2022 Projects


Heidi Compton ’24 & Elena Henderson-Downey ’24 with April Beisaw (Anthropology)

This summer we worked with Professor April Beisaw on the community heritage and archaeology project that researched the histories of towns that were impacted by the New York City water system. Additionally, we responded to community requests for archaeological expertise and helped organizations such as Marist College and the Ashokan Center with surveys and excavations.

Soil cataloging at Ashokan Center. Digital photo by Ovi Horta at the Ashokan Center.
Soil cataloging at Ashokan Center. Digital photo by Ovi Horta at the Ashokan Center.

The majority of the project was spent doing a combination of archaeological surveys with community members and lab work to decenter New York City as the central part behind the history of the NYC water system.

The NYC water system is a complex system of watersheds, reservoirs, and aqueducts that bring water from rural populations in the Catskills/Delaware Watershed and Croton Watershed to city populations through the use of gravity alone. Although some claim this is a marvel of modern engineering, what is not told is the displacement of communities in order to create this system. However, evidence of this destruction can be seen by the building foundations that are scattered across the lands surrounding the reservoirs.

Taking a GPS point at the former site sign of Bittersweet.

Through community hikes of the Neversink, Rondout, and Ashokan reservoirs, we attempted to use ruins as stepping stones that could spur stories of the region from locals. The most important aspect of this project came in the lab as we combined GPS data, historical research, and oral histories to create interactive websites, StoryMaps, that shared our research back with the community. Our experience with this project emphasized the importance of including the public in academic research. Not only would we not have known much of the information we learned without them, but by documenting their stories we were able to help center their local knowledge and reveal the history of struggle and perseverance that happened as a result of the displacement of their communities.


Rairat (Am) Chunnananda ’23 with Bart Thurber (Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center and Art Department)

I worked with Professor Bart Thurber this summer to prepare for his spring seminar. The seminar will explore how museums have come to be as they are conceptually and materially—how renovation, reinvention, and, in some cases, demolition have played a role in their evolutions.

Our first and primary task was to get to know the eleven museums that would be used as case studies throughout the course. Ranging in geography, history, architecture, and design strategies, our list included the State Hermitage Museum (St. Petersburg, est. 1764), the Guggenheim (New York City, est. 1937), and the Louvre Abu Dhabi (est. 2017). I located as many digital resources as possible for each institution and immersed myself in them; I navigated museum websites, examined original floor plans, viewed 360 photographs, and read widely to get a detailed sense of each space in context.

This immersion segued into the second objective of our project: to develop materials for the course and flesh out its structure. From my digital explorations, I wrote introductions and curated “resource libraries” for each museum. The latter included webpages, journal articles, photographs, virtual tours, maps, archival documentation, and journalistic accounts. Some of these references will serve as core readings, while others will be tools for independent study.

While producing these materials, Professor Thurber and I worked towards distilling a list of shared features of museum institutions to be used as a framework for comparison throughout the class sessions. We also compiled general issues concerning museums and brainstormed ways the Loeb could find its place in the course as a “laboratory” for thinking.

I was glad to have spent time gathering resources, refining ideas, and architecting a learning journey. In many ways, those are the very processes out of which museums come to be.

First draft of a museum profile, one of the course materials Prof. Thurber and I worked on, which combines the introduction and ‘resource library’ of a particular institution. Images used belong to sources cited in the file.

Carissa Kolcun ’25 with John Murphy (Art History / Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center)

This summer, I assisted John Murphy with preparing materials for a fall intensive class and curating the fall spotlight exhibition on the Women’s Studio Workshop. While both projects divided my time, many of the materials overlapped, allowing for cross-thought on how the content could engage each other within a class framework.

The Women's Studio Workshop (WSW) is a studio and arts space in Rosendale, NY. Founded in 1974 as a women-centered art space, and now, under new leadership, WSW has begun to tease out what exactly “woman-centered” means in a contemporary context. In approaching WSW as the subject of the spotlight exhibition, we were interested in responding to this question alongside telling a brief history of the Workshop. In using the spotlight space, we were also engaging Vassar's connection to WSW as a repository for all their artist's books, as well as engaging WSW's role in the broader Hudson Valley arts community.

In addition to this project, I also planned one class session for "Paper Protests," the fall intensive. After a visit to Interference Archives in Brooklyn, I became interested in the spatial theater that posters create when in a public space, and how that theater mitigates the original intention of the posters. As a community-centered organization, WSW has collected posters created for various programming and events since its inception. WSW became an outlet to explore spatial theater on a micro scale, while I found readings to guide a discussion of spatial theater on a macro scale.

Between all the research, I visited many locations across the Hudson Valley, including the WSW archives, Art Omi, and Bard CCS. I'm very thankful to John Murphy and the rest of the Loeb staff. I look forward to further exploring the curatorial process in future endeavors.


Megan Burnett ’24 with Esteban Argudo (Economics)

This summer I worked with Professor Argudo and four other interns to continue research on the wage and wealth gaps between people born in the United States (henceforth called natives), authorized immigrants, and unauthorized immigrants. Previous research on this topic has documented wage disparities between all three nativity groups and wealth disparities between natives and immigrants. Our research is novel in its distinction between types of immigrants when surveying wealth gaps, as well as the inclusion of asset holdings.

Our work built on Professor Argudo’s 2021 Ford Scholar project. We continued to use Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP) data, which changed considerably during the time period we examined. Since we did not finish matching the variables we needed last summer, the team and I began homogenizing the remaining relevant variables such as race, occupation, and industry from 1996 to 2020. This left us with a nationwide dataset of individuals that could be tracked over multiple months and years.

