Week 10: Reflection – Detroit Community-Engaged Research Program

Week 10: Reflection

Week Ten Blog – Read the letter you wrote to yourself in your first blog post and write a reaction to it. What have you learned? How have your perceptions or opinions changed? How have you evolved? Did you expectation meet reality?

Looking back at the letter I wrote to myself ten weeks ago, all I can think about is that I wish I would’ve read the letter five weeks earlier. Why? Well, because it would’ve kept me from being so hard on myself, while I faced the challenge of being assigned to a project that I had never heard of before. What’s this, it’s BRT—Bus Rapid Transit, the topic that I have now spent over 350 hours researching; the topic that I incessantly and passionately talk to my friends and family about and the topic I spent weeks stressing over because I had no idea what was going on.

These past two months were not easy. In fact, I felt absolutely lost the first few weeks with my project. In addition to not being familiar with the project, I wasn’t really even sure where to start. I also had never had research experience before, so I became increasingly frustrated with my lack of ability to actually produce results. I didn’t understand that it was ok to have a learning curve. All I could think about were the research deadlines I had to meet, and how I still had only heard of BRT a week prior.

Furthermore, midway through my project, things changed… for the better, ultimately. The LPA (Locally Preferred Alternative) that I was supposed to evaluate hadn’t been released yet. It was supposed to be released in March, but here I am in August, still, without an LPA. Also the research I had been originally assigned, didn’t seem to make so much sense.

However, my supervisor was really flexible and supportive when I brought my concerns up to her, and she helped me to adjust my project. Another incident took a turn for the better when we met with the consulting company designing the BRT and learned that they were basically on the same page as us… this meant less advocating and worrying about the standard of our BRT system. Finally, the best turn for the better was after establishing a relationship with the ITDP (the one’s who evaluate BRT), they agreed to evaluate the LPA for us. That being said, all of these events took a turn for the better!

I’m rambling, but what all this means is that I often wondered how much of an impact my research was really having on the organization. Was my time well spent? Did I leave them with something to work with? Did I make an impact? And this of course, stressed me out—which is why I wish I would’ve read my letter to myself earlier.

As far as the impact my research had on the organization goes, the truth is, I don’t’ know yet. My supervisor has yet to read my analysis on passing lanes, off-board fare collection, branding and station design, but what I do know is that these connections we partially developed by me. I also know that I have learned so much in this experience: about BRT, regionalism, organizational culture, how to work independently and how to research. This experience has been invaluable and I feel absolutely fortunate to have completed this project.


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