Welcome to a new year of Student Spotlights from the Nanovic Institute! Our summer grant recipients have returned home and have been communicating with us regarding their experiences. It's wonderful to read about the exciting and productive summers that they had!
The first student that we would like to highlight is William Holland ('17). He is a double-major in Political Science and Economics who received a Summer Travel and Research Grant to conduct research on the Hartz labor market reforms in Germany. Here he is, telling us about his experience in his own words:
The Nanovic Institute Summer Travel and Research Grant allowed me to conduct my research as well as experience the culture and speak with the people affected by the topic of my research, the Hartz labor market reforms. I connected with experts who discussed the beginnings of the reforms and the complications and continuous bargaining before and after their implementation. I also spoke with individuals around Germany and learned how the reforms encouraged them to change their own working practices and strategies for finding employment. In this way, I conducted my research and understood the overarching storyline of the reforms, its causes and effects, and I was rewarded with accounts of the direct changes it made in people’s lives around Germany.
My ability to speak with German people around the country and from different tracks of life proved an invaluable research in exploring the Hartz labor reforms in depth. Since I spent a significant portion of my trip in hostels, I had the great opportunity to meet many people from different regions along with numerous staff members. While I asked professionals about actors involved in negotiations, the average citizens of Germany told me about their own experiences finding jobs after the reforms and informed me of the political debates since their implementations. A staff member at one hostel told me that she had a “mini-job,” a highly flexible but low-paying job established by the Hartz labor reforms, and we discussed her experiences and how she navigated the labor market. This is just one example of multiple conversations I had with people whose lives were impacted by the labor market reforms I was studying, and the stories I heard gave me a rich understanding of my subject and its context and German life and culture which scholarly articles and research could not have taught me.
This grant also gave me the opportunity to gain experience in conducting my own research. I have considered working on a thesis my senior year and extending my academic career to graduate school and conducting more research. This experience showed me that, while often frustrating, research is an exciting pursuit. I have learned that I can effectively create a research strategy and execute it. With these lessons in mind, I would now like to expand my research into a senior thesis by comparing my findings to other countries with higher unemployment rates and more restrictive labor markets.
I would like to extend my thanks and appreciation to the Nanovic Institute for European Studies for making this experience possible.