Screen shot of code example
Sample of homogenization code for industries

The initial stages of our analysis focused on using the homogenized data to replicate figures from previous papers that compared immigrants and natives to confirm our data was valid. Once confirmed, we distinguished between authorized and unauthorized immigrants using George J. Borjas's methodology, and split the data into workers of different education levels.

The final days of the project were spent starting a paper to summarize our findings and introduce our research, along with creating graphs on wealth holdings by nativity group. This project has not only sharpened my ability to consider economic scenarios in real life, but it has given me skills in Python and data analysis that are indispensable in research and data science.

Table of data
Comparison between different datasets of percent of unauthorized immigrants at each education level in the population.

Zhiyang (Charlie) Chen ’24 with Esteban Argudo (Economics)

My work over the Ford period focused on understanding the mechanism described in a paper by Chaumont and Shi, 2022, by replicating it using python. Initially, it was challenging for me to sufficiently understand Chaumont and Shi's work without much prior knowledge of the field of job transitioning and wealth study. With the aid of Professor Argudo who patiently answered all my questions over several meetings, I grasped enough to start my own replication. The process was still demanding, but through trials and errors, I have acquired similar results using the method of Value function iteration (VFI). I am familiar with VFI thanks to ECON 304 with Professor Argudo from the previous semester, but tackling such a task with so much independence as I have in the Ford program was something I have never done before. For me, It was a pleasure to receive this opportunity through Ford to assist in professor Argudo's research and challenge myself outside of my comfort zone.

Markus Skelton ’24 and Jade Wilkinson ’2 with Dustin Frye (Economics)

This summer, we worked with Professor Frye and Professor Kagy to research the economic consequences of childhood exposure to environmental toxins. We primarily focused on evaluating whether early exposure to lead would cause differences in intergenerational mobility, occupational rank, and total years of schooling.

The project involved constructing a highly intricate data set that pulled together information on people and towns in the northeast, where the integration of central water systems was prevalent around the turn of the twentieth century and the use of lead and non-lead materials for the municipal pipes varied. We used IPUMS to collect census data for the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the Census Linking Project to probabilistically match people across censuses, the Census Place Project to identify where these people lived, and two books that organized information on cities’ water systems and water chemistry.

Due to the large sizes of the data, we relied on Amazon’s Web Server to run code in RStudio that could compile and build our data set. Our final data set allowed us to identify children in the Northeast as living in either lead or non-lead cities, and then track this cohort overtime to evaluate their outcomes in adulthood.

Exploratory data analysis, involving graphs, maps and summary statistics tables, shows early implications that exposure to lead in childhood does have negative long-term economic consequences. For example, the average income in 1940 for a child exposed to lead in 1900 was $6062 less than the average for a child who was not exposed to lead via city service pipes.

New York State Map
Figure 1: This map visualizes where lead pipes were located in Maine, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Massachusetts., Pennsylvania and New York.

This project also sparked an interest in current-day exposure to toxins and made us more cautious about what we may be consuming in our day-to-day lives. Moreover, this project was a very rewarding experience that enabled us to greatly improve our coding skills and collaborate with our professors, who offered deep insights into working in research. We are grateful that we had this opportunity to learn first-hand about economic research and be part of an exciting and innovative project.

Madhav Jha ’24 & Haiyi (Olivia) Xiao ’23 with Qi Ge (Economics)

This summer, we worked with Professor Ge and Jiebei Luo on the U.S. Airline project. Specifically, we aim to discuss the product quality and consumer response using the tweets that we scraped from the Twitter API. In the case of the airline industry, the number of airlines in a competitive market is low due to scale economies. Some airlines maintained their monopoly status on specific routes, and their failure to improve service quality (worsening delays) has raised nation-wise concerns and increased consumer dissatisfaction. As social media platforms (e.g., Twitter in our case) provide a large amount of text data, we are able to locate tweets directed at a specific airline through mentions (@). See 1-1 below for sample tweets. Considering the short span of the program and the exploratory nature of our project, we limited our data coverage and focused on two chosen airlines, Alaska Air and JetBlue (Delta and Southwest Air in Madhav’s case), on a sample date pre-covid (Nov 12, 2019).

1-1 Sample tweets

To retrieve historical tweets, we utilized the Twitter API, a platform that allows you to find and retrieve, engage with, or create a variety of different resources including the following: user ID, time created, text, and more. Example 1-2 lists the tweets we pulled. Since many tweets contain URLs, digits, and other things that might disrupt the sentiment analysis, we preprocessed the tweets to trim them and make them ready for future steps.

