2023 Project Summaries


Sydney Straw ’25 with Elizabeth Lastra (Art)

This summer I worked on researching the settlement history of Iceland. The current settlement history of Iceland states that Norwegian Vikings were the first settlers, however, there are archeological and medieval literary hints that suggest Iceland’s first settlers were Irish monks who dug mysterious artificial caves in the south of Iceland. However Iceland’s first historical written records state that these Irish monks were driven out of Iceland by Norwegian Vikings and the act of the settlement of Iceland was placed on Norwegians, not on the Irish.

I focused on reading Iceland’s first pieces of historical writing on how the country was settled in order to learn more about the settlement of Iceland and why perhaps, history seems to be disregarding the presence of these Celtic Christians and dismisses the story as myth. These first Icelandic texts have a mysterious background as well, as it is unclear who actually wrote the sagas themselves and the topic of how the information was acquired is discussed and considered in the academic field heavily. I also read about caves in Ireland and the British Isles to potentially make a connection between the artificial caves in Iceland.

This interdisciplinary project will continue in the fall both through research and on-site investigation. A small class travel intensive will continue research and will travel to Iceland in October to observe and record the markings on the caves walls as well as learn about the family history and stories of the people whose land the caves now occupy.

Yidan Xu ’24 with Elizabeth Lastra (Art)
Supported by Creative Arts Across Disciplines

This summer, I worked with Professor Elizabeth Lastra on the CAAD project “Investigating the Infrastructure for Medieval Pilgrimage.” The project focused on the medieval history of Carrión de los Condes, a city in Northern Spain. Lying on one of the major routes of the Camino de Santiago, Carrión was an important city for pilgrims.

As a part of my research, I looked into religious minorities in medieval Castile, medieval economic systems, and images of hybrids. Particularly, I was surprised to find that–while one might imagine that people of different religious beliefs did not get along with each other–medieval Iberia in fact was a land where local Christians, Muslims, and Jews often collaborated across religious and cultural boundaries.

Additionally, I also tried to find possible patterns across the imagery of medieval churches dedicated to St. James along the Camino, the pilgrimage route to his tomb. Surprisingly, there were fewer churches of St. James than I expected, nor did I see any visual connections between them.

Besides conducting bibliographical research, I also made detailed illustrations of church sculpture at some of the sites in Professor Lastra’s book. For me, this is a unique experience where I practiced not only my observational skill but also my ability to create simple yet visually appealing images. Moreover, I also used GIS to build some maps for the project. All of these creative works aim to make medieval Carrión easier to comprehend and visually accessible to viewers.

Through the 8 weeks of research, I not only gained knowledge about the history of pilgrimage but also learned how modern technologies–such as 3D modeling–could be useful aids to art historical study. I am glad to have the chance to explore more on the subject of religious art and to put my artistic skill into practice. I want to thank Professor Lastra for making this a wonderful experience.

Santiago Archivolt


Sydney Duncan ’24 with Peter Gil-Sheridan (Drama)
Supported by Creative Arts Across Disciplines

This summer I spent two months studying Medea and sharing my discoveries with Professor Gil-Sheridan, who is beginning work on a new adaptation of Euripides’ Medea in which Medea’s two sons grow up, rather than being killed at her own hand.

I spent the first four weeks doing traditional research on Medea, focusing on translations and adaptations throughout history, scholarly commentary, and versions of Medea before Euripides. I read 22 different translations and adaptations of the original 431 BC play, gained a general understanding of the historical context of ancient Greece, read scholarly theories on themes and characters in the play, and looked at extant primary sources dated before Euripides which mention Medea in order to understand possible ways in which Euripides’ version may have fit in with widespread or popularized versions of the myth.

During the second four weeks, thanks to the Ford Scholars program and Creative Arts Across Disciplines at Vassar, I was given the opportunity to travel to Greece and participate in One Year Lease’s Apprentice Program, in which we developed and performed a new adaptation of Medea written in Greek by Meropi Papastergiou and performed in five villages around Zagorohoria: Vikos, Ano Pedina, Agios Minas, Aristi and Megalo Papingo. I also met with Professor Gil-Sheridan in Papingo, where we discussed what I had learned through both my earlier research, and my participation as an actor in a production of Medea—specifically anything new I had gleaned about the play and about Greek theatrical traditions.

Going forward, Professor Gil-Sheridan will be using my compiled notes and resources to begin work on his adaptation. As a playwright myself, who is also currently working on an adaptation of a Greek tragedy, this work has also given me invaluable information for my work, which will culminate this fall semester in the Steerman Festival.



Manuela Salguero ’25 with Esteban Argudo (Economics)

Professor Argudo’s research project focuses on the impact of immigration status on an individual’s economic prospects. The objective is to examine the evolution of labor market outcomes and wealth disparities between natives, authorized immigrants, and unauthorized immigrants in the United States. To carry out this study, Professor Argudo chose the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP) collected by the Census Bureau, as it is a nationally representative longitudinal survey providing comprehensive information on income, employment, and economic well-being (Census Bureau).

