Featured Profile: Mary Lynn Bunkley

Featured Profile: Mary Lynn Bunkley

Mary Lynn Bunkley

Mary Lynn Bunkley is a junior majoring in history with an IP minor in “Cultural Diplomacy”. This past summer Mary received a scholarship to study abroad in France.

First, can you tell us a little about yourself?

I am a junior at UT and I am majoring in history.

Why did you apply to TIP Fellows?

I wanted to join TIP because it offered me the chance to pursue my academic interests outside of my history major. TIP Fellows offers a unique opportunity to pursue interdisciplinary study in an area that you are interested in. It is a one-of-a-kind program on the University of Texas campus.

Describe your research project this summer.

This summer I traveled with the UT French Department to Lyon, France, where I studied French and French culture. The program was unique because it offered a home stay component where students lived with a family in the French suburbs. In experiencing culture with a host family and studying it in my classes, I was able to compare concepts or events with the perception effect of those studies to French people and in the study of their cultures.

Tell us about your field of interest and how/why you chose it.

Within my study of “ Cultural Diplomacy” I intend to examine these societal differences in the context of the rise of globalization to better understand other societies and how American diplomats can best connect with them on a political level. In my research I intend to ask in what ways do a people’s background, language, and perceptions affect the way they work with others. It is important in my study to not only emphasize the foreign aspect of cultures that influence these interactions but to understand aspects of American society, such as how our cultural norms and values are perceived abroad, to better understand these negotiations.

Do you plan to draw on what you’ve discovered in your research for your Capstone project?

This summer in France, I learned valuable information about how to study a society’s sociological and culture
aspects to understand how a people’s past can define them. During the program I gained a better grasp of what defines a group’ s culture and how culture and the perceptions that flow from it are a powerful force in modern societies.

What kind of interesting things have you discovered during your research into your topic?

This summer I learned the difference between big “C” and little “c” culture and how major cultural aspects such as the arts are as impactful on a society as smaller cultural aspects like greetings and clothing. One of the most fascinating glimpses I have had of cultural diplomacy thus far was in research I did for an American studies class on the 1930s Pan-American conferences South American. In studying the conference transcripts and the resulting programs, I learned the extent of cultural diplomacy and how it can encompasses anything from cinema to education.

What have you personally gotten out of the research process in your studies?

In pursuing the research process for my topic I have gained excitement from my studies. Participating in TIP Fellows allows you to focus your efforts on subjects that you are the most interested and gear your class schedule towards those topics. In many ways I have found my Fellows coursework to be more fulfilling than other classes I have taken at UT. In addition, during my study abroad program this summer I became confident in my foreign language abilities and so far this year I have seen that academic confidence translated into difficult coursework in other subjects.