1-2 Retrieved Tweets
@JetBlue 2019-11-12 23:12:31+00:00 @JetBlue So your response is basically, “Suck it up, we’re giving you a flight credit later so who cares that you waste a day of your life and have to pay your own money to eat?”
@JetBlue 2019-11-12 23:12:11+00:00 @JetBlue We have and at 10am they had the phone and now nobody knows anything
@JetBlue 2019-11-12 23:08:53+00:00 .@JetBlue just sent a second email to Mosaic members explaining the fare family changes from this morning (https://t.co/zLHmhCJzzi) and their impact on the elites in the TrueBlue program. It is a good chart. I have no idea why it wasn't the first message sent 10 hours ago. #PaxEx https://t.co/c0ycO8K5NQ
@JetBlue 2019-11-12 23:08:08+00:00 @JetBlue I was scheduled for 2 pm. Now scheduled for 9:15. $250 was thrown out but no guarantee that we will leave tonight.
@JetBlue 2019-11-12 23:07:59+00:00 @sbbiscuit @JetBlue Interesting that’s kind of what I thought was happening. I mean I don’t know if blue plus really saved with the bags anyway but still

The purpose of preprocessing is to get rid of any unwanted or irrelevant text elements. To conduct sentiment analysis, we used two different toolkits, TextBlob and Vander, in order to compare between results. However, computer programs have problems recognizing things like sarcasm and irony, negation, jokes, and exaggeration–things that are easy for a human to sense and identify. Failure to recognize these things can skew the results. And since some tweets contain multiple mentions, even when the overall sentiment is negative, the sentiment toward a specific airline is not necessarily negative. Therefore, after putting the texts through automated analyzing programs, we manually identified each of the tweets. See 1-3 for an example when sarcasm cannot be detected by the programs.

1-3 Retrieved Tweets
Text @JetBlue Very happy to hear. Regardless, I'll be sure to avoid the Blue Basic fares like the plague.
Preprocessed jetblue happy hear regardless ill sure avoid blue basic fare like plague
Polarity 0.16
Sentiment_Type_TextBlob POSITIVE
scores {'neg': 0.244, 'neu': 0.341, 'pos': 0.415, 'compound': 0.5423}
compound 0.5423
Sentiment_Type_Vader POSITIVE

Our next step would be to create visualizations to help illustrate our analysis. This summer has been really rewarding as we had no experience in scraping data, preprocessing data, and text/sentiment analysis prior to this project. Exploring new areas is always exciting and learning about the airline industry is relevant to our day-to-day life. Even though the research has just started, and we still have a long way to go before we draw any conclusion, being able to start from scratch and building new skills and knowledge on every step of the way is beyond precious. We would like to thank Professor Ge and Jiebei for this wonderful opportunity and experience.

Huaihan (Chandler) Shan ’23 with Benjamin Ho (Economics)

Prior work classified all non-profits that have publicly available IRS data as either Democrat leaning or Republican-leaning by using a native Bayesian classifier to compare the frequency of the words used by the nonprofit's mission statement with the frequency of words used in speeches given by members of Congress. However, the classification could be made more accurate by neural networks which take advantage of the structure of the sentences used, not just word frequency. We implemented convolutional neural networks and recurrent neural network models that were trained using Congressional data in order to better classify the non-profits.

The code was implemented using python, with congressional data obtained from the Stanford SSDS and DW NOMINATE scores:

Sample code

Darby Waller ’24 with Benjamin Ho (Economics)

This summer, Professor Ho and I worked on a behavioral economics project examining the effectiveness of various apology types on the ability of celebrities and public figures to return to society after being “canceled.”

For our work, we looked first at well-publicized celebrity apologies. We collected a sample of celebrity apologies based on two online databases: a New York Times dataset of celebrities who were publicly reprimanded during the #metoo movement and a dataset compiled by the online apology blog SorryWatch which noted and analyzed a number of celebrity apologies in the recent decades, culminating in over 200 apologies. We then used Amazon Mturk to categorize and assess the effectiveness of these apologies through a survey we constructed.

We additionally worked with academic access from Twitter to download databases of tweets referencing the celebrities within our dataset. These databases of tweets consist of a sample of tweets from six distinct periods of interest:

  1. Random collection of tweets from the year prior to the cancellation
  2. A database of tweets directly before the news of the cancellable event was published
  3. A database of tweets directly after the news of the cancellable event was published
  4. A database of tweets directly before the celebrity apologized
  5. A database of tweets directly after the celebrity apologized
  6. Random collection of tweets from the year following the issuing of the apology
A screenshot of some of the code used to create our tweet databases.
A screenshot of some of the code used to create our tweet databases.

We then used the open source program VADERsentiment to analyze the overall sentiment of the tweets contained in our databases to quantify how public sentiment towards the celebrity changed over time. Our initial results are promising and in line with some of our initial hypotheses, and I hope that our continued collaboration on this project will yield interesting results.

This image depicts an example output of our sentiment analysis of the tweet dataset for Kevin Spacey.

William Shaffer ’23 with Gisella Kagy (Economics)

This summer, I worked with Professor Kagy on developing an economics seminar on inequality and discrimination. The project consisted of a few primary tasks: find academic and popular press publications and media sources for the class, create class materials for those sources, and build out the applied econometrics that will be taught alongside the class materials.

Inequality and discrimination, in the US at least, have a long, complicated, and sad history tied to status, subversion, and power. While many are fortunate, far too many, especially people of color, members of the LGBTQIA+ community, women, immigrants, etc., have lived, worked, and struggled in systems of power rigged against them. For example, we can look back at the early to mid-20th century redlining policies that froze people of color out of the housing market. Since assets and wealth, such as a home, build wealth and intergenerational wealth, the impacts of redlining are still being felt today (see Netflix Explained racial-wealth gap & billionaires).

Moving beyond the history and literature of inequality and discrimination, much of my time was spent working with US Census data to create visualizations of inequality over the last 50 years.

The census data I worked with focused on income, and I was able to visualize numerous examples of inequality. I found it immensely striking how evident the inequality was, even after controlling for exogenous variables. As someone who wants to work in the development/general helping people fields, this project has given me further impetus to pursue this path. In addition, after being abroad, working on this project provided a much-needed refresher on coding and econometrics.

