University of Wisconsin–Madison

McNair Program jumpstarts undergraduate student’s research

UW–Madison McNair scholar to present at Research in the Rotunda

By Meghan Chua

Students from across the University of Wisconsin system present their research in the state capitol building during Research in the Rotunda, pictured here in 2017. (Photo by Andy Manis/UW System)

When Liliana Lule started college, she didn’t know she wanted to conduct her own research. Now, the UW–Madison senior is preparing to present on her latest project during Research in the Rotunda at the Wisconsin State Capitol before continuing her research as a graduate student.

Lule, who is a scholar in the Ronald E. McNair Postbaccalaureate Achievement Program, will be among the University of Wisconsin System students presenting on Wednesday, April 11 at Research in the Rotunda, the annual showcase of outstanding undergraduate researchers.

As a scholar in the McNair Program, which supports undergraduate students to pursue research and prepare for future graduate study, Lule found a supportive network.

“McNair was really vital in terms of allowing me the space to pursue this kind of research,” Lule said.

Lule’s current research, which she will present at Research in the Rotunda, explores LatinX identity formation. She draws on historical contexts and the ways in which immigration policies appear in literature to find themes in Latino-authored fiction from the ‘90s to today.

The major theme Lule discovered was the effect legal status has on LatinX immigrants and their children.

“Issues of legality are really important not just given the changing policies that exist, but also [because] I think that as a U.S. citizen it’s really hard to imagine not having these very basic rights that people are stripped of when they’re not capable of being residents,” she said.

Revel Sims, Lule’s mentor in the McNair program and an assistant professor in Urban and Regional Planning and the Chican@ and Latin@ Studies Program, said Lule’s research is unique in contextualizing policy through literature.

“It’s a very innovative way of thinking about policy frameworks to see how they get incorporated into texts from a novel or fictional perspective,” Sims said.

Lule carries a personal connection to this topic as well. As a second-generation Mexican-American, she recalls talking to family members as they went through the process of becoming documented. Those conversations influenced her research interests and illustrated how legal status can lead to different lived experiences.

“Being able to have conversations like that at home really encouraged me to pursue this research,” Lule said. “I knew from the get-go that there was going to be a very important personal impact on the lives of any Latino who might see themselves represented in the research I plan to continue.”

Lule, who will earn her bachelor’s degree in May, is weighing a few offers from graduate programs to decide which to attend. Moving forward, she hopes to continue researching LatinX identity broadly.

She said the support she has had from the McNair Scholars Program was incredibly beneficial to help her get started in research and find a direction for her research.

“It was definitely necessary for my own growth; I don’t think I would have been able to accomplish the things I have accomplished without that sort of network behind me,” she said.