At a wooden table in the Kenneth Spencer Research Library, Angelito de la Cruz, c '18, sifted page by page through the mountain of folders on the cart of boxes next to him. Just when he feared another dead end—he saw it... the name— the one for which he had scoured page after page and box after box. Turning to his laptop, he carefully added the long sought after piece in a much larger puzzle. Surprise, relief, and satisfaction washed over him. Taking the briefest moment to revel in success, he grinned and began his pursuit of the next missing piece. This feeling, the exhilaration of the chase, drew him to research and given the chance to pursue an ELE for Research Skills and In-Depth Learning, he leapt at it. Now, in the hushed halls of the library, he was one step closer to drawing out the forgotten history of the University Honors Program. With each clue, each piece placed, almost a century's worth of lost history slowly formed a picture of generations of achievement that had nearly completely faded away.
Naturally inquisitive, de la Cruz pursued undergraduate research with a passion as he majored in psychology and minored in behavioral science. He got involved with research in a straightforward way: he asked. As a first-year student with no research experience, “I just approached my psych professor after class and told him I was interested in the subject and wondered if there was research I could do for it. He offered to let me join his research lab,” said de la Cruz, with a grin and a shrug.
Honors students earn the "Research Skills and In-Depth Learning" ELE by researching outside the classroom. Angelito has made a habit of "asking and joining"—talking to a professor after class and looking to get involved—affording him the chance to analyze children’s development, eating disorders in college-aged women, neurological data categorizing, and the history of the KU Honors program. At KU, “the research community is pretty tight knit,” he said. “You learn about a lot of different types [of projects] by talking to other researchers around you and what they are involved in or know faculty to be involved with.” In this way, the research—rewarding in and of itself—also becomes a social scene.
For the Honors history project, Angelito followed the same M.O. One day after taking Dean Emerita Kala Stroup’s Honors class on citizen philanthropy, she mentioned her own search for someone willing and interested in doing research for Honors, about Honors.
“I already enjoyed learning from Dr. Stroup; I thought it would be cool to learn more from her in a different setting,” de la Cruz said of the former two-time university president who graduated from Honors herself in 1959.
He started working for Stroup in an independent study for ten hours a week, pouring over archival files, researching different KU deans’ papers, and combing through boxes in the University's archives. “I don’t know how else to describe it—except to say it was digging through mountains of paperwork trying to find relevant information that could be useful for piecing together the history of the program,” Angelito said. "It wasn't boring—it was fascinating to read the stories."
One of the most interesting finds he made was reading about the accomplishments of Stroup 50 years ago when she was a young KU administrator, and then seeing her the next day to discuss them in the present. “Dr. Stroup really is amazing— and to see where she started from—I know that as long as I work as hard as her, and remain intellectually hungry, then I know that I can succeed in whatever goals are in front of me. She has truly inspired me,” he said. de la Cruz was awarded a public service internship for his work on the history project. “[The Honors Program] really has done a lot for me in terms of academics and experiences. Plus it’s nice to give back,” he said.
“In my experience, people do research for two main reasons— to satiate a hunger for knowledge, and to find things and see how the information can be helpful to other people,” de la Cruz said. "A research ELE would be great for anyone drawn to these types of discoveries."