I hope my contribution to this project helps whoever takes this class next spring understand and appreciate the complexities of inequality and discrimination, and perhaps push them to do more to help.

Reynaldo Claro ’24 with Sarah Pearlman (Economics)

Over the past summer, I focused on migration patterns, labor, and marriage markets in Mexico. I also learned data analysis and research techniques with large databases. These databases were used to answer one question: Did men's migration, or lack thereof, after the 2008 recession affect women's marriage markets and labor markets in Mexico? The four databases— ENADID, MCAS, Mexican Census, and ACS— enabled us to make a reliable conclusion about Mexican migration. With that information, we could determine where in the United States Mexican migration happens as well as from where in Mexico Mexican migration starts. The MCAS database is conclusively made up of the Matrículas Consulares issued, a document issued by the Mexican government that provides outside countries, such as the US, proof of Mexican nationality. After acknowledging the similarity with the other databases, using MCAS, we could determine whether migration of working age Mexicans decreased or increased after the recession. We compiled maps of Mexico, including data from each source (ENADID, MCAS, etc.) to make conclusions about where Mexican migration starts and determine the highest sending states. We compiled many graphs not included in the presentation, such as average women's schooling per year, average men's age per year, and marriages in municipalities based on high/low migration states, to name a few. These graphs were created to understand how marriages were affected because of the change in migration to the United States. All of the above helped us gather assumptions about women's marriage and labor markets in Mexico. Although I didn't necessarily get to answer the question because of the many embedded factors, I can't wait to continue working on the project this coming semester!

Ievgeniia (Zheka) Chyzhykova ’25 with Tanseli Savaser (Economics)

Cyberattacks are becoming a larger part of what all industries, not just financial firms, have to deal with. Cyber risk exposure has an economically and statistically significant negative effect on the stock market performance of affected firms. Additionally, there is evidence of contagion effects: idiosyncratic firm-level cyber risk has the potential of spreading through interconnected financial markets (same country and industry). In 2011, the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) released its initial cybersecurity guidance after a spike in cyber attacks, encouraging companies to pay more attention to cyber risks. With Professor Savaser, we are working on a project that aims to document and examine the US bank holding companies’ governance strategies to mitigate cyberattacks. The goal is to construct a measure that captures banks’ cybersecurity proactiveness and examine the type of governance structures that are most effective in dealing with a cyber attack.

We approach the question in multiple stages. First, using text analysis, we document how often cyber terms are mentioned in banks’ annual reports and proxy statements. Second, we analyze the context in which the cyber terms were used. Third, we identify which banks mention cyber risk factors in their disclosures before they or their peers experience an attack or before the SEC published its first guidance of the matter, and which banks act retroactively. Lastly, we merge the dataset with the publicly available data on cyber attacks to examine the relationship between the type of governance mechanisms utilized by banks and the frequency of cyberattacks they experience. In the future, we aim to further investigate the topic in the context of non-financial firms.


Marissa Desir ’25 with Erin McCloskey (Education)

“How do we honor our stories enough to quiet the voices inside [that tell us our voices don’t matter]?”

This summer Professor Erin McCloskey and I learned about rehumanization through storytelling. Done remotely, we jumped eagerly into this budding research project, fascinated yet inquisitive of each concept. The intention was to recognize the impact of exchanging personal narratives as a transformative pedagogical approach and its role in strengthening relationships within the triad of home, school, and community through its ability to reconstruct barriers surrounding social identities.

Furthermore, the inclusion of this method within classrooms involving those incarcerated (or formerly), and local university students. Our time spent emphasized the value of self-authorship as a form of resistance against dominant power structures and as a tool for forming authentic and constructivist learning environments with students at the core of the curriculum.

From the beginning, there was a need to gather research from all forms of media such as books, peer-reviewed articles, TedTalks, and documentaries to represent the multimodal storytelling that would take place. We then developed an annotated bibliography that would factor in creating an applicable framework that could be sent to the Institutional Review Board. As the project was in its early stages, we were able to discuss how to create positions of strength within the classroom for different types of narratives. While also discussing the possible drawbacks of confining this approach to an academic setting and addressing the dangers of exchanging traumatic stories. Ultimately, this call to exchange allows for reinterpretations and inclusive solutions that prompt community engagement, activism, and identity-making.

As Professor McCloskey continues her work, I thank her for allowing me to contribute over the summer and acquaint myself with a topic I now harbor a passion for.

Leonard Versola ’23 with Maria Hantzopoulos (Eduction)

“Because love is an act of courage, not of fear, love is commitment to others. No matter where the oppressed are found, the act of love is commitment to their cause—the cause of liberation.”

Known as the leading advocate for critical pedagogy, Paulo Freire was a Brazilian author, philosopher, and educator who championed education in the fight for liberation, equity, and peace. Through close readings of Freire’s work,

explorations of multimedia analysis of his concepts, and dialogues (both academic and community-based) with practitioners of Frerian pedagogy, Professor Hantzopoulos and I inquired: How have Freire’s theories been implemented into practice in educational settings?

Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed (1970) is a seminal, foundational, and revolutionary text from which scholars, activists, and educators draw techniques and theories to institute and sustain social change. With this text as a basis, Professor Hantzopoulos curated a shortlist of books as a catalyst point for further exploration: Education for Critical Consciousness and Pedagogy of Freedom: Ethics, Democracy, and Civic Courage both by Freire, Teaching Community: A Pedagogy of Hope and Teaching Critical Thinking: Practical Wisdom both by bell hooks.