For the past few weeks, two colleagues and I have been using the SIPP to create a dataset that examines employment transitions. Using Python, we have computed relevant statistics, such as average wages before and after unemployment spells, and utilized regressions to analyze the effects of factors like unemployment benefits on the length of an individual’s unemployment period. By grouping the data based on nativity status, we have achieved figures like the one below, which identifies the average wage differences between the three groups for the 2014 panel before and after an unemployment spell.

The findings of the study align with expectations, revealing that unauthorized immigrants struggle the most in the labor market. However, the research highlights that nativity status alone does not account for these disparities. Other factors, such as education level and English proficiency, play a crucial role in determining an individual’s economic well-being. The study emphasizes that inequalities among the groups studied stem from inherent differences in their backgrounds, marking advantages or disadvantages from the moment of birth.

Engaging in this project has been an exciting learning experience. I have gained firsthand knowledge about the procedures of economic research and enhanced my data analysis skills while identifying the roots of the economic inequality between natives and immigrants. As an international student, the outcomes of this study hold relevance not only for a significant portion of the U.S. population (as immigrants constitute over 10% of the population) but for me personally. A question I am left with is: how can the inequalities between these groups be battled when certain differences, such as in English proficiency levels, are unavoidable?

Shijun Hong ’25 withQi Ge (Economics)

Professor Ge and I are Interested in the impact of labor unions on merging firms’ product quality and prices. For the summer project, we devoted our attention to related theories and literature. Theoretically, both the product quality and the price effects of labor unionization on merging firms are a priori indeterminate. Consistent with the theoretical prediction, the existing empirical literature does not agree on the direction of the effects. More importantly, a significant challenge arises from the concurrent incidence of merger events and unionization episodes, a phenomenon commonly observed across various industries. Our literature review highlights two key observations: 1) There is a limited amount of research focusing on the quality impact of unionization, and 2) none of the existing literature adequately distinguishes between the effects of mergers and unionization. The goal of our study is thus to bridge these two major gaps in the literature. As part of the project, I also constructed detailed timelines visualizing the timing of the airline unionization and episodes considered in our project. In the next stage of our project, we plan to conduct a separate and comprehensive analysis of the impacts of mergers and unionization using data from the U.S. Airline Industry.

In the end, I hope our research can adequately distinguish between the effects of mergers and unionization. Through this way, we can not only make contributions to the limited amount of relevant research focusing on the US Airline Industry but also help the later studies related to unionization and mergers effects.

The Timelines Visualizing the Timing of the Airline Unionization and Episodes Considered in Our Project.

Kevin Li ’24 with Ben Ho (Economics)

This summer, Professor Ho and I started working on a new research project examining whether larger lies are more believable in experimental settings. Currently, this study is still under the literature review and experimental-design stage.

Figure 1: A game tree consisting a liar and a trustee. Notice that the trustee is connected with a dotted line, suggesting that the trustee doesn’t know which branch he or she is on.

This project aims to address a gap in the existing literature. Traditionally, the studies focus on why people lie (Ekman, 2023; Ulatowska & Cislak, 2022; Gino & Ariely, 2012), which left the factors that made people believe in lies or influence people’s beliefs in others overlooked. On the other hand, this project would be more focused on the lie-detection in the default, everyday settings rather than the investigative interviewing settings, which further reduced the number of available literature in the same direction.

Figure 2: A screenshot of some previous studies found during the literature review.

For our work, we examined first the established researchers’ existing works in deception-related fields. Apart from the few from previous knowledge, we have also sought assistance from Chat GPT to generate a list of researchers in the field and gradually pieced together the possible mechanisms behind why people believe in lies, for instance, the truth-default theory (Levine, 2014).

Following the conventional models and experimental measures, we have designed an online survey that will be published on Prolific, Cloud Research, or Mturk. For the current study design, the participants will be asked to judge or provide an estimated likelihood of whether the actual responses from other participants in previous studies (Gneezy, Kajackaite, & Sobel, 2018; Verschuere et al., 2018) were honest or not.

Figure 3: This is the main result of Verschuere and colleagues’ 2018 paper. The participants were presented with numbers or words, and their payoff depends on the numbers or words that they reported. As shown in the results, some deception took place during the experiment, but not all participants lied all the way, therefore this create a natural distribution of big and small lies as treatments for our study

Currently, this project is still ongoing, and the survey was only drafted, seeking external feedback and further adjustments. I am looking forward to publishing the survey and awaiting the interesting results in the near future.

