Woman reading a lot of research papers

Q&A with Undergraduate History Researcher, Kira Boatright

March 15, 2021

Kira Boatright is a senior at CU Denver in the History Department. As a EUReCA! Fellow in 2020 working with Jim Walsh, PhD, she had the opportunity to present her research during the Summer Symposium. Kira has since presented her research to other colleagues in her field and is now looking to present again at RaCAS 2021. Here she sits down with EUReCA! Student Ambassador, Jake Torrens, to talk about her research journey. 

Jake: How did your college journey start? 

Kira: Well, I chose CU Denver because it’s local and I liked that it was a commuter school. My brother went here. Right away, I knew I wanted to be a history major. I’ve always liked school and learning, but history was something that I enjoyed, even outside the classroom.  

Jake: How did you get into research? 

Kira Boatright, CU Denver undergraduate history researcher

Kira: Last year I was doing a research paper for one of my classes about Irish history. My professor for that class recommended that I talked to Jim Walsh in the Political Science Department, so I reached out to him to ask for sources for my assignment. He told me about all these research opportunities in local Irish history. I got involved with this group that he started called the Rocky Mountain Irish Roots Collective. They plan community and cultural events about the Irish community and history.  

Jake: That’s awesome. Could you tell me about your research now? 

Kira: When Walsh found out about the EUReCA! Summer Fellowship last spring, after the pandemic started, he emailed me and asked me if I was interested. I applied, and we got it. Since this past summer, and now through the upcoming fall, I do historical research on Colorado’s early Irish communities. I mostly work with primary source documents from the 1800s that consist of census records, cemetery records, and church records. I’ve just been going through those and recording and synthesizing them to create a more cohesive narrative of Colorado’s Irish community because it’s under-researched. They were really important to our history. Locally, they were Colorado’s second largest ethnic group in the latter half of the 1800s. I’ve made maps to represent where they lived statewide and a city map of Denver to show which blocks they lived on in Denver. I’ve also done some research in Leadville.  

Jake: You have done a lot of hard work, how was it presenting research for you? 

Kira: This past summer, it was the Virtual Summer Symposium. You do kind of miss the interaction part of people walking around, asking you specific questions about your research. So that was kind of difficult. I had to make a five-minute recording of what I think people would be most interested in and then I presented over Zoom, just last month, to the Rocky Mountain Irish Roots Collective. I got to present my research from this past year to them and that was really fun, because I got to interact with the crowd still.  

Jake:  What was for you the most difficult obstacle you’ve had to face? 

Kira: I would say the pandemic and the barriers that’s put up. A lot of the sources I’d like to look at are in libraries, and they’re not digitized, so I can’t really look at those yet. That’s been hard, but I’m sure in the future, it’ll be better, and I’ll get a chance to do that. I’ve also had a lot to work with since there’s still plenty of material that’s digital and needs to be looked at. I’ve still had this great opportunity to do this research, and I’m still able to attend my classes. There’s still plenty to be grateful for. 

Jake: What have you found impactful in the sense of the history? 

Kira: I would say the Irish story, even if you have no Irish roots, is a very universal story that everyone can relate to. They were such a huge immigrant group in this country. We can learn a lot about our society today, and our treatment of immigrants today through their experience. 

Jake: What’s your higher education plan? 

Kira: I’ll definitely go to grad school, I probably have another year at CU Denver, because I’m a double major. But after that, I want to pursue history, and go to grad school. Hopefully, later on, I would like to work, in museums and with public history, but after that, I want to teach [and learn] how to be a professor. I’ll probably have to get a PhD to do that.  I want to keep doing research too.  

Jake: What motivates you to keep being a lifelong learner? 

Kira: I guess I like the way that it challenges me and challenges my beliefs. My perspective is always growing, and it changes the way I see the world and the way I care about people and interact with people. History is really about being open minded and empathetic. Those are traits of a good historian, in my opinion, because you can never really make history relatable to yourself or others if you don’t have compassion for the people you’re learning about. I think that my knowledge and education go outside the classroom for me.  

Jake: That’s awesome! Any advice to give to the new first-year students coming into COVID-19? 

Kira: Yeah, I would say, even though things aren’t ideal right now, make the most of it. Your college experience is really important, and it’s a limited thing. Even though things are different right now and they’re probably not how anyone imagined they’d be, take it seriously and try to enjoy it.  

I would say, especially relating to COVID, just be flexible and be patient. There’s still a lot of things available to us, and you could make meaningful research out of. I’d also say, even if it wasn’t a COVID-19 year, I think patience is really important in research. Sometimes it’s a lot of work, but it’s always rewarding when you find something, even if it’s not what you were expecting. The more you know, I think the better off you are in life, whatever that knowledge may be, whatever your specialty may be. 

Jake: Thanks, this has been awesome, Kira. 

Save the date to present and celebrate research and creative activities happening across CU Denver at the 24th Annual Research and Creative Activities Symposium (RaCAS) on April 30, 2021. Abstract applications to present are due April 2, 2021. Details can be found on the RaCAS website: https://www.ucdenver.edu/sites/research-day/home  

Have a research conference you are interested in attending in Spring 2021? Apply for UROP Professional Development Funds to help cover conference attendance fees! Learn more on the Office of Undergraduate Research and Creative Activities Website: https://www.ucdenver.edu/lynxconnect/undergraduate-research/grants  

This story was written by Elizabeth Evans and Jacob Torrens on behalf of the Office of Undergraduate Research and Creative Activities.