Name: Drew Howell '10
Major: International Studies (Modern Europe), Latin American & Iberian Studies
Minor: History
Academics: Richmond Scholar
Activities: Richmond College Residence Life
Richmond College Student Government Association
Sigma Phi Epsilon
University of Richmond Wind Ensemble
Richmond Rugby Club

After spending last summer in Seville, Spain through a summer study abroad program, Drew Howell became interested in Spanish history and culture and decided to pursue research in this field. Thanks to an Undergraduate Summer Research Fellowship, Howell went back to Seville again this summer, where he worked on a project called "Franco and Democratic Spain: Cross-Generational Perceptions Thirty Years Later."

Describe your research project.

The project examined the representations and perceptions of Franco and the democratic transition process in Spain on the eve of the 30th anniversary of the adoption of the Democratic Constitution. These perceptions and representations were explored throughout all parts of society to study generational ruptures in commonly held beliefs and values as they relate to modern Spanish politics and society, Franco, Francoism, and the transition process. The aim was to study these representations and cultural perceptions during the 30th anniversary of Spain’s adoption of the democratic constitution. The project also sought to investigate Spain under Franco and how modern society views its own history with a different perspective thirty years later.

How did you get involved in the project?

Since I spent last summer in Seville I had an interest in Spanish history. I first came upon the idea for my project while brainstorming ideas for a research paper for a political science class during the fall semester of 2007. As I began to think about the topic, I realized how broad a subject it actually was and how much potential for exploration existed with only this basic idea. I decided to pursue my idea, and I began doing some background research.

What made you decide to pursue research this summer?

I wanted another opportunity to practice my Spanish outside of the normal classroom experience and I wanted to live and interact with the language and the living history of modern Spain.

How did you find an advisor to work with?

Dr. Simpson was an easy choice for an advisor because she was my professor for the class in which I was doing the research. I asked her for her feedback on my idea and when I realized that she had just finished her doctorate on a related topic, the advisor-student combination could not have been better or easier.

What prepared you for this opportunity?

Spending the summer prior to this summer in Seville helped me immensely with my project. It wouldn't have been possible without the relationships I built last summer and the familiarity I gained with the city and culture. I went into this opportunity not knowing what to expect. Nothing could have prepared me for the discipline and independence I had to develop and learn while I was working in Spain. This has only continued after I have come home to finish my documentary and research paper.

How has this project helped you grow as a student and as an individual?

This project has given me an opportunity to explore modern Spain and learn about both its past and present. My experiences outside of the classroom have given me a living and learning experience that I can never replicate sitting at a desk. Learning to work independently in a different culture while using a non-native language has enabled me to learn so much about myself and develop both as a person and a student. This growth will not only provide me tangible classroom benefits like my improved Spanish and greater understanding of Spanish culture will, but it will make me a better student and a stronger member of the University of Richmond community.

You've got a crystal ball. What’s in store for you after graduation?

I've given a lot of thought to my post-graduation plans recently. I don't have a definitive answer. I have thought about going to graduate school to pursue either studies in Spanish or in European politics. I have also considered law school or entering into Foreign Service work for the U.S. government.

A full day of research lies ahead of you. What's on your iPod?

If I'm in Spain doing this research, I will listen to the flamenco legend Camaron de la Isla to help me "get in the Spanish mindset" a little better.

What has a liberal arts education at the University of Richmond meant to you?

I didn’t want to continue studying Spanish after high school, but when I came to Richmond I needed to take a couple of Spanish classes to complete my graduation requirement. After I took my first Spanish class, I decided quitting Spanish was not the right decision. Because of that experience, I became interested in going to Seville in the summer after my freshman year to continue to study Spanish. Without the liberal arts focus of Richmond, I would not have the opportunity to interact with my teachers in a manner that would enable me to complete this project as I have been able to do. The liberal arts focus also allows me to double major and hone my interests while still being able to explore and grow intellectually without being placed within a rigid program or concrete academic track. My college experience could not be replicated outside of a liberal arts environment.