Acadia Case ’24 with Alicia Atwood (Economics)
Supported by Creative Arts Across Disciplines

This summer, I worked with Professor Alicia Atwood on our Creative Arts Across Disciplines project focused on the economic effects of the childhood measles vaccine in the state of New York. This project continued Professor Atwood’s research on the economic impact of the distribution of the measles vaccine as outlined in her 2022 paper, “The Long-Term Effects of Measles Vaccination on Earnings and Employment.” Previous research has focused on the impacts on a national level, but our research this summer honed in on the county-level data in the state of New York.

In this project, we sought to translate raw data on population, live births, deaths, and measles cases from the annual Vital Statistics Supplement distributed by the New York State Department of Health into accessible and engaging visual representations of the impact of the childhood measles vaccine. We digitized this data and then used it to create maps of the state for each year (1943 through 1967) by measles rate and county. The measles vaccine was distributed nationwide in 1963, and the drastic reductions in measles rates were clear by 1967. I supplemented our quantitative results with visual research, pulling from TV broadcasts, photographs, and newspaper articles to track attitudes towards the measles epidemic and the distribution of the measles vaccine, compiling both into a short pamphlet.

Economic research on vaccination is essential to understanding how important public health is. Our health influences our ability to learn, socialize, work, consume, and create. Public health interventions at the childhood level, such as the measles vaccine, improve childhood health and therefore can influence their lives well into adulthood. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, which left lasting impressions on both our nation’s physical and economic health, it is important that everyone is able to understand the benefits of large-scale public health interventions like the measles vaccine.


Jose Rodriguez ’24 with Jaime Del Razo (Education)

In 1973 the United States military abolished the draft and created the All Volunteer Force, or AVF, that comprises our military today. Since then every single person in the US army is there as a volunteer to the country. However, even with the AVF, there is still a very deliberate recruitment process. This leads us to question if those in service are really volunteers, and if not, how and why are they chosen? This summer Professor Jaime Del Razo and I undertook the project “The School-to-Military Pipeline: A Review of the Literature,” to try and understand more about this topic and unveil what has already been written.

This project is important to each of us because it affects areas and schools similar to where we were raised. Throughout the summer, we compiled a collection of articles, books, studies, etc. that related to our topic from many perspectives. In order to do this, we searched Vassar’s own library but also utilized Westpoint’s library database, SCOPUS, Google Scholar, and other digital databases. We then organized our collection by a multitude of themes, with the core 3 themes being “Criteria for Specific Targets,” “Control of an Underrepresented Population by the Military,” and “Military’s Special Access, Struggles, or Limits.”

The goal of our project was never to stop the military or dissuade people from serving in the military. However, the military will argue that its recruitment efforts are equal and lead to a diverse military, and we found that this is not true. Not only that but the rates of retention and treatment for marginalized groups are also unjust in the military.

Cayla Kallman ’25 with Kimberly Williams Brown (Education)

Professor Kimberly Williams Brown’s research focuses on Afro-Caribbean women teachers who have come to the United States for various reasons: greater access to resources, professional development, and economic advancement, to name a few. These women teach in different school districts primarily in New York, North Carolina, and South Carolina. PWB has collected interview & survey data in 2016, 2021, and 2022 and works to pull out emerging themes across these different conversations and submissions. Some of these themes will be explored further in future papers and a book.

Together we are using MAXQDA to code transcripts from the teachers’ interviews and organize the data by theme. Some of these themes include: racial identity, effects on children and family, pedagogical style adjustments, and the documentation process. We are also developing a paper proposal for the American Educational Research Association (AERA) centered on the dissonance between the way administrators regard these teachers and the depth of care the teachers demonstrate for the craft of teaching and commitment to their students.

I took two classes with Professor Williams Brown during my first years at Vassar and am deeply interested in her research, critical pedagogy, and the authentic way she connects with students. While initially drawn to the Ford Scholars program because of PWB, the more I learn about her research, the more I realize how the experiences of transnational educators speak to far more than what takes place in a classroom. These Afro-Caribbean women discuss the complexities of the documentation process, the harrowing loneliness of leaving communities behind, and the pressure to make the most of an opportunity despite the challenges making life away from home difficult. I am grateful to read these narratives and gain a deeper understanding of race, gender, the U.S. educational system, and Afro-Caribbean teachers.


Soliana Kasa ’24 and Vanessa Mark ’26 with Eve Dunbar (English)

This summer, we worked with English professor Eve Dunbar on the Scholarship of Women of Color’s Crafting Communities project. With the initial subject being the scholarship of women of color and craft, we took interest in different aspects of this broad niche.

Beginning with finding the distinction between art and craft, Vanessa found that much of the art world had roots of elitism, whereas the craft world was an outlet of creativity to women of color. Reading feminist theory provided interesting insight on crafts. Alice Walker and Audre Lord find that women of color use crafts as an expression of agency. She ultimately applied this lens to the experience of Japanese Americans during WWII internment camps, where creativity and expression proved to be a lifeline for many. This research allowed her to explore two seemingly unrelated subjects, and find the connection between them. She compiled relevant readings into an annotated bibliography. This project allowed her to genuinely explore these subjects for the sake of learning, without the pressure of a final assessment or grade.

