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Becoming a Researcher - and Discovering a Friendship

As one of BrandJRNY’s Research Directors, it may be surprising to hear that it was a role I had never considered before starting this project. I read the descriptions of the jobs we would be applying for, and I remember thinking, “I could never do research!” This was mainly because Dr. Colistra stressed the importance of the research directors and how heavily their roles contributed to both the fall and spring semesters. To be quite honest, I was scared of the role. I was unsure of myself and my abilities,since my previous experience with conducting research was minimal. But, Dr. Colistra must have had more faith in myself than I did, because here we are! As I reflect, I can’t thank her enough for trusting me with this role. There are several things I have learned along the way in my journey.


One of the most important lessons BrandJRNY has taught me is to roll with whatever life throws at you, and make sure it doesn’t ruin your day. For example, while we were driving down to Point Pleasant for the Kickoff event my car broke down on the highway. Not only was this my first experience with car complication, but it was also my first time leading a roundtable discussion. Let's just say, this unexpected experience did not make my nerves any better. Fortunately, I had already learned to expect the unexpected, so I didn’t let it affect my day. If anything, it made the rest of the day seem like a breeze, and my nerves disappeared.


Another part of this project I loved was getting to know and become incredibly close with my other research director, Anne Parker. While I have love towards all of my teammates, I

Caption: Anne and I at the Mothman Festival | Source: Anne Parker

spent most of my time with Anne and grew close with her. If you can believe it, Anne and I didn’t really know each other before this semester. I remember the day Dr. Colistra announced our roles, Anne and I exchanged a nervous smile and glance, not exactly knowing how the semester would go.


From our first day spent doing research together, we instantly clicked. There was no awkward getting to know each other phase or pauses in conversation; it felt like we had been friends for years. I could not have done this work or gotten through this semester without her and her support. Getting to know Anne and becoming part of “Channe” as the team lovingly refers to us as, has been one of the best parts of being in BrandJRNY. She is truly a forever friend.


As I reflect on my time with BrandJRNY, there is an overwhelming amount of love and gratitude that I feel. Not only towards my team, but also the community of Point Pleasant. They have been friendly and welcoming from the start, and shared as much as excitement as we have (maybe even more!) for this project. I am a proud West Virginian who sees the potential this state holds, and it’s a beautiful feeling to be in a community that feels the same way. As daunting as the research seemed from the start, and how much time I spent in the midst of it all, it never felt like tedious work. It felt like I was helping shape the future of Point Pleasant, and words can never accurately describe that feeling.


My name is Chelsea Harper. I am one of the Research Directors for BrandJRNY’s Point Pleasant project. The love of my life is my 100-pound dog, Olive. Follow me through our journey, and unreasonable amounts of dog pics --- @chelseaharperrr

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Housed at the WVU Media Innovation Center, BrandJRNY is a community branding initiative that is a grant-funded collaboration between the American Electric Power Foundation and WVU Reed College of Media.

The Initiative was previously funded by the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation for our three pilot projects.

Original website designed by Mariah Elliott, under the direction of PI and Director Dr. Rita Colistra.

Photos and content may not be used without written permission by contacting brandjrny@gmail.com.

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