged during that time.
Olivia: This project has been a group effort between you and four other students from across the country. What have you learned about working as part of a team?
Ryan: Time management is definitely one. A group member that’s from NY and others from different states in different time zones- we had to pick a certain time to come together, so I believe that time management is a certain component of that. Even at 12 o’clock when we had meetings, I had 8 o’clock class that same day. It’s really difficult trying to keep together with my schoolwork. Also, flexibility and leadership- oftentimes we had assigned leaders to each section, so I gained some leadership qualities and skills during that time. We communicated with each other through Skype and Facebook. We chose our team name, Team Time Zone Scholars, because we’re all from different time zones, all an hour away from each other.
Olivia: How did this experience affect your plans for after graduation? Do you think you’ll go on to graduate school?
Ryan: Yeah, I believe so because the economy is rough. I don’t think you could easily make it with just a bachelors. The benefits that they’re offering just because I’m in the i3 program, the colleges that will offer me scholarships, are great opportunities. The fields that they explain to you about information science are great and broaden your opportunities to get a better job. You’re not just limited. You’re expanding your, I guess you could call it your repertoire.
Olivia: What will these next two weeks look like for you?
Ryan: These two weeks will probably be difficult because some of my team members won’t be there for the first week. Some of them are actually coming on the weekend that we’re presenting, so I’m really not too sure how that’s going to go. But the first week we’re there, we have to create the poster with all the data and the disparity between the young people and the older people during that time. We really didn’t get a schedule for what we’ll be doing, but I know from the previous year that that’s what they did. After the workshop, around 3 or 5 o’clock, you get free time.
Olivia: What was the most interesting thing you learned, both from the team research project itself and from the i3 experience as a whole?
Ryan: What did I learn from the project? That a lot of people tweet! You would never think that a lot of young people actually tweeted about the presidential election and that it played a major factor in their lives. What I gained from the project isn’t really anything that I didn’t learn here, because everything I learned here was actually put in towards the project. The class I’m taking now is Business Process Analysis where we have to list out the steps of how to get from plan A to plan B. In the marketing class that I took, I wrote a paper on how I would market something. Excel played a major part and PowerPoint is really going to play a major part in my next upcoming steps. So really everything that CW’s been teaching me so far was expressed in my project and in the way I handled the project situation- the efficiency of it. But what I really gained from this experience and this trip is that when I first arrived I was kind of scared. Being a student from a small private college going up against all these other students from major universities, I didn’t know what to expect- if they’re smarter than me or if I’m not capable of what they can do- but at the end of the day and during my experience there, I realized that none of these students are really different from me. I realized that if I put my mind to it, I could compete on the same level as them. This project really showed me something I never knew about myself, because before I was very quiet, but after this whole experience, I came back a very outspoken person with the confidence of not being afraid to fail and to also accept new challenges. I really grew.
In an earlier piece he wrote about his experience, Ryan said “My advice to my fellow students is to not hesitate on something that will benefit you for the future.”
Interviewed by Olivia Rosenberg