Art made in internment by Chiura Obata, prominent Japanese American artist. Referenced in Internment and Identity in Japanese American Art by Kristine C. Kuramitsu.

Soliana created an annotated bibliography focusing on quilting circles and bees, sewing, weaving and the community-building aspect of craft arts for women of color. One of the main framework questions she had thought of to guide her research was what made crafts produced by African American women different from those made by European-descended Americans. She immersed herself in the African American tradition of sewing and quiltmaking, dating back to the days of enslavement in the United States. They used techniques like those used in tapestries made by the Dahomey people in West Africa. She got to read articles that delved into the rich history of this tradition amongst African American women and their ingenious contributions to the craft, which are often overlooked in the historical discourse around American quiltmaking, and a sense of community interconnected with the practice of quilting.

Five women gathered around a traditional quilt at Lake Providence Senior Citizen’s Center in Louisiana. Referenced in Louisiana FolkLife.

Environmental Studies

Kae Czesak ’25, Olivia Kane ’24, and Gioia Marchiano ’25 with Jeff Seidman (Environmental Studies and Philosophy)

Caption: Gioia Marchiano and Olivia Kane interviewing Jayant Kairam ’03, former director of Environment & Sustainability at Walmart.

This summer, our group–Kae Czesak, Olivia Kane, and Gioia Marchiano–worked with Professor Seidman on the Climate Solutions and Climate Careers website. The site is divided into two sides–one that provides a comprehensive understanding of the solutions necessary to address climate change, and another that focuses on careers in climate. Over the course of the summer, we focused on building out the Careers side of the site, and fleshing out a database of climate technology startups.

We worked on pages for many different kinds of careers–Environmental law, Urban planning, Finance, Corporate Sustainability, International Development, and Culture and Communication. We researched to find inspiring resources that could inform students and young professionals about these careers. We also conducted interviews with professionals in some of these fields–environmental law, green building design & retrofitting, and corporate sustainability–to provide students a glimpse into careers they might not have much previous knowledge about. As we wrote these pages, we took care to be intentional about our audience. We sought to inspire readers and help them feel that there was a space for them in climate even if they did not come from a science background or were not interested in stereotypical technical climate change careers.

Another aspect of our project was working on a database of climate tech startups, with a focus on green startups in agriculture. This database provides site users with a broad list of companies working on exciting and under-the-radar climate solutions today.

This site is not done; work will continue to build out the careers page and database. We want the site to function as a hub that can point readers to high quality resources about climate change and climate careers. The careers side highlights careers that are not traditionally thought to be involved in climate change, such as finance. Our goal was to help every reader see that they can have a place in the climate fight. You can visit our site at https://climatesolutions-careers.org/.

Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center

Ruby Funfrock ’24 with John Murphy (Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center)

John Murphy, Philip and Lynn Straus Curator of Prints and Drawings at the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center Pindyck Fellowship

For eight weeks this summer, I worked on two curatorial-based projects that allowed me to explore different aspects of exhibition design. With guidance from John Murphy, I considered the importance of art historical research in better understanding the Loeb’s permanent collection and discovered the intricacies involved in the care, research, interpretation, and display of works as part of the curatorial process.

The first project consisted of researching the bequest from Philip and Lynn Straus (Class of 1946). The couple had generously donated over one hundred works from their personal collection since 1981 up until Lynn’s passing in 2023. Since the Straus Bequest contains a wide temporal, stylistic, and geographic range of prints, I narrowed my research to works by Edvard Munch and the German Expressionists. I ended up with more questions than answers, as many of the artists and subject matter are highly problematic: Emil Nolde’s support of Nazism, the Die Brücke group’s interest in primitivism, and the use of adolescent girls as models. What does it mean to have these works and artists a part of a museum’s collection, especially at a collegiate institution? As a space that builds community, how can the museum environment reckon with these complex histories? My hope is that my research will provide a foundation for the Loeb staff and Vassar community to continue to challenge and contemplate these layered questions.

The second project centered on the gallery space, as I curated the Fall Works on Paper Rotation that would supplement John’s Art History seminar, “Revolutionary Art and Global Politics in the 1930s.” Upon surveying the Loeb’s collection, I became fascinated with art produced under the Works Progress Administration. In selecting five works, I aimed to consider government-sanctioned prints and photographs while balancing the personal and political motives of the artists.

I would like to thank John and the Loeb staff for their mentorship, support, and a wonderful summer!

French and Francophone Studies

Izzy Kaufman-Sikes ’25 and Hadley Sparks ’24 with Kathleen Hart (French and Francophone Studies)

This summer, I worked with Hadley Sparks on Professor Kathleen Hart’s Ford project focused on translating a 19th-century epistolary novel: George Sand’s Jacques (1833). Like other 19th-century feminist novels, Jacques criticizes the impossibility of divorce under the Napoleonic Code, highlighting a couple’s incompatibility as the basis for their unsuccessful partnership. The inspiration for this project was a preliminary translation of Jacques, produced by the late George Sand scholar Thelma Jurgrau, which provided a set of questions to consider and an initial foundation from which our translations could develop.

