4 Questions for Jacqueline Drayer - Fulbright Research Grant Winner

Jacqueline Drayer
June 16, 2015
Jacqueline Drayer, who recently graduated magna cum laude from the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences, has been awarded a Fulbright Research Study Grant. This Fall she will be traveling to Belgium for a year to study adaptively reused art museum architecture. 
At GW, Jacqueline studied American Studies, graduating with Special Honors. As an undergraduate in the Honors Program, she actively pursued research and was named both a Luther Rice Fellow and an Enosinian Scholar. Jacqueline also gained experience presenting her research at GW's Research Days, the National Conferences on Undergraduate Research, and the Harvard University National Collegiate Research Conference. She is now working towards a Master's degree in American Studies/Historic Preservation, also at GW.  
Jacqueline applied for a Fulbright Research/Study Grant to Belgium because of its museums' frequent adoption of adaptive reuse, that is, the repurposing of unused historic buildings for new functions while maintaining their historic integrity. She will study Belgium's history of adaptive reuse and its cultural, environmental, and economic benefits for museums and citizens. Jacqueline's final product will be a guide for US museums to encourage more adaptive reuse here at home.
How did you hear about the Fulbright Research/Study Grants and what inspired you to apply for one to Belgium? What was the application process like?
I was dimly aware of the Fulbright program in college, but a CUFR email made me think seriously about applying. I chose Belgium because of its rich art and architectural history - the focus of my research - and because I studied French in high school. Fulbright's application process is demanding. For research proposals it is essential to find an affiliate institution and mentor. This person writes a letter of support for your proposal. I didn't know any Belgians. Fortunately Professor Philip Jacks connected me with Dirk de Meyer, an architectural design and history professor at Ghent University. He agreed to be my affiliation, and I will work with him in Ghent. The application also requires three letters of recommendation, a language evaluation, personal statement, online application, and a grant proposal.
What sorts of research projects did you work on as an undergraduate and how did research add to your college experience?
As an undergraduate I completed two major research projects: an independent study and a senior thesis. The independent study about micro housing was something I chose to do purely out of interest in research and learning about a contemporary urban phenomenon. It was a great experience to design my own study and explore exactly what I wanted. It was much more challenging than any class paper I have ever written. Having experience writing successful grant proposals (I was a Luther Rice Fellow and Enosinian Scholar) and sharing my work at conferences helped me with Fulbright too. Plus it was fun - and my friends even asked about my research! I gained similar benefits from my thesis.
As an American Studies major at GW, you have focused a lot on architecture and urban studies. Could you tell us how this interest developed and how you cultivated it at GW?
I'm unsure what sparked my interest in architecture and urbanism. I grew up in Florida's suburbs, in a city without exemplary architecture. When I came to GW I had many interests, but gravitated towards the historic preservation focus in American Studies. The department really supports undergraduates. Outside the great classes, professors and PhD students talked to me about my interests and provided guidance. Like my friends, I also took advantage of GW's location to work and intern. I gave tours at the National Building Museum and Woodrow Wilson House, interned at the DC Historic Preservation Office, and did unrelated things, like being an assistant editor at the Federal Reserve.
Do you have any advice for students just starting out with research?
My advice for students beginning research is don't be afraid to push the envelope. The idea of research is to be bold. This extends beyond research topic or method, and to who you reach out to for help, and to the funding you seek. If a grant sounds amazing but is a longshot - go for it. My experience is that sometimes you are not chosen for a little thing and it sets you up to receive a bigger opportunity later. Freshman year I was rejected for a job taping flyers to lamp posts! Instead I got a paid internship at the Smithsonian. Failure is fine if you keep going.
Interested in undergraduate research or a Fulbright Research/Study Grant? Please make an appointment with our office!