Outras Palavras, Acervo O Globo

These books guided me in creating an annotated bibliography of fifty sources ranging from teaching guides, lesson plans and activities, journal articles, book chapters, research databases, videos and documentaries, to podcasts with a focus on the implementation of Freirian theory in educational settings. Each source either contextualized, criticized, or built upon Freire’s ideas. This open-ended exploration allowed me to not only track the ways in which people have employed Freirian practice in everyday life but also track the evolution of Freire’s ideas as they were put through an iterative process of trial, error, and revision in varying contexts.

Paulo Freire in the praxis of a “culture circle.”

With this complex and rich bevy of sources, I created an interactive website that chronicles this iterative process; this process revealed to me that Freire’s theories and praxis holds a cyclical paradigm. Paulo Freire’s teachings are still relevant today because they emphasize the powerful influence education has in shaping citizens and society.

“Looking at the past must only be a means of understanding more clearly what and who they are so that they can more wisely build the future.”

Hispanic Studies

Oscar Martinez ’25 with Augusto Hacthoun (Hispanic Studies)

As a Ford Scholar, Óscar Martínez ’25 worked with Professor Augusto Hacthoun of the Hispanic Studies Department for 8 weeks. Together we researched a late work by Pablo Neruda (1904–1973).

A Chilean poet, diplomat and politician, Pablo Neruda (1904-1973) is best known for earlier works Veinte poemas de amor y una canción desesperada (1924) and Alturas de Macchu Picchu (1947), and for his Nobel Prize in Literature in 1971. Our research was intended to construct a guide for readers who are less familiar with Neruda’s later work.

Aerial view of our workspace.
Various Neruda works and a map of Araucanía region.
Vassar's edition of Aún and Obras Completas Volumes I - V
Vassar’s edition of Aún and Obras Completas Volumes I–V.

On July 5th and 6th, 1969, as a present to himself for his 65th birthday, Neruda wrote a cycle of 28 numbered poems of over 400 verses, titled Aún. It was published a week later in a limited edition of 500 copies. Vassar’s Thompson Library owns copy number 299 which we used as anchor for our research, together with editions of his complete literary prose and poetry, published letters and political writings. These were supplemented by digitized sources held in the Fundación Pablo Neruda, the Biblioteca Nacional Digital de Chile, the HATHI TRUST Digital Library.

We began with an in-depth reading, discussion, and analysis of the book, followed with the reckoning of autobiographical, geographical, historical, and conceptual references, plus words or phrases needing elucidation. We were aided by numerous printed and digital resources, including a concordance of Neruda’s poems, bibliographies, dictionaries, glossaries, scholarly publications, and photo and video archives.

Pablo Neruda and Chu Tuh
Pablo Neruda and his Chuh Tuh.

We then analyzed the structure of every poem, the meter of every verse, their rhetorical devices, and their organic linkages within the book. Poem by poem, we searched for textual and conceptual connections between Aún and Neruda’s prior writings, and for echoes within Neruda’s contemporaneous texts.

Drawing on some of our findings and analyses, I have made a Story Map to give a general sense of our research journey.

Abigail Houton ’24 with Lizabeth Paravisini-Gebert and Michael Aronna (Hispanic Studies))

This summer, I worked with Professor Paravisini-Gerbert and Professor Aronna to prepare a translation of the first volume of Gonzalo de Oviedo’s General and Natural History of the Indies and Ocean Sea for publication. As the royal historian for Spain in the early 1500s, Oviedo produced the first comprehensive history of Spanish America. Covering local flora and fauna, indigenous practices, political scandals, brutal Spanish colonization, and much more, this account offers a vibrant and information-dense view into this violent, fascinating, and formative period of American history, and I feel beyond lucky to have helped with the first-ever complete translation of this work.

Illustrations from the 1851 edition of Oviedo’s General and Natural History of the Indies.

One of my responsibilities this summer included assisting with proofreading and editing the translation. This project was a collaborative effort, with many different students translating different chapters; this meant that despite each translator’s high-quality work, sometimes the same word would be translated several different ways across chapters. We cross-referenced each chapter to the original text while editing, ensuring the final product would be a faithful and cohesive adaptation.

Once the chapters were edited and triple-checked, I would help upload them to Scalar. Scalar is a website that flows like a book, and my duties included adding content, styling the website, and working out any bugs along the way. Through this process, I was exposed to a wide variety of art from early Spanish America, learned the basics of CSS, and gained experience building a website.

A view of the editing process—we were changing the translation of “oidor” from “judge” to the more accurate “high court judge.”

However, above all, I was able to catch a glimpse of what life was like in early Spanish America, complete with details I would have never otherwise imagined. Sometimes horrifying, sometimes snarky, and always interesting, this Historia is a treasure trove of information and I am grateful to have played a role in bringing it to a wider audience.


Amy Huang ’23 & Heejae Jung ’23 with Rebecca Edwards (History)

Our research with Professor Rebecca Edwards examined the phenomenon of “hyperfertility,” in which women bore a number of children far higher than the estimated historical “natural” fertility rate of three to eight children. To get a broad, demographic sense of these hyperfertile women, we made use of AncestryLibrary’s search function to access every single woman listed in the 1900 US Federal Census who when asked, “How many children have you born?” answered twenty or more. We cataloged 3,000 out of a total of more than 3,400 of these women using spreadsheets.