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Over the course of the project, we became well acquainted with key principles of translation. We spoke of the importance of maintaining equivalence between the two texts, finding a balance between precise vocabulary and capturing the sentiment and flow of the original sentences. Translation, we also discovered, should not be a solitary process but rather a collaborative one. Examining what in Hadley’s translation was similar to or different from my own—discussing our impressions of the book, methods of translation, and reasoning behind choices—greatly elevated the quality of our work.

We employed a myriad of online resources to help us in our translation process, using WordReference for individual words and Google Translate and Linguée to produce rough translations of the text for necessary alteration. Additionally, we utilized the latest version of ChatGPT to gauge how AI might be able to supplement (though never replace) the work of a translator. We found ChatGPT to be helpful in its speed and ability to produce different versions of a passage, but very limited in its capacity to make translation decisions requiring cultural knowledge and to capture tone or voice.

Throughout her novel, Sand condemns the marriage laws of her time—in particular how they disadvantage women—yet she does not write in an overtly confrontational manner. Indeed, Sand believed that efforts to change society abruptly would hinder the advancement of women, and thus she often distanced herself from feminist causes. Nonetheless, her novel has a feminist subtext and many radical elements. Translating Sand’s Jacques intoEnglishoffered me eye-opening insights into a subtle form of feminism—and, hopefully, the translation itself will illuminate for a wider audience how a female novelist sought to use narrative to criticize unjust laws and challenge prevailing gender relations in 19th-century France. – IKS

This summer, Izzy Kaufman-Sikes and I worked with Professor Hart to explore the late Thelma Jurgrau’s preliminary translation of George Sand’s novel Jacques. Using Jurgrau’s draft as a starting point, we explored a variety of translation tools, including the latest version of Chat GPT. We were curious to see how the recent developments in artificial intelligence might assist translators, particularly those translating an older work with a style and syntax no longer in use. Although we found the speed at which Chat GPT translates and its ability to create several different versions of a translated text to be incredibly valuable, oftentimes the best insights came from our collaborations with each other and with Jurgrau’s text.

This project required close attention to historical details such as gender relations, class and economic structure, the politics of the era, and French colonialism. Like many nineteenth century novels, Jacques centers around the souring of a mismatched marriage during a time in which divorce was illegal under the Napoleonic Code. Fernande and Jacques, the couple around whom the novel centers, are immediately shown to be ill-suited for one another: In addition to being twice Fernande’s age, Jacques is also reclusive, mercurial, and taciturn. Although Jacques resembles classic novels like Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and Persuasion—there is an overbearing mother, a volatile ex-soldier, a concerning age gap—Sand’s salient social critiques set the story apart. Sand not only condemns the Napoleonic Code but also discusses taboo topics like suicide and infidelity, even challenging the institution of marriage itself.

With the new surge of interest in classic literature, from book recommendations on TikTok to a shout-out to the 1995 adaptation Pride & Prejudice in the new “Barbie” movie, an English translation of Jacques cannot arrive soon enough. While Sand’s feminist ideals are cloaked in polite language and subtlety, readers today will surely appreciate her radical thinking just as much as her original audience did almost 200 years ago. – HS

Geography Program, Earth Science and Geography

Demetri Sedita ’26 and Sebastian Montañez ’25 with Mary Ann Cunningham (Geography Program, Earth Science and Geography)

Rising climate concerns and the need for sustainable development have led to the development of federal climate resources to tackle these issues. This summer, we worked with Professor Cunningham to better understand what types of funding and planning resources are available to the City of Poughkeepsie, what capacity Poughkeepsie has to access these resources, and how the Vassar community can aid in this process.

Poughkeepsie is classified as an environmental justice community, defined as an area that has been historically underserved and has experienced disproportionate exposure to climate impacts.

CDC Social Vulnerability Index by census tract, from 0 to 1, with 1 being the most vulnerable. Pink municipality boundaries show the outline of Poughkeepsie, and Vassar College is in green eastward of the city (Online version of map).

We looked at two main pieces of legislation, the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) and the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA). The IRA is a federal policy which allocates $360 billion for climate change provisions. The CLCPA sets goals for emission reductions and renewable energy in New York, aiming for 100% renewable electricity by 2040. Both aim to increase access to renewable energy programs in disadvantaged communities like Poughkeepsie, and we researched how the City can leverage the resources available through these policies to address clean energy issues.

After discussions with community members, we discovered that local government departments are key players in driving climate initiatives. However, limited city-level capacity hinders Poughkeepsie from fully seizing these opportunities. We thus identified a potential for Vassar community engagement in local climate planning. Students and faculty could participate by joining regional groups or businesses, contributing to zoning code changes, and conducting research for funding opportunities. Successful engagement necessitates the involvement of students with writing and research skills, and a thorough understanding of Poughkeepsie’s functioning and barriers.

