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Employee Spotlight: Paige Zalman

By Raimah Hossain, Honors Student Ambassador

Paige Zalman headshot

Headshot of Paige Zalman.

For this Alumni Newsletter edition, we had the opportunity to interview Paige Zalman, program coordinator for the Research Apprenticeship Program of the Office of Undergraduate Research. The Office of Undergraduate Research works closely with the Honors College to promote research in all disciplines to any interested student at West Virginia University. However, Zalman’s journey to this position began far before she was able to pursue researching at the University level herself.

Starting at age 10, Zalman began music lessons in percussion. While she found that the field was male dominated, she still became infatuated with the instruments. As she excelled musically throughout the years growing up, she became involved with musical groups at every opportunity available, from marching band to choir to orchestra. Eventually, Zalman decided that she wanted to continue her passion for music as an undergraduate student at the University of North Carolina Wilmington. Here, she pursued a Bachelor of Music emphasizing percussion.

Although she loved performing, she quickly realized she was also interested in music history. Specifically, Zalman became enamored with the process of research, especially in the humanities fields. Zalman loves the “treasure hunt” of sorting through primary sources to find elusive information. Combining this love of discovery with her love of writing, Zalman knew she would continue to focus on research. As part of her Honors thesis there, she wrote about Stephen Sondheim’s musical “Sweeney Todd.” After completing this project and presenting her research at various musicology conferences, Zalman decided to continue her journey with research through a Masters in Musicology at West Virginia University.

Zalman learned critical skills through this WVU program that would go on to shape her career and life goals. Alongside her mentor, Dr. Travis Stimeling, Zalman embarked further into research, beginning to craft more of her own publications. With a supportive cohort of graduate students by her side, she mastered how to effectively perform research through a humanities lens. Her favorite WVU classes in her program were “Perspectives in Musicology and Ethnomusicology” and “History of Jazz.” The second course emphasized the importance of the inclusion of female and indigenous composers (who are typically absent in the canon) to promote equity and diversity in the humanities field, a principle that would reappear as Zalman wrapped up her master’s degree and began looking for employment positions.

Reflecting on her experiences in higher education, Zalman began to realize her ultimate desire to become involved in the collegiate scene, preferably at WVU, an environment which provided her with resources and people she loved dearly. 

While exploring staff positions, she discovered an opening at the Office of Undergraduate Research. Immediately, she knew this was the ideal position for her. Zalman first had the opportunity to work with the Office of Undergraduate Research as a master’s student. As president of the Mountaineer Musicological Community, she assisted in organizing a research symposium specifically for humanities students tagged “Trailblazers and Hell Raisers: Perspectives in Humanities.” The Office of Undergraduate Research assisted with the logistical aspects of the event, as well as funding to support the event.

This experience combined with the benefits she received from undergraduate research in her own academic career helped drive her as she began her work as the program coordinator for the Research Apprenticeship Program (RAP). RAP provides an introduction to hands-on research within students’ disciplines and areas of interests, specifically for freshmen and sophomores. Zalman works with students to inform them of the program and coordinates graduate and undergraduate teaching assistants to direct the accompanying “Introduction to Research” course. The course provides professional development opportunities, abstract writing/presentation skills, and a community of belonging amongst an initially overwhelming environment filled with technical jargon and advanced skills. Zalman also played an instrumental role in rebooting the Undergraduate Research Ambassadors, an outreach effort made by undergraduate students heavily involved in research on campus.

As Zalman works as program coordinator for RAP, she is also concurrently pursuing her PhD in higher education at WVU. The program offers her the opportunity to gain this degree while working, as most of the classes are offered in the evening via Zoom. Zalman hopes to facilitate the core principles of equity and accessibility as her courses taught her previously. She hopes to continue these efforts with her current position and onwards, breaking down structural barriers and proving to be a positive force in these spaces.

We’d like to thank Paige Zalman for her time and effort in sitting down with us as well as for all her efforts on campus.