When Emily Kopp came to the University of Georgia, she pursued a course of study focused on arts and letters, but it wasn’t long before she found her true passion in research.
“Starting off my university career as a journalism student, I was taught that you had to know a little about everything to be familiar with the issues of the day,” says Kopp, who has penned columns for The Red & Black student newspaper and for the student-run Georgia Political Review website, where she serves as associate editor. “But it’s more interesting when you get to dive deep into one subject and work to become an expert on that one thing.”
Kopp plans to graduate in May 2013 with degrees in economics, magazine journalism, and international affairs—and this summer UGA’s Center for Undergraduate Research (CURO) will provide her with the opportunity to investigate an issue that combines a number of her interests.
Kopp received a CURO Summer Fellowship, which provides a stipend to selected students to support undergraduate research that is conducted under the supervision of a faculty mentor. Only a handful of students qualify for the fellowship, which is part of CURO’s “big four” programs, which also include Honors Scholars, the CURO Symposium, and Gateway Seminars.
“I felt so lucky to get the fellowship,” says Kopp, who will research the potential economic effects brought about by the Georgia legislature’s passage of strict laws governing the use of undocumented workers. “Recent legislation has made it harder for undocumented immigrants to participate in the labor force. I would like to look at how this affects Georgia’s labor market and economy.”
Focusing on research techniques in a CURO Gateway class taught by Terry College economics professor Chris Cornwell convinced Kopp to pursue the CURO Fellowship.
“I had wanted to do this research project for about a year,” she says. “I was in Dr. Cornwell’s Introduction to Honors Research course last spring and this project has been on my brain. I did a presentation, which is how I got my feet wet with the subject. Dr. Cornwell graciously wrote me a letter of recommendation and added that he was enthusiastic about the project—and thankfully, luckily, I got picked.”
“The CURO Gateway seminar I taught last spring was designed to get students into the research lanes,” says Cornwell, who will work with Kopp this summer on the research project. “They’re offered around campus with different disciplinary focuses, and I did one designed to track people in the social sciences—and, to some degree, in business. She was in a class of high-achieving students and she distinguished herself. I was happy to help her pursue the idea she had begun to develop in the seminar.”
Kopp had her first research encounter during her sophomore year through the Roosevelt Institute, a nationwide, student-led think tank found on some 70 college campuses. That project, which concerned the mental health of children who graduate out of the state’s foster care program without ever being adopted, led her to Cornwell’s research class.
“I picked a topic I had a personal stake in,” she says. “Over the summer, I did an AmeriCorps program at a Boys & Girls Club, and there were a few kids from foster care. One kid in particular suffered from severe mental-health issues, and getting to know him and being familiar with his personal struggle got me interested in how public policy could improve with regard to kids like him.”
After her summer CURO fellowship concludes, Kopp plans to spend the fall semester doing an internship in Washington, D.C. She also plans to spend part of her summer working on a political campaign for a local resident seeking election to the Georgia General Assembly.
“I thought I would be remiss to go through my twenties and not be involved in a political campaign,” says Kopp, who also serves as treasurer of the campus chapter of Amnesty International and participates on a weekly political roundtable broadcast by WUOG. “That’s what young people do, right?”