The current funding ecosystem and available resources present unique opportunities for sustainability and climate planning. Engaging with these opportunities would contribute to community development while building valuable skills and experience for students and faculty interested in policy, social justice, and the local economy.

Greek and Roman Studies

Maeve Smith ’24 with Curtis Dozier (Greek and Roman Studies)

As the Ford Scholar for the project “The Political History of Classicism,” under the guidance of Professor Dozier, I researched interpretations of and reactions to the Classics, predominantly by hateful groups. ‘Classical’ antiquity has been used for centuries in conjunction with elitism and exclusionary institutions, resulting in discriminatory interpretations of antiquity that are numerous and span millennia. Tasks for this project include proofreading and editing articles, bibliographic checking, and, most significantly, researching and reading sources—modern, ancient, and everything in between—to illuminate these hateful uses and the ancient sources they refer to.

A significant portion of our research pertained to the earlier history of the United States, as many early Americans were raised on Greek and Latin texts and used antiquity as a reference point. Rome, a genocidal and ever-expanding empire, was used by contemporary politicians as an example for Manifest Destiny. Around the same period, Americans were using antiquity, specifically Aristotle, to justify Southern slavery.

Regarding more recent events, our research ranged from white supremacist manifestos to memes on Twitter. A notable result of this section of work is multiple articles outlining contemporary problematic use of antiquity on Prof. Dozier’s Pharos website. We completed an article regarding Ron DeSantis’ use of Achilles in a transphobic video, and are currently working on hateful memes that use Greco-Roman antiquity.

This is a non-exhaustive outline of some of the work in this Ford project, which approached the Sisyphean task of describing, examining, and, if possible, disentangling of ‘Classical’ antiquity from discriminatory uses. The Classics has a long history of being used to justify the oppression of marginalized groups, and it is a history that must be reckoned with. This research pertains, in part, to outlining how its discriminatory roots persist to this day in order to hold the discipline accountable for its links with hateful and destructive politics.

Hispanic Studies

Mette McKinney ’26 with Lizabeth Paravisini and (Hispanic Studies) and Michael Aronna (Hispanic Studies)

This summer I worked with professors Lisa Paravisini-Gebert and Michael Aronna and a fellow student – Abbie Houton – on Vassar’s Oviedo Project. This project aims to publish a translated version of Gonzalo Fernández de Oviedo’s General History of the Indies in its entirety. Sections of the work have been translated over time but the text has never been translated in its entirety. Thus, for the past few years, Vassar students and select faculty members have been working to do exactly that. During the school year, students work on translating the text from Spanish to English. In the summer, the work is handed to the professors and select students, this summer, me and Abbie.

For the past 8 weeks, we worked on editing 40 chapters from Volume II of the General History and uploading them to the project’s website. Each chapter was edited twice using the original text to confirm the translation was accurate before it was edited again, ensuring that it flowed well into English. The final version was then added to that book’s manuscript and upon thorough edits to every chapter, it was sent to me to upload to the project’s website.

My work focused on doing the second edit of several chapters and uploading completed books to the website. Through my work this summer I gained a greater appreciation for what goes into preparing texts for publication and the intricacies of translation. I had translated 3 chapters during the school year and seeing the slight differences within each student’s chapters helped me to appreciate the nuance of language and the different ways it can be understood by different people. Finishing this project will be a major milestone. As I am going into my sophomore year, I look forward to continuing to work on it for the next few years!

Eva Martinez ’26 with Augusto Hacthoun (Hispanic Studies)

Spanning over 60 books including both inter-library-loans and books from the Vassar Library, 68 archival documents, and countless hours spent close reading, the journey to understand both the processes of poetry and of research was a long one, but not one without reward. Professor Augusto Hacthoun and I (Eva Martinez ‘26) have attempted over these eight weeks to understand the connections between creative processes and scientific processes with the ultimate goal of understanding the question: is poetry research?

I have come away from this project with a deeper understanding of both what it means to create, what it means to research, and what it means to study poetry in an academic context. The idea of scientific research seems far off from the deeply emotional process of poetic ode or elegy, but at the core of this project the similarities between research and composition are discovered. If one begins to understand research as a process or a method that can be generally defined and applied across a wide variety of subjects, one can then allow the focus to shift from the expected scientific rationale to a poetic one. Poetry, like science, allows a person to make observations of the broad and abstract, to focus onto that nebulous idea or image and then create specificity. Trading microscopes for rhyming dictionaries highlights a clear connection between the two modes of research. Through taking in Neruda’s elegy, and transforming it into an ode, Bishop undergoes a research process best corroborated by Paul Magee from the University of Canberra. Magee’s paper lays the groundwork for the concept of poetry as research and concludes with “For what is academic speech, really, if not an attempt to rein that contradictory multiple in and pretend it is one (Magee, 2009)?” This is at heart, the core of this project, to make the seemingly contradictory ideas of poetry and research into one.

