“I want people to know research is accessible and occurs in every discipline.”
FSU senior David Advent is challenging the way people think about research as he follows his passion for English and teaching.
Advent was born and raised in Boiling Springs, North Carolina, a small town of less than 5,000 people about an hour west of Charlotte. When he was deciding where to attend college, Advent knew Florida was a long way from home. But his first visit to Tallahassee convinced him FSU was the right place to make his college home.
“When you walk on this campus, there’s just a sense of belonging, and that’s why I chose to come here,” Advent said. “It was someplace where I felt I could grow personally, but that I could also give back and contribute to this community as well.”
Advent has made the most of his time at Florida State. As a high-achieving student, he was accepted by the Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program (UROP), which provides undergraduate students opportunities to pursue research projects that interest them. The program accepts first- and second-year students from every college on campus.
Once Advent completed UROP, he wanted to give back. He signed up to serve as a leader mentor, and the experience had a powerful impact. It confirmed his vision to pursue a career in academia and teaching.
“UROP taught me a lot about the mechanics of research, which is always valuable and good to know,” Advent said. “As a UROP leader, this has been the most formative experience showing me what I want to do with the rest of my life.”
The experience also dramatically changed Advent’s perception of research — it’s not limited to the laboratory. As a leader with the Student Council for Undergraduate Research and Creativity, Advent is breaking down stereotypes about research and showing students the vast possibilities for research.
“There is this stigma that research is only STEM-based in a lab, and that’s totally not true,” said Advent, whose research focuses on topics in English. “I want people to know research is accessible and occurs in every discipline whether it’s dance, art history, English, biology, it’s all around. FSU makes those opportunities readily available to students, and I wish more people would take advantage of them.”
Advent’s grant allowed him to travel to Dorchester, England, over the summer of 2018 to conduct research for his honors thesis on English novelist and poet Thomas Hardy.
Advent visited Hardy’s boyhood home and an archival center in Dorchester — the inspiration for the town of Dorset in Hardy’s novels — to better understand the setting and history of the novels.
The experience was essential. He was able to examine first-edition poems from Hardy’s literary archive, and now Advent has answers to compile an ecocritical reading that examines the role of the landscape in Hardy’s books.
“It was so interesting and valuable for my thesis to see that firsthand and to be able to not only interact with the archival materials, but also the physical landscape as well,” Advent said. “I can’t even begin to describe how thankful I am for receiving that grant. It has provided such a richer context for my thesis.”
Following that research trip, Advent embarked on his next adventure: joining a study-abroad program in London. He completed a literature class there, which included visits to many of the places described in the novels he read.
Advent returned from his summer in England with a new understanding and fuller appreciation of the literature he studied there. The entire experience has given him greater confidence about a career as a professor of English. He plans to pursue a doctorate in ecocriticism and British literature.
Advent said his FSU experience has been pivotal in helping him choose a career path.
“These opportunities have really helped me to realize that in the grand scheme of things, teaching is important, and it has the opportunity to affect people’s lives in a very positive way. I can’t thank FSU enough for that.”
Advent credits Florida State for expanding his worldview and arming him with the tools necessary for success.
“FSU has really opened my eyes to the world,” Advent said. “It’s taught me so much about myself and the world. Without those research experiences and without the faculty who are so committed to helping you grow as a person, I’d never have been able to be where I am today.”