Glynis Boyd Hughes is an undergraduate student at VCU majoring in English and minoring in Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies after pursuing a social work career that began in 1997. Her love of language, books, and her belief that the English language fosters communication and understanding are the key reasons she returned to VCU.
A recipient of the Jean Roy Riely Fund Scholarship that recognizes a female junior or senior older than 50 who is pursuing a higher education, Boyd Hughes is grateful to all who give and donate to ensure those coming behind them can also fulfill their dreams.
Set to graduate in December 2019, Boyd Hughes begins her senior year exploring the use of religion and responsibility in selected works by Flannery O’Conner and Zora Neale Hurston, completing a comparative analysis of these selections as part of a fellowship awarded by the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP).
In the fall, Boyd Hughes will meet with UROP director Herb Hill to discuss her research and conclusions. She will then present her findings at the UROP Research Symposium in 2019.
What motivated you to apply for the UROP fellowship?
I took an Asian American Sexualities course with Dr. Christine Cynn in Fall 2017; both she and the class opened my mind to a new level of scholarship, so much that I developed an interest in research. Also, Dr. Cynn encouraged me to apply for research opportunities and expressed confidence in my being able to make meaningful contributions to literary scholarship. She did this so well I started to believe it too! Now I am fully invested in research and indebted to Dr. Cynn for her guidance and support.
Why did you decide to get involved in your topic of research?
I believe literature is a bridge we can use to understand one another, as we find common, connecting ground through the stories we share. O’Connor and Hurston were different writers, on the surface; yet further investigation shows they had more in common than one would think, especially as it relates to a person having responsibility for their life choices, not solely a deity or circumstances. I find this point interesting, as O’Connor was a devout Catholic and Hurston a Baptist-turned-humanist.
What do you propose to find out or discover in your research?
I intend to make a clear connection between O’Connor and Hurston to support my claim: regardless of each writer’s faith stance, both shared a commitment to portraying humans as directly involved in the unfolding of their lives, good or not. I also intend to demonstrate their representations of gender and class dynamics as foundational to their characterization of individual freedom. This claim supports my larger vision of examining writers who use written language to promote ideals applicable to all people, in an empowering manner.
Why is your involvement in this program important to you?
I intend to pursue graduate and post-graduate studies. Being able to write academically, in an effective and inclusive manner, is integral to the career I’m pursuing as well as adding to literary scholarship and doing my part in dismantling intolerance. I also find research satisfies my childhood dream of being a real life Nancy Drew–the literary kind!
What does it mean to you to have been selected to be a part of the UROP fellow?
It confirms that life is an unfolding experience, as we discover unknown layers to ourselves. I had no inkling that returning to college at age 49 to complete undergraduate studies would be the catalyst to embracing amazing growth and insight, of a path that allows me to be my best self as I welcome exciting opportunities for personal and professional development. I have been dually humbled and inspired by being selected for the program.
Have you faced any challenges with your work so far?
Writing academically is a skill I am perfecting as I have been a creative writer all of my life–quite different forms, to say the least! Also, learning to navigate information and sources–whew! And I have to give a shout out to my Advanced Writing instructor, Andrew Spencer, who helped me see the light in the value and purpose of proper citation–thank you!
What has been your favorite part, so far, about the UROP?
Challenging myself to come out of my “comfort zone” has been great. Also, having a research idea and working with Dr. Cynn to bring it to fruition as a quality, academic level paper brings a true sense of accomplishment.
Would you encourage fellow students to apply for a UROP fellowship?
YES!! And definitely my English program peers–research is NOT just for science and medicine! While the latter is important, as we know–we must never forget nor downplay that a world without the illumination literary research provides is a world still very much in darkness. ALL voices matter!
Written by Jess Wetzler