If you would like to read more about our work this summer, please visit https://arcg.is/1DbPj10 to view the website I have made documenting our project.


Julianna Aguja ’25 with Robert Brigham (History)

A picture may tell a thousand words, but this summer I learned that they can also spark a million questions.

I spent eight weeks searching for and analyzing photographs for Professor Brigham’s forthcoming memoir about his biological father, Bruce Allen Atwell. During the Vietnam War, Atwell took some of the most seminal images of the conflict. For decades, Professor Brigham used these photographs in his courses without knowing his connection to their photographer.

My first task––identifying soldiers in a selection of Atwell’s photos––seemed insurmountable. With the help of Professor Brigham’s memoir and other texts about the war, I got a rough idea of what platoons and events Atwell photographed. I searched online for message boards, Facebook groups, and websites created by Vietnam veterans that Atwell potentially photographed. I was able to identify almost every unknown soldier in Atwell’s photos with the help of these veteran-historians and their commitment to documenting their Vietnam experiences. Knowing the names of the subjects allowed me to draft meaningful, informative captions to go along with the images for the memoir.

I spent the second half of the project searching for more of Atwell’s photographs from his time in Vietnam, as well as his time in Cuba and as a White House photographer for the Marines. From National Archives branches to small repositories at private universities, I cast a wide net when contacting archives. I was able to track down 21 photographs taken by Atwell that Professor Brigham did not have before.

Photo 1 & Caption

Otis Boss Receives a Lighter, 1968 (courtesy of USMC Flickr). On top of combat photographs, Sergeant Atwell took many intimate shots of soldier life often unseen by civilians. In this photograph, Major General Tompkins presents Private First Class Otis Boss a lighter after Boss saved his Battalion by catching the attention of an aerial observer with only a match.

The mysteries I solved and the photos I found made all the obstacles I faced during my research worth it. Professor Brigham’s story is so compelling, and working with him pushed me to consider new methods of telling history: through powerful personal narratives and photographs.

Photo 2 & Caption

I was unable to identify the Marines in this photo, except for Robert Wallace (far left). I am indebted to Sgt. Maj. Eddie Neas for his assistance in this identification and many others. He not only shared the names of his fellow veterans, but also stories––which enriched my understanding of these photos and this conflict immensely.

Latin American and Latinx Studies

Molly Ardren ’25 with Tracey Holland (LALS)

Using the American Community Survey (ACS) to study declining Mexican migration over the past eight weeks has allowed me to gain a better understanding of the industries and locations across the United States that were most impacted by the change in migration patterns from Mexico following the 2008 financial crisis.

Beginning with a literature review, I learned about the known patterns of Mexican-born workers, and what factors affect their decisions to move to and within the United States. Economic literature analyzing migration patterns from Mexico has drawn attention to the tendency for immigrants to move to areas in which migrant communities already exist. Knowing a network of workers allows immigrants to learn about job opportunities and lowers the costs of migration through information sharing.

Creating maps using data I observe changes in the population density of new Mexican immigrants across the Sun-Belt and Midwest regions.

I then used data from the Mexican Migration project to track the prevalence of migrants within the average migrant community in each state. The prevalence ratio provided an indication of migrant community depth that I could use to run a regression exploring the driving factors behind the variation in migration patterns across states in response to the great recession.

Over-all this summer has provided an insight as to how to use large surveys such as the American Communities Survey and Mexican Migration Project to draw conclusions on how specific populations respond to changes in the economy. I enjoyed working with maps, data, and literature to explore these questions and discover ways to identify trends within data and explain specific behaviors among a specific population.

Nicolas Villamil ’25 with Tracey Holland (LALS)

An unaccompanied migrant is a child who arrives at one of the United States’ borders without an adult with them. Typically, they arrive at the southern border. Their status stays with them even after they are united with a sponsor.

We rightfully hear a lot about the difficult realties they encounter attempting to journey to the United States as well as once they arrive. But while these situations are more than worthy of our attention and advocacy, it is only the beginning of an extremely challenging chapter for these children. After reunification with their sponsor, their new life in the United States begins, at least for the time being. Immediately, appearing in court becomes their number one priority. Whether the child has been reunified with a distant relative, a family member that acts in a parental role, or a biological parent, their goal is to assure their life in the United States. Needless to say, this is a difficult process.

To learn more about it, Prof. Holland and I watched New York City immigration court on numerous occasions, in-person and on Webex. We learned that because of long waitlists at pro-bono organizations and steep prices from immigration lawyers, defendants would frequently appear without representation and had to request continuances from the judges. We also learned that these continuances are limited, and that at some point, these cases must continue, with our without representation. Such a distinction, the numbers show, can all but decide an unaccompanied minor’s case.

This caused us to focus even more on our original question: what role do schools play in all this? By interviewing a former judge, attorneys, employees of pro-bono organizations, and an English language teacher, we learned that this was a worthwhile question, one that we should continue to ask.

Unaccompanied children are an extremely vulnerable demographic, making the support system that school can provide important. At school, they can learn English and about the legal process they are a part of, and they can find support in their teachers and school guidance counselor. Through school, they can interact with their judge in a non-confrontational manner by presenting a certificate of accomplishment at school—they can become more confident. Through school, kids can receive assistance from social workers in finding legal representation. And in some judges’ courts, proof of enrollment in school excuses them from needing to appear in court at all, as long as they have a sponsor or attorney to represent them.

Political Science

Shyasia Arnold ’26 with Taneisha Means (Political Science)

Being a black woman is a thing unto itself, separate and apart from being a woman and separate and apart from being black. The intersectionality is really important.

A Black woman judge’s response to a question asking about her identity.

A judge’s impartiality is essential to upholding justice. However, can judges fully divorce their experiences and identities from themselves?For this summer’s project, I worked alongside Professor Means. The project, Researching, Writing, and Publishing in Law and Courts, examines the effects of judicial diversity–or absence of–by generating patterns and themes between Black and White judges. The themes drawn from the data, combined with research, challenges the notion of judicial impartiality and affirms the importance of judicial diversity.

Sheet of respondents that I, alongside another student, cleaned and anonymized.

Between 2019-2021, data for this project was initially gathered through a survey of an equal number of Black and White state court judges. Additionally, there were interviews with around 100 Black and White state court judges. Judges were asked to share their upbringings, pre-adulthood life experiences, judicial behavior, philosophies, perspectives and more. This summer’s work involves the continuation of organizing, cleaning, anonymizing, analyzing, researching, and writing up the data analysis.

Questions respondents were asked that I coded.

The data analysis will then be written into a paper that I am co-authoring with Professor Means and others. The paper focuses on Black women judges and is broken up by race and gender. My contributions toward the paper focus on the history of Black women in politics and the ways in which Black women judges behave on/off the bench. Additionally, I wrote a data-analysis on judicial projects that Black women judges are involved in, which highlights patterns of Black women judges’ values in relation to their identities and the programs that they start.

Overall, using the gathered data to illuminate the importance of judicial diversity while challenging notions of judicial impartiality, the data and project aims to provide insight into how judges’ backgrounds, gender identities, and racial identities impact their roles as judges.

Ziyao (Jasmine) Zhang ’24 with Fubing Su (political science)

The project was initiated in response to the highly publicized case of the “Xuzhou Chained Woman,” a disabled mother of eight who endured abuse and captivity in a rural shack. This distressing incident sparked widespread outrage among Chinese women and drew attention to the broader issues of women’s abduction and trafficking in China. Guided by Professor Su, the project team has dedicated itself to constructing a comprehensive database of current Chinese legal court files over the past year, including this summer. The database focuses specifically on cases related to women trafficking, with the primary objective of bridging the gap between legal standards defined in Chinese law and their practical implementation in court proceedings.

In our initial stage, we meticulously reviewed relevant published literature to understand the intricate sociological factors contributing to human trafficking. We also examined related issues such as the one-child policy, urban-rural dichotomy, and gender discrimination. Subsequently, we collected all pertinent court files from the official court file website, China Judgments Online, and organized them into a structured database. The data was categorized by provinces and topics, including but not limited to women trafficking, property rights, and domestic violence.

The second stage of our project involves a thorough examination of court decisions, arguments, and legal interpretations in women’s rights cases. Our aim is to identify patterns, trends, and inconsistencies in the treatment of such cases. Through rigorous textual analysis, we endeavor to translate the protection of women’s rights and interests into actionable insights for potential improvements in the Chinese legal system. By doing so, we hope to bring tangible positive changes and enhance the practical implementation of existing laws for the benefit of women in China.

Psychological Science

Ishika Muppidi ’25 and Zhuo Cen ’25 with Carolyn Palmer (Psychological Science)

The goal of this project was to capture contemplative Vassar spaces for remote engagement, effectively increasing awareness, accessibility, and the amount of people who are able to partake in and learn about these spaces. We wanted to create an immersive experience despite the virtual format, and ultimately a tour of contemplative spaces at Vassar, sharing these (sometimes unknown) spaces with those on campus, and also those beyond it.

We saw three prominent traits of contemplative spaces highlighted in research on contemplative places: peace & silence, landscape layers, and adjacent scenery. In addition to considering these traits, we also added a trait of our own: hearing and seeing wildlife. Knowing that every person could have a different experience in a “contemplative place”, and could theoretically be contemplative anywhere, we identified the most common places we believed to be contemplative on Vassar’s campus. We visited possible sites ourselves for firsthand