By Melissa Savignano
Over the past academic year, eight CAS and Pardee students, along with faculty mentors, conducted original research as part of the new CAS Social Sciences Undergraduate Internships in Social Justice and Sustainability. The culmination of these efforts, which were made possible by generous philanthropic support, took place on Friday, April 16, when the students presented their research and insights to an appreciative Zoom audience of faculty, staff, family, and friends. The projects cover a range of topics, from the availability of mental health resources for Boston-area Black women, to the influence of Christianity in Korea over four centuries, to data collection on how COVID-19 and the Black Lives Matter movement have recently affected urban criminal justice systems. The students discussed what interested them in the work and how it will guide them as they finish college and move into their professional careers.
The culmination of these effects, made possible thanks to generous philanthropic support, occurred on Friday, April 16, when the students presented their research and insights to an audience of faculty, staff, family, and friends. The projects cover a range of topics, from the availability of mental health resources for local Black women, to the influence of Christianity in Korea over four centuries, to data collection on how COVID-19 and the Black Lives Matter movement have recently affected urban criminal justice systems. The students discussed what interested them in the work and how it will guide them as they finish college and move into their professional careers.
Helen Bekele (CAS’21), a political science major, kicked off the event with her project “Criminal Justice Reform – Changes to the Carceral State in Light of the Pandemic and Black Lives Matter Protests.” She described looking into the viewpoints of elected officials in urban areas in various states, including her home state of Massachusetts. Additionally, she discussed the difficulties and benefits of collecting data through social media. Psychology majors Kathleen Novak (CAS ’21) and Emily Parkington (CAS ’21) also included Massachusetts in their research, which addresses Black women’s perceptions of their psychological well-being and the barriers they may face in accessing community-based resources. A goal of their project, titled “The Role of Nature in Facilitating Resilience and Well-Being in Women of Color,” is to “speak to the difficulties Black women face in meeting their psychological needs,” says Kathleen.
While some projects had a local connection, other students looked more nationally and globally to explore cultures both abroad and at home. Lauren Knasin (CAS’21), a student in the BU Marine Program, brought her CAS training to the Ancestral Alutiiq Foods Project, a collaboration between the BU Zooarchaeology Lab and the Alutiiq Museum in Kodiak, Alaska. Her work aims to understand, revitalize, and protect Alaska Native foodways, and she showcased various shellfish remains she encountered in her work. Pardee students, Cristina Rivera Morrison (’22) and Ariana Thorpe (’22) studied uranium mining in three locations: Namibia, Niger, and New Mexico. Under this umbrella, they developed three in-depth connected case studies of mining sites to study the global nature of disenfranchisement of land and labor and the processes of that dispossession over time. And Rownyn Curry (CAS’21), who studies international relations and the Korean language, looked to the past—specifically over centuries of Korean religious history—to discuss the rise and influence of Christianity in the country. Her work is featured as part of the China Historical Christian Database (CHCD) and on the project’s website.
Sociology student Madison Tyler (CAS’21) closed out the presentations with her work on how young people’s interactions with state actors over time shape narratives of state legitimacy, trust, and power in three low-income American cities. Madison spoke about the work from the perspective of a researcher as well as that of a future social work masters student, which she plans to be after graduation. She hopes research findings like hers on the needs and experiences of young people can shape community programs in the future.