Interview with KU BEARS Recipient Jesse Wilkinson

In the Summer of 2021 Social Work major Jesse Wilkinson was awarded a KU BEARS Grant to examine social isolation in rural Pennsylvania under the mentorship of Dr. Christopher Harris.

How has this experience contributed to your undergraduate education and your life goals?

A lot of the things that I learned [in class] we don't really get a chance to actually execute. We learned all about research and the ethics of it. Like you know it's the backbone of the social work profession. Everything is based on [studies] in peer-reviewed information journals, so to actually be a part of that and contributing to that body of knowledge was inspiring.

What experiences will you take from this summer’s research that will impact your future in education, research, or professional career?

Well, it gives me experience so I'll be less apprehensive about doing [research] in the future. As far as information gathering goes, it was immensely important I had to reach out to all the different rural counties in Pennsylvania and find a director for mental health services. I know the importance of research, I know all the work that goes into it. It's not something that's done overnight. It usually takes a team of people, so I think just an overall understanding of what this term means is important.

Could you give a little background information on your project?

Covid-19 created isolation among everyone all over the world because everyone was locked down. Now many people were familiar with being connected through social media. We were still connected talking to each other even though we were not near each other, but people living in rural areas who are elderly may not have ever had a need for any of that stuff. Then you’ve got to ask, if you are over sixty-five years old and you’ve never used a [smart] phone in your whole life, did you ever go on the internet, can you get internet, are you comfortable using it? We contacted a lot of these people living in rural areas and tried to find out what their thoughts and opinions on [the use of technology] were.

What advice would you give to someone who is thinking about applying for a KU BEARS Grant?

It's great, it pays above average, there's incentive right there. You have objectives, well for my study I had objectives of what I had to do, but I could make my own schedule. It was a nice little bonus every two weeks for doing some I really like to do. I would say if you are considering doing it, you might as well just go all the way, because you work with a lot of your professors so you know you have friendly people to guide you. You work with some other peers and I mean it’s just really satisfying.

To learn more about the program please visit the KU BEARS.