Lorenzo Buchanan '13
History can perhaps be understood as a series of choices: who or what to include in the story...or leave out? For Lorenzo Buchanan '13, undergraduate research provided the opportunity to help advance our understanding of the Black experience in America.
A native Detroiter, Lorenzo came to Michigan State both to acquire a broader perspective on American society and for a better understanding of the African American experience. He soon found himself in class with Dr. John McClendon (Philosophy). "He's a walking encyclopedia," Lorenzo laughs. "I tried to gain as much knowledge as possible." When Dr. McClendon asked Lorenzo if he was interested in assisting him with his research, he eagerly agreed. Lorenzo's work involved background research to support two of Dr. McClendon's books in progress: The African American in Sports and Philosophy and the Black Experience. "I picked up where my predecessor (another undergraduate student) left off," Lorenzo explains. "Since I was familiar with the topic areas after taking the two courses that inspired the books, I was the perfect fit."
Undertaking almost any kind of research invariably involves looking to the existing record to see what's already been written about the topic. Lorenzo assisted by identifying and locating relevant scholarly articles (at MSU's library and elsewhere) and compiling bibliographic information. "African Americans have been misrepresented and neglected in history", he explains. Their research is leading to new understanding of how people of color were expelled from and then reintegrated into American professional sports, while their other project considers "the need for a Black philosophy [as a means of understanding] the problems that plague the African American".
Most researchers hit roadblocks of some kind when they're trying to make progress, and Lorenzo is no exception. "I had nothing to show for my hours of work at the library and I was ashamed to admit I hadn't accomplished anything. Dr. McClendon took the time to walk me through the various steps so that I would always know how to go about finding research articles. That was by far the most crucial thing I've gained in my MSU experience to date." Lorenzo says that he's gained a lot in other ways through his work with Dr. McClendon. "I can honestly say that he's not just my research mentor but in life. Although his expectations of his students are high, I know firsthand that they don't exceed his students' potential. He pushes you, not so that you'll fail, but rather so you can succeed in both academics and life. When you meet his expectations, the feeling of accomplishment as well as the knowledge and experience gained are priceless."
When asked if he has any advice for undergraduates thinking about getting involved in research, Lorenzo is encouraging. "My advice would be to take advantage of the opportunity. Be a sponge and learn all there is to know. The moment you get lost, confused, or don't understand, get clarity from your faculty mentor. You have the opportunity of a lifetime: use it!"