2020-2021 FRAMEWORKS FELLOWS
Sarah Mwihaki Nganga
FRAMEWORKS FELLOW PROFILE
PAULINA EZQUERRA, Winner of the 2019/2020 FrameWorks Prize
By Ayania Hicks
Paulina Ezquerra was awarded the FrameWorks Prize for Excellence in Undergraduate Research in the Interdisciplinary Humanities for an article that drew from her personal experience. Born in León, Guanajuato, Paulina immigrated to the United States when she was in first grade. However, it was only a year ago that she and her family began the process of becoming United States citizens. As her family was dealing with the complex bureaucratic process of obtaining citizenship, Ezquerra began writing her article, “Reading Kafka in the Age of Trump” for FrameWorks.
A: So how did your research process begin?
P: Well, it didn’t start with a desire to write about immigration. It really began from a passion for Kafka, because I took this class with Dr. Zaretsky and we read "The Trial." I enjoyed writing a paper for the course on that book, and I realized that I wanted to delve a bit more into it, and the FrameWorks program gave me the path to do that.
Paulina asked Professor Zaretsky to be her mentor, and she found inspiration in online articles that, she says, described immigration systems as “Kafkaesque.” Delving into her family’s experiences, she asked if that word seemed appropriate.
A: How did you begin to frame your paper once you started to have a better idea of the direction you wanted to go in?
P: I was reading a lot because I began my research at the political and social peak of the Border Wall. I began tracking legislation, while also immersing myself in Kafka’s worlds. All of this allowed me to develop this narrative about the immigrant experience, while also taking these lessons from Kafka about what happens people are refused access to the mechanisms of the law. I saw how Kafka’s vision applied to the U.S. Immigration System and the people in it. My mentor, Dr. Zaretsky, also provided me with a lot of material to work with as well.
As a double major in philosophy and political science, Ezquerra occupies an interdisciplinary space between politics and literature. FrameWorks provides students the opportunity to bring together seemingly different ideas and approaches. The program is not without its demands, providing a series of deadlines to guide their progress. At the same time, students are encouraged to explore their own writing processes.
A: Describe your writing process.
P: I’m very specific about what’s in my writing space. Prior to the pandemic, coffee shops were my go-to. I did a lot of writing at The Nook and Cougar Grounds. I have to start with a cup of coffee near me and really prefer warm lighting. Post-rock instrumentals are my chosen sound when I’m writing.
A: How did you manage to balance FrameWorks with your other academic pursuits?
P: The deadlines helped so much. I was doing all this reading, but on the side, I was writing article summaries and notes to myself, which I was able to compile into drafts when they were due throughout the semester.
A: FrameWorks encourages students to find mentors, so what was the benefit in you seeking your own mentor?
P: Dr. Zaretsky is a wonderful human being. We connected because I was really eager in his class, and I liked the material he selected for our course. When I asked him to help with this project, it was so nice because he took me seriously from the very beginning. He saw the potential in my paper and treated me as though I had already fulfilled that.
Dr. Zaretsky’s faith was not misplaced as Ezquerra was awarded the FrameWorks Prize for Excellence in Undergraduate Research in the Interdisciplinary Humanities. Her work on Kafka and the U.S. Immigration System was published in the inaugural edition of Frameworks: A Journal of Undergraduate Research in the Interdisciplinary Humanities alongside the work of 8 other talented scholars.
A: If you could go back, and tell yourself one thing while in the program, what would it be?
P: Remember how good it feels to do the research, to do the reading and to write about it when it gets hard. Because it will get hard, and when that happens, remember how excited you were when you first opened up that book, and you started thinking about all the possibilities and all the places you could go with this paper.A new cohort of FrameWorks fellows will have the opportunity to explore such possibilities and places in the 2021-2022 academic year. If you are interested in applying, click here for information on requirements and eligibility.