Research Spotlight: An Interview with Dr. Megan Myers

CATEGORIES: Winter 18-19

Dr. Megan Myers came to Iowa State three years ago, right after completing her PhD at Vanderbilt University. “As soon as I stepped foot here and started to meet people, I knew this was the job I wanted,” Myers said. From the staff’s friendly, welcoming personalities to their fascinating work, she knew WLC was full of great people both as colleagues and friend. And, as Myers said, “I really love the students.”

Myers also really loves the Dominican Republic. A “Dominicanist,” she has been studying and traveling to and from the Dominican Republic since she was in college. As they say in the Dominican Republic, Myers is “aplatanada” – or, as she explains, “super rooted, super engrained, in the community.”

Now, she conducts research on Dominican literature, especially focused on perceptions of the border between the Dominican Republic and Haiti.

This research started from Myers’ trips to the Dominican Republic during her undergraduate career. She first met Julia Alvarez, the well-known Dominican author, in college. Alvarez connected Myers to Border of Lights, an organization dedicated to commemorating the 1937 Haitian Massacre, also known as the Parsley Massacre, in which over 10,000 Haitians were killed in the Dominican Republic.

Her connection with Border of Lights provides the basis for Myers’s current work compiling an anthology of memorials for this massacre through art, photography, interviews, and other media. This interdisciplinary work requires Myers to be “a constant go-between,” contacting collaborators through calls, WhatsApp, and emails as she and her co-editor put together dozens of perspectives on the massacre and the border. Some of the submissions include architectural plans for a memorial for this massacre and interviews with border residents, activists, and writers. One of these interviews was with Padre Regino Martinez, a Jesuit priest who has worked on behalf of Haitian rights in the Dominican Republic for decades. “People just really respect him. Everyone, religious or not, respects him,” Myers said.

Myers and her co-editor intend to publish the anthology as an Open Access text next fall, meaning it will be available online for any students interested in reading it.

Along with her research, Myers stays busy with teaching and volunteering. Last summer, she taught at the Mariposa Foundation in Cabarete, Dominican Republic. During this time, she took a group of 14- and 15-year-old students to visit a mountain community that was the location of the autobiography they were reading in class at the time. During the trip, “we met one of the main characters,” Myers said, adding that it was a unique and exciting experience for the students.

Myers credits much of her preparation for her work to her undergraduate studies at Middlebury College, which she describes as very internationally-focused and multidisciplinary. This focus helped support Myers’s own interest in studying and working internationally. “I went abroad for more than a year,” she says, during which time she stayed in Urugay, Ecuador, and the Dominican Republic.

The impact of this experience has stretched far past Myers’ undergraduate studies. For students interested in pursuing research like hers, Myers urges them to “take advantage of any study abroad experience” or travel abroad. However, her most important recommendation is to make connections. Whether by studying in a different country or connecting with Spanish-speaking communities here in Iowa, she encourages students to get to know the people who make up these vibrant communities and cultures.

“You don’t have to go abroad – I always encourage people to go abroad – but you can get involved with the Spanish-speaking communities here in rural Iowa.”

Looking forward, Myers is interested in someday pursuing research focused more on the applied side of academics. “I’m really interested in community engagement work,” she says. In particular, she’s interested in looking at how service learning programs work in the host community. Even as her interests develop, though, Myers expects to stay connected to her roots: “I don’t really see myself veering far from the Dominican Republic – it’s where my heart is,” she says.