by Lee Anne Tourigny

My name is Lee Anne Tourigny, and I currently live outside of Charlotte, North Carolina, in the United States. In May 2020, I graduated from Gardner-Webb University with a bachelor’s in Psychology and a double minor in American Sign Language and Communications. I currently work with ConnectAbility as the project coordinator for “A Thousand Words Photography Project” (https://connectabilityinc.org/). I also work at the UMAR Lincolnton Arts Center (https://umarinfo.com/art-centers/) as a direct support professional. This summer I had the opportunity to intern at Photovoice Worldwide to conduct a literature review asking the question: How has photovoice been used within schools to further education or promote advocacy and inclusivity for students with disabilities? 

My work: This is a picture of me holding my honors thesis and a photo-book I helped with for the Thousand Words Photography Project.  

The topic I chose to research has specific meaning to me. When I first started at Gardner-Webb, I didn’t plan to work with individuals who experience  disabilities. However, through an internship with ConnectAbility my senior year, I discovered a love for it. Once I started working with A Thousand Words, and started working with the UMAR art center, my eyes were opened to a world that needed more voices. In the fall of 2020, I took the “Talking with Pictures: Photovoice” course with Laura Lorenz, and for the course we needed to start planning a photovoice project. I didn’t have one in mind, but I decided to start planning a photovoice project within a special education program. This process created a passion to actually do this photovoice project, but I didn’t have a way to conduct it. This internship gave me the opportunity to explore the topic further, and build a starting point for me to actually move forward with the idea. In fall 2022, I will be begin a master’s program in Psychology at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, and I plan on using the research and knowledge I gained this summer to begin the foundation for my thesis.   

During my time at Gardner-Webb, I was able to work on an honors thesis, looking at how therapeutic photography helps individuals with depression and anxiety (https://digitalcommons.gardner-webb.edu/jcp/vol3/iss1/4/?fbclid=IwAR2LV7w-9_PRX0GlCwkiXtxgAb4y-RtOVwvKcCV9kCkE1VRX2aQQmSkkHOo). That was my first taste of research, and I realized how much I loved the process. Through the PhotovoiceWorldwide internship this summer, I was able to grow in my skills and abilities in research and learned the importance of having a team to rely on.  

As a beginner in the field of research, I was able to learn about the importance of the process, charting and recording every single step. At the beginning of the summer we walked through the process of creating inclusion and exclusion criteria, identifying key terms, and even listing different databases we planned on using. This helped us formulate our guiding questions so we could begin the laborious step of finding and reading through each of the study articles. As we read the articles, we charted data from each article, helping us to sort through the large amounts of information we found. 

Charting data: For every article we read, we had to organize the information in an excel spreadsheet. This included the citation, the research design, a change in the process of photovoice (I added this since this specific population might have needed more one-on-one sessions vs. group sessions), the purpose of the study, the location, information on the participants, the results and conclusions, and any notes we wanted to add.  
 
Throughout every step of the process, the literature-review interns at PhotovoiceWorldwide held meetings in which we could share our work and discuss things we were struggling with. As the youngest person in our group, I benefited from listening and learning about how more experienced researchers conducted their literature reviews. Overall, it was a valuable learning experience, and I would highly recommend a PhotovoiceWorldwide internship to anyone who wants to grow in their skills and abilities as a researcher and has a passion for photovoice.  

Global Connections: Through this internship, I got the opportunity to virtually meet people from all over the world.