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K-State Today Student Edition

February 1, 2012

Fostering scholarship: Senior's quest for knowledge drives research, volunteerism

Submitted by Communications and Marketing

Community has been a defining characteristic of Michelle Foster's life.

As a high school senior Foster was selected as a Kansas State University Edgerley-Franklin Urban Leadership Scholarship recipient for notable contributions to her community. Little has changed for Foster, now a senior in political science and American ethnic studies, Lansing, since arriving in Manhattan. She maintains a diverse array of scholarly interests and activities, as well as a propensity for volunteerism.

Foster's academic pursuits include two majors, two minors and membership in the university's Developing Scholars Program. Her minors are women's studies and leadership studies. She also has a pre-law emphasis. Foster values the humanities because of a desire to better understand how government and societies work and to better appreciate the role of gender and race in American culture. Her research with the Developing Scholars Program reaffirms this fact.

The Developing Scholars Program offers underrepresented students opportunities to research projects with faculty mentors. As Developing Scholars, students receive academic, social and financial support while participating in the discovery and creation of new knowledge at the university. Foster is working with Tanya Gonzalez, associate professor of English, to research immigration and the representation of Latinos in the media. The duo first examined how Latinos were portrayed in popular television shows like "Ugly Betty" and "Modern Family." Their research later transitioned into how Latin American immigration is viewed in the United States.

"This came from the huge immigration debate that sprouted earlier that year and we thought it would be an excellent opportunity to document what people were saying about immigration and compare it to the era when 'Ugly Betty' came on the air," Foster said.

Foster also traveled to China during summer 2011 to further her study of the Chinese language. Wowed by the Great Wall and enthralled by the country's cuisine, Foster stayed for a month and soaked up the Chinese culture. In the process Foster gained a greater appreciation for Chinese history and culture.

"The study of Chinese was something I decided to do because I was looking for a language that was different from what I was used to and something I would be motivated to learn," she said. "So I decided on Chinese and I don't regret that decision at all."

Foster's interest in promoting a better community is reflected in her frequent volunteerism. She is a certified Court Appointed Special Advocate, or CASA, volunteer. Foster has also volunteered with various activities through the Developing Scholars Program and helps each year with Martin Luther King Jr. Day, a day of particular importance to Foster.

"The day really keeps the legacy of Dr. King alive, which is treating others with respect and, as a society, coming together for others regardless of background or race," Foster said. "I think that Dr. King would be proud that this is how people celebrate his day."

Gonzalez appreciates her Developing Scholars Program mentee's broad range of interests and scholastic abilities.

"Michelle is an inspiration," Gonzalez said. "I count myself lucky to have had the chance to work with her."

Foster reciprocates the gratitude and is thankful for being a part of the university community.

"I know that I have people on this campus who care about me and want to see me succeed in life," Foster said. "That is very encouraging, especially now that I am getting closer to leaving K-State. I feel as if I have an entire support team behind me."