More than half of the women we encountered were black women born in the South before emancipation—into slavery. A few other women were Mexican immigrants or descendants. Still, others were European immigrants. Native-born white women numbered comparatively few. We ran statistics on child survival rates (the percentage of children these mothers reported as still living in 1900, which averaged around 30% across all of the women we recorded), created five-year age cohorts to gauge whether any particular years saw spikes in reproductive labor (possibly correlated to economic recessions or rising slave prices), and generated state maps to recognize any geographic patterns or clusters of interest.

In the case of rural black Southern women, we discovered a general correlation with maps of the Cotton Belt—the locations of cotton plantations. Heejae conducted a study of the percentages of black women who remained in their birth states, noticing higher persistence rates in certain states over others.

New York State map
Many of the women who resided in New York were clustered in the NYC area. Most of them are immigrants from Europe.

On one of our last days of the project, we explored city directories at the New York Public Library, where we found a predominantly white and male retelling of events. An obituary in Greene County, Alabama, for example, honored the “father of 26 children” while burying the mother’s name. Looking through the America’s Historical Newspapers database revealed a similar pattern: obituaries frequently honored patriarchs of large families but provided little insight into the mothers who had borne those children.

We also searched for stories of individual women and their families. In Heejae’s search for the voices of indigenous women, she examined the Indian-Pioneer Papers, and found the theme of displacement—the lack of knowledge about their mothers’ surnames or their own places of origin—to be prevalent. For example, Rachel Alexander Perryman, a Creek Indian woman and a mother to seventeen children, was described by her daughter as someone who “did not know when she was born or exactly where - just someplace northwest of Tulsey Town.”

Among Black and European immigrant women alike, midwifery served as a form of reproductive resilience and community-building. Due to the lack of accessible and affordable care for expectant mothers from impoverished or marginalized backgrounds, midwives were often not only a necessary but the preferred alternative to doctors. According to Alabama midwife Margaret Charles Smith, midwives were entrusted with the burden of saving and delivering lives while being subjected to intense scrutiny from the public. She wrote, “the midwife has all the brunt to bear on her. If anything bad happens to the mother, they’re calling you in. The doctor goes there and does what he’s going to do. Gives her a shot and bye-bye. It may do good or it won’t do good, bye-bye. The underground is you working, you deliver the baby, but you aren’t supposed to be there. You don’t have a license to be there. See, they never did allow the midwives to deliver white people. But I did.”

Smith’s account of the double standards surrounding assisted childbearing complemented scholarly findings of hyperfertility as both a commonplace and stigmatized practice. Secondary sources further revealed the complex function of female reproduction as an outlet for individuals to project their racist attitudes toward non-white women as “primitive” beings who unknowingly endangered their children. After the Civil War and the emancipation of slaves, fertility also served as an entry point for people to dispute the sexual objectification of white versus non-white bodies.

Another source we looked at was interviews of formerly enslaved people conducted in the 1930s by the WPA Federal Writers’ Project. One interviewee was Laura Clark, an 86-year-old black woman living in Livingston, Alabama. She was one of twenty-two children born by her mother on a plantation in North Carolina. At the age of six or seven, Laura was sold away from her mother alongside ten other unrelated children to an Alabama plantation. She herself had nine living children at the time of the interview, and said, “I had mo’n dat, but some come here dead and some didn’t… Dey ain’t a graveyard in dis here settlement roun’ Prospect where I ain’t got chillun buried.” Laura Clark’s story reflects the realities of the women who bore large numbers of children: that such reproductive patterns, whether coerced or not, were connected to a demand for labor, and often meant that mothers and children alike suffered disease, injury, and loss to fuel that demand.

Yuchen Zhou ’23 with Wayne Soon (History)

China, 1949 to 1979

The Ford Project examines the history of labor health insurance in China between 1949 and 1979, and my task is to find relevant primary sources on this topic through archival and library research.

To learn more about the said topic, I visited multiple libraries in Beijing, searching through databases, and looking for primary sources. Two of the libraries I stayed most frequently at are the Capital Library(首都图书馆)and the National Library (国家图书馆).

Each library grants me access to different resources, so I have to sort out which ones are the most useful to the project. At first it felt like seeking for a needle in a haystack — I had no idea how to start and what to look for. But as the project proceeded, and with Professor Soon’s kind guidance, I started to grasp the key and made fast progress. Towards the end of the project I also made several trips to Beijing Municipal Archives (北京市档案馆) to collect more first-hand information. A particularly interesting piece of article reveals that, contrary to the belief that the labor insurance system is not enforced properly on basic levels of factories, the local government kept an extremely close eye on the funds of the labor insurance to make sure they were put into proper use.

Another highlight of the project is browsing through an antique site (https://www.997788.com) and looking for people who sell items from the era. I managed to obtain several receipts that record labor insurance-related expenditures. It’s eye-opening in the sense that I didn’t realize there are so many creative ways to do research other than sitting in a library!


Madeleine Donat ’23 with Christine Howlett (Music)

This summer, I worked with Professor Christine Howlett to study community engagement through choral practice. For the first half of this research program, I helped run BachFest, a choral and orchestral festival with community singers and professional instrumentalists. This included helping to organize rehearsals and materials, as well as having an administrative role in the festival’s planning and execution. I also got to participate in the choir. In addition, I wrote researched program notes about the background and history of the pieces that were performed.

