Amanda Rogers ‘18: Stretching her Wings at Stetson
Amanda Rogers wasn’t sure of her major when she arrived at Stetson and, through the college’s Discovery Program, quickly became “so surprised with the opportunities here at Stetson, really surprised.”
A Midwest native, Rogers eventually chose Communication and Media Studies – a degree she hopes to use by pursuing work with the Direct Action and Research Training Center, or DART, a national network of 21 affiliated grassroots, nonprofit, congregation-based community organizations.
Along with her major, Rogers also discovered an opportunity to study “trail magic” – and to practice trail magic, too.
A nontraditional student who was pursuing higher ed after a seven-year gap, Rogers had always wanted to hike the Appalachian Trail. She had planned to do so with her husband, a Marine, and her sister, but things fell through.
One of her professors told her about the SURE grant — the Stetson Undergraduate Research Experience. The program seeks to foster excellence in research and creative activity, and is centered around an eight-week research-intensive experience in which students work on an individual project under the mentorship of a faculty member.
“My professor said, ‘We’ll give you money. You can study anything you want,’” Rogers said. “I was like, ‘Well, surely there’s something on the Appalachian Trail that needs to be studied.’ What I came up with was trail magic, which is this phenomenon where people provide help to through-hikers — food, places to sleep, medical care, things like that. I was like, ‘Wow, this is kindness. Why is this happening here? Can it be replicated elsewhere?’ These were some of my research questions.”
Rogers received the SURE grant and spent five days on the Appalachian Trail conducting “interviews with people who had experience with trail magic and who performed trail magic.”
Her time in the woods “was a hard experience,” but also “it was a really amazing experience,” she said. “I got to do some trail magic, which was cool.”
Rogers presented “Trail Magic: A Qualitative Look at Pro-Social Behavior on the Appalachian Trail,” based on her SURE research, at Stetson Showcase in April.
Drawing from her Communication and Media Studies major, she also gave a second Stetson Showcase presentation on “‘Taste the Feeling’: Persuasive Representations of Health and Consumption in Coca-Cola Advertisements.”
“I was really, really interested in media literacy, and studying how information is disseminated, who is responsible for that, what some of the motivations are,” Rogers said. “I learned some things that are kind of scary about our world, but exciting, as someone who maybe can step in and work with that information.”
Stetson’s Discovery Program aims to help students, like Rogers, who are undecided on a major when they enter Stetson. Those students automatically become members of the Discovery, although all students are welcome and encouraged to participate in this “hub of active exploration and reflection with faculty, staff, students and alumni that can assist students in progressing successfully through their undergraduate career.”
Rogers said other surprising opportunities for her included having her research from her Social Foundations of Education class published in an academic journal as a freshman, and presenting her study on “representation” in the new “Ghostbusters” movie at an academic conference.
Rogers said she “didn’t even know” such opportunities existed for undergrads until they were presented by her professors.
Conversations with her advisor, the dean of students and Lindsey Carelli, assistant director for Interfaith Initiatives, helped her explore world views vastly different than her own, Rogers said, even as her own perspective “was definitely met here with a lot of grace and a lot of attention. … I’ll graduate without feeling like I had to necessarily compromise on all my beliefs or become somebody who I’m not in order to make that happen.”
Rogers’s goal is to work with DART, whose mission is “to bring people together across racial, religious and socioeconomic lines to pursue justice in their communities,” according to the website, thedartcenter.org. Such work will be bolstered not only by her Communication degree but also by her entire Stetson experience.
“Stetson has a lot of diversity,” Rogers said. “I’ve met people from all different walks of life (with) really different goals, really different ideas about the world, and the vast majority of the time they have found a place to connect, and to learn and grow. Not that it’s not challenging at times, but I think that challenge is part of becoming a full person. It can be worth it to kind of stretch your wings a little.”