Student Spotlight: JT Hayden

Fall 2020

JT Hayden is a Senior at the University of Florida in the University Scholars Program. On campus, he is the Vice-President of Student Affairs for Phi Alpha Theta and the Treasurer for the Arabic Language Initiative. His research project is entitled: Acting with Zeal: The Rise and Fall of U.S.-Islamist Relations, 1979-2001. Below are a summary of JT’s project, experience with research, and plan for the future.

Summary of Research Project: A study of the relationship between American foreign policy and Islamist organizations, beginning with the Soviet-Afghan War and the Global War on Terror. The research focuses on the relationship between the United States government and Islamist organizations in Afghanistan during the Soviet-Afghan War, how that relationship developed in the context of the Cold War, and how it created hostilities during the 1990s.

Why did you get started in undergraduate research? I’ve dreamt of emulating historians who have changed our outlook of the past through the research they conduct. After I started at UF, I knew I wanted to pursue undergraduate research to kickstart my dreams.

How has your research experience shaped your undergraduate career? As a History major, research and writing is a large part of my degree. It’s shaped how I view my courses and how I interact with works of history.

What advice would you give someone interested in undergraduate research? Follow your passions! There’s research possible in any discipline and on any subject. Even if you think your interests have been researched before, there are always new perspectives to take and new questions to ask.

What are your plans for the future? I’m set to graduate in Spring 2021 and possibly complete an internship over the summer. Next fall, I plan to start a graduate program in Middle Eastern Studies either in the UK or in the US.