A snapshot from the BachFest performance on June 26, 2022.
A snapshot from the BachFest performance on June 26, 2022.
Photo: Courtesy of Kevin T. McEneany and The Millbrook Examiner.

After BachFest, I had the pleasure of interviewing members of Cappella Festiva, a community choir which Professor Howlett directs, as well as members of community choirs in my hometown of Fairfax, Virginia. These interviews were conducted via Zoom and then transcribed. Though the participants came from various backgrounds and had a variety of musical appreciation, education, and experience, all of the interviewees noted the profound impact that choral singing (and music in general) has had on their well-being, with many also pointing to its positive social effects.

In tandem with these two projects, I read many scientific studies pertaining to the effects of choral singing on mental health, well-being, and community engagement. These studies echoed what we found in our interviews, namely the power of singing as a stress relief, an escape, a social vehicle, and a labor of love. As a singer myself, I can corroborate these points from personal experience, but seeing the positive effect of community singing in real, concrete terms, from observation, research, and hearing others’ personal experiences, reminded me of its importance.

Professor Howlett and I have decided to continue this project into the 2022–2023 academic year, during which we will conduct more interviews and more research in other fields to find a holistic picture of the power of community singing on well-being.


Melisa Calderon ’23 & Cherrie Chang ’24 with Jeffrey Seidman (PHIL/ENST)

From students to working professionals, many people want to address climate change with their career, but do not know where to begin. To help these people understand how they can help, our team–Cherrie Chang, Melisa Calderon, and Professor Seidman–constructed the website, Climate Solutions and Climate Careers. https://climatesolutions-careers.org/. Our website consists of two major sections, Climate Solutions and Climate Careers, each presenting an engaging roadmap surveying a part of the current climate change landscape.

Climate Solutions overviews a range of practical solutions to climate change, from installing heat pumps in buildings to practicing regenerative agriculture; and Climate Careers details how any working professional can use their existing career to address climate change, and how a student can choose a career that will have an impact on climate. Over this summer, we worked together to design and construct the website to be visually inviting, accessible and informative. In addition, we developed a database that organizes climate tech startups by sector, such as renewable energy, transportation, and waste. The database helps people explore what is already being done to combat climate change.

By the end of the project, we developed a beta version of the website and the database. In both its content and its construction, our website was a great opportunity for us to learn about the intersection of technology and environmentalism. In creating it, we ourselves learned how to use our respective skill sets to contribute to the fight against climate change, and we hope our website shows how you can as well. You can visit our website at: https://climatesolutions-careers.org/

Christine Kerrol Chung ’24 with Osman Nemli (Philosophy)

This summer, I (Christine Kerrol Chung ’24) worked with Professor Osman Nemli in the Philosophy Department on a project called “Philosophies of Pedagogy”. The purpose of this project was to critically understand the nature of education, including its purpose and execution, before moving on to adapting theory into practice by shaping Professor Nemli’s pedagogy in future classes.

We began by reading some key writing in the field of pedagogy. Particular attention was given to bell hooks’ “Teaching to Transgress” Paulo Freire’s “Pedagogy of the Oppressed,” and Bettina Love’s “We Want to Do More Than Survive” on engaged pedagogy and abolitionist teaching. We also explored the philosophical origins of education through Plato’s “Laches”, and “Meno,” as well as Jacques Ranciere’s “The Ignorant Schoolmaster.” Through biweekly discussions, Professor Nemli and I became heavily inspired by hooks, Freire, and Love’s abolitionist teaching approach.

I then analyzed Professor Nemli’s past CEQs to look for trends in his pedagogy that can be shaped by our readings. A current finding is that although students become inspired by the material, there is a desire for key concepts to be further fleshed out instead of focusing on individuals.

Applying theory to practice, Professor Nemli and I developed two draft syllabi that considered this feedback and engaged pedagogy. We decentered the cult of the individual from syllabi by structuring the content based on key concepts rather than a canonical figure. This was inspired by Ella Baker’s abolitionist approach to protests. We then created assignments that encouraged students to critically engage with the pedagogy of the class; for example, a peer editing assignment where students can have the space to write about the merits/drawbacks of peer editing.

Going forward, Professor Nemli and I will co-write a paper on Credentialism in the USA, which is currently in the research stage.

Political Science

Benjamin Fikhman ’23 & Simon LaClair ’24 with Taneisha Means (Political Science)

This summer, we worked with Professor Taneisha Means to research the pre-bench lives of state court judges across the United States. We received a valuable introduction to concepts of law and judicial politics. For our first collective project, we researched background characteristics such as political, educational, and socio-economic background to determine how the pre-bench lives of state court judges differ across racial lines. Our work entailed analyzing transcriptions from 96 interviews with state court judges and survey data among approximately 600 judges to understand judicial diversity in state courts.

Ben Fikhman ’23 and Simon LaClair ’24 organizing data gathered from interviews with judges

We each worked on a different paper co-authored with Professor Means. Ben researched judges’ experiences with and perceptions of race-based, gender-based, and sexuality-based disqualification requests from litigants who sometimes question the impartiality of minority judges. Simon worked on evaluating the mental health support, stress, career satisfaction, and general well-being of state court judges. We developed our data analysis skills, understanding of how to craft scholarly articles, and knowledge of the topics we studied.

Our experience with this project emphasizes the scholarly importance of state court judges, who hold tremendous influence over citizens’ lives. Despite this reality, we realized that research on state court judges is limited, and more is needed. We are thrilled to be a part of Professor Means’ exploration into the politics of state judges and courts.

