By Arielle Feldman |
June 13, 2019

When Abigail Reynolds first came to UCF, she was a political science major interested in working in foreign affairs. However, after taking PHI 2010: Introduction to Philosophy for general education credits, she discovered a passion for philosophy.

“I like thinking about big-picture questions,” says Reynolds, who is wrapping up her freshman year this summer. “So, instead of changing my major, I decided to pursue a dual degree because I truly enjoy studying both subjects!”

Reynolds varied interests have led her to pursue diverse opportunities at UCF — one of which was conducting research on fables with support by a Burnett Research Scholars Grant. Her research was so impressive that Oxford, the oldest university in the English-speaking world, invited her to present her research at the historic Queen’s College on June 6, 2019. The three-day trip allowed her to discuss her findings with accomplished professors in all different fields, from modern languages to engineering.

How Fables Work

So, what did Reynolds learn about fables through her research? By building on H.J. Blackman’s theory of the fable as a metaphorical statement, Reynolds was able to understand how humans and animals interact to create a fable’s didactic, or educational, message. She also investigated how fables convey their messages across time and cultural contexts, and even theorized that fables “fail” when they entail either too much “distance” or too much “proximity.”

“It was interesting to see how effective fables can minimize a reader’s resistance toward the didactic message being portrayed,” she says.

Reynolds pursued her research in conjunction with a larger project directed by Dr. Tyler Fisher, a Spanish professor in the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures and the Burnett Honors College. Fisher’s project, a video series of animated fables that demonstrate positive parenting techniques, won the Pabst Steinmetz Foundation Arts & Wellness Innovation Award last year. An Oxford alumnus himself, Fisher advised Reynolds on how to present her research at the prestigious university.

Exploring England

Even though Reynolds spent a lot of time preparing, she still had the exciting opportunity to explore England during her free time. “I really enjoyed trying out local coffee shops and perusing independent bookstores!” she says. “After my stay in Oxford, I went to London and visited historic sites like the Tower of London, the Tower Bridge and Westminster Abbey. I also got to see Waitress and Phantom of the Opera at the West End, both of which were absolutely incredible productions.”

Reynolds’ advice to students seeking research opportunities abroad is to not be afraid to put themselves out there. She did — and now she has a resume booster and memories she’ll treasure forever.

“Getting to know your professors and their research interests as well as applying for different research projects and experiences are great ways to get involved,” she says. “These can open the doors to so many different opportunities!”