Undergraduate Research

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STUDENT PROFILE

Meera Sam

Photo of Meera Sam standing out in a bright red blazer, smiling
Major:
Government and Sociology
Minor:
Arabic
Graduation Year:
Spring 2022
There’s no one right way to pursue research. There are so many different ways that you can get involved, be that with a professor, a program on campus, or independently. Research is very flexible and there are so many great resources at UT that will help you find what pathway fits you best!

Faculty supervisor: Independent research project with help from graduate students
Name of project: Access to Advocacy

Please give a brief, simplified overview of your research project.
My research project focused on accessibility problems with protests in the US that lead to the exclusion of marginalized populations. The research project’s main objective was to identify practical methods to make different forms of protest, like marches, rallies, and sit-ins, more accessible to the working class, disabled people, people of color and other communities.

Describe the tasks you engage in as part of your work.
My research was a community needs analysis, based on literature and collaboration with activists. I relied on literary analysis to guide my work, compiling personal narratives, news articles, and blog posts to analyze them for common themes, words, and perspectives. Using these commonalities, I identified three major issues that often prevent different groups from attending protests and attempted to find tangible solutions to address these issues.

Describe what you thought college might be like before you came to UT. Did you consider research when thinking about college?
Before arriving to UT, I thought that you could only have one academic path and that you really had to stick to it. For me that path was going to law school after undergrad, so I came to UT with the idea that I could only stick to academic interests that aligned directly with that path. I didn’t know how research would fit into the pre-law track, so I didn’t consider it.

How did you get involved with your research project?
My project started as a speech on protests that I was competing with for the Texas Speech Team. Along the way, graduate students who were my coaches at the time really pushed me to understand the research implications that the speech had. It was with their guidance that I decided to pursue Access to Advocacy as an independent research effort.

Do you see your project connecting with your plans for your future?
Access to Advocacy mainly focused on developing accessibility solutions for protests in the US. However, learning more about resistance strategies fostered my interest in further exploring non-western resistance. Countries in the global south have developed profound and radical frameworks that guide their dissent. I plan for my senior thesis to focus on exploring these frameworks and analyzing how they operate within resistance movements in the global south in an effort to draw larger, critical implications for global pathways to liberation.

What is the most interesting or surprising thing you’ve gotten to do for this project?
The most surprising thing that I have gotten to do for this project is present it at the 2019 National Communication Association (NCA) convention in Baltimore. When I submitted the project as a panel presentation to the conference, I didn’t think it would be accepted. I’m so glad that I took the risk and submitted because the conference was life changing in so many ways. Watching so many incredible scholars present their research and demonstrate their commitment to pedagogy inspired me so much. Attending NCA also motivated me to decide to get my masters in Critical Race Studies after graduation.

What advice would you give to a student who was thinking about research?
There’s no one right way to pursue research. There are so many different ways that you can get involved, be that with a professor, a program on campus, or independently. Research is very flexible and there are so many great resources at UT that will help you find what pathway fits you best!

Any final thoughts relating your research to current events and issues…or anything else you would like to add.
In every protest that I analyzed for my research project, there were always two pivotal elements guiding every act of resistance: resilience and radical optimism. These elements are powerful enough to produce meaningful change and bind people together by a common dream of creating a better world. Resistance, at its core, is borderless, hopeful, and ever-evolving and that’s what makes it beautiful.