Screen shot of a spreadsheet example
A spreadsheet keeping track of progress with interviewing and transcribing.

By enhancing our knowledge of judicial terminology, discovering new ways to organize data, and learning about general research methodology, we dipped our feet into the world of law in a more substantive way than we first anticipated. Beyond the systematic analysis of judges, this project helped us understand the human perspective behind the state judiciary–the personal stories among hundreds of judges that underlie the complexity of judicial politics and the justice system.

Kate Li ’24 & Sherry Liao ’23 with Fubing Su (Political Science)

The tournament competition hypothesis is a prevailing explanation regarding China’s economic rise. It theorizes the existence of a meritocratic system that favors local leaders who are able to promote faster growth, thus leading to the selection of able officials to manage the economy. This summer, we worked with Professor Fubing Su to study the core piece of the tournament competition: official promotion. We look into the possibility of factional politics, a contrasting argument against the meritocratic view. To test these two competing hypotheses, this project builds a database of politburo standing committee members and provincial government officials, including biographical information and all positions throughout their careers. This will allow us to code officials’ career path (promotion or demotion) and their network/factional ties.

The first step of our research is data collection. We updated biographical information of current provincial government officials to a database compiled in the past decade. We identified the names of these officials and located their full biographies on baike.baidu.com, a popular website in Chinese. Then we followed a system of codifications to enter all relevant information into the database and checked the accuracy of our codings after the first few trials to make sure that all information followed standard formats.

We conducted our research remotely and were able to meet regularly online using Wechat. But it also had some downsides. China's strict covid policy demanded all international travelers to be quarantined in hotels for two weeks. Unfortunately, one of us was locked in this regime for almost two months because her tests were unclear. This impaired the progress of our projects because hotel networks were poor and access to google platforms–where our collaborative project was stored–was restricted. Thanks to Professor Howlett and Alix Hoffman, we were given an extension to continue our work. We aim to cross-check all entries again for standardization and to run our Rstudio codes to identify all network ties between politburo standing committee members and provincial leaders afterwards. This would complete all tasks in our original proposal.

Psychological Science

Ella McNeil ’24 & Gissette Noriega ’24 with Michele Tugade (Psychological Science)

This summer, we worked with Professor Michele Tugade to research evidence-based strategies for managing stress and strengthening resilience. Through exploring current literature, participating in workshops, and hearing personal experiences, we were able to identify key markers of resilience and start brainstorming ways that we could teach it effectively.

Our first task was to investigate the current literature on resilience and develop summaries of their theories and findings. This work was the foundation for our entire project as we began creating infographics, interview questions, and eventually a website. We used platforms such as The Greater Good and Character Lab to identify approaches to common themes of resilience such as self-compassion, gratitude, growth mindset, and goal agility.

We created infographics on the Self-Compassion Cycle, Tender & Fierce Self-Compassion (Dr. Kristin Neff), and Emotional Nuance. We also developed interview questions for future work, highlighting the different perspectives/narratives of resilience and the power of storytelling.

Self-Compassion Infographics and Series

Next, we decided to develop a website where the research and resources could be shared. When designing the website, we wanted to identify both the strengths and limitations of what was currently offered. First, we noticed that a majority of the resources were inaccessible due to their high prices and time-consuming workshops. Additionally, we found that current research related to resilience and PTG lacked consideration of its theoretical applications in different cultural, social, and individual contexts. With this in mind, our goals were to address these limitations, make resources more accessible, and account for different perspectives.

Resilience Stories Website Homepage
Resilience Stories Website—Podcasts

This project has shown us the power of individual resilience and the importance of implementing these strategies whenever possible in our daily lives. The future directions of this project include creating a focus group for the website, conducting interviews, and submitting a research proposal to the APA.


Yidan Xu ’24 with Michael Walsh (Religion)

This summer, I worked with Professor Michael Walsh on his project “China Reimagined: An Alternative History in Nine Parts.” While refining his first-year writing seminar “China Reimagined,” the project will also be expanded into a book that provides alternative perspectives of Chinese history than the more traditional chronologies.

The project is inspired by 洛書 (LuoShu), an ancient mystical chart that appeared from the Luo River in central China.

The chart of 洛書 (LuoShu) after the Song dynasty
The chart of 洛書 (LuoShu) after the Song dynasty

Our primary task was to explore the concept of “China” through 9 themes, beginning with “territory” 國, which concentrates broadly on Chinese cosmology, and ending with “people”民.

The challenge of the project is that it’s impossible to give a comprehensive conclusion of what China is and who ‘counts’ as Chinese. We worked together to figure out the most appropriate nine themes for the book project and the appropriate Chinese and English titles for each topic. I also researched the etymology of relevant Chinese terms.

Besides tracing the history of LuoShu, I mainly worked to find primary and secondary resources in Chinese both in the library and online. Professor Walsh gave me much freedom to explore these topics and I found myself dwelling on some topics like “territory” and “city” while spending less time on others. I then translated, summarized, and annotated the information I found.

Book of Diverse Crafts (考工記), the image of the King’s city (王城圖)
Yu Ji Tu (禹跡圖), 1136

For me, it was also about learning the process of exploring academic research and about research material selection. Additionally, translating the texts was a surprisingly helpful way of learning. I found myself knowing a lot more than merely “reading through the words.” It almost feels like the 8 weeks of research just started yesterday. I want to thank Professor Walsh for making this a wonderful experience.