Undergraduate Research

Maya McCollum '23

OUR Featured Researcher: Maya McCollum '23


Maya McCollum
Photo credit: Tanya Rosen-Jones

Maya Mc Collum (she/her) is a TIMARA and Studio Art major conducting mentored research under Technical Director/Lecturer Abby Aresty. She has worked with Abby on a number of different projects including "Artifact, Sonic Arts in Society, and GEAR (Girls Electronic Arts Retreat)". 

Please describe your project: 

I have been involved in Professor Abby Aresty’s research for the past three years and have worked on a number of different projects in that time. This last year I was involved in Artifact Kitchen, a project that brought together ESOL students and Kendal residents in the making of a collaborative cookbook, through which they could share their own stories and memories about food. I was involved in developing workshop materials and activities, synthesizing the materials created by the participants into the final cookbook, and helping to run the workshops themselves. I was also involved in the development of the Gratitude Showers Challenge, where we collected words of gratitude for hospital staff from children and members of the Oberlin community. The project had to be altered due to COVID 19, but we are still planning to install a group of gratitude umbrellas, with solar-powered speakers playing sounds of raindrops and the words of the community members displaced across the surface, in the University Hospitals Elyria Medical Center.

A brief summary (the elevator speech) of your research project:

During my time at Oberlin, I have worked on a number of projects with Professor Abby Aresty. This past year I was involved in running a version of Artifact called Artifact Kitchen, which brought together ESOL students and Kendal residents to share stories about food and create a collaborative cookbook. I have also worked on the Gratitude Showers Challenge, creating an installation for the University Hospitals Elyria Medical Center involving words of gratitude from the community. 

Why is your research important?  Why is it important to your field? Why is it important outside your field? What implications does your research have for society?

The work that I have done with Abby Aresty is important because it brings together communities of people and teaches skills relating to art and technology.  

What does the process of doing your research look like?

A day in the life of a project can vary quite a bit depending on the stage. It might involve working on an IRB proposal, helping run a workshop, creating graphics, or troubleshooting some misbehaving technology.

What knowledge has your research contributed to your field? What are your findings so far?

I think the research contributes to understanding how we create community and develop relationships through creative processes.

In what ways have you showcased your research?

Documentation of the projects exists online in various ways, including animation, digital cookbooks, and photographic representations, as well as in the form of papers. A lot of the time the research we do throughout the project contributes to how we improve the experience for the next iteration.

How did you get involved in research?

I have long been interested in community-based and collaborative art projects. Through my research with Abby Aresty, I have been able to experience this in the context of developing workshops and collaborative projects side by side with research relating to learning, community, and technology.

How has the research you’ve conducted contributed to your professional or academic development?

I think it has made me consider wider possibilities for how creative practices can reach beyond the self and out into the world in beneficial ways.

What advice would you give to a younger student wanting to get involved in research in your field?

To learn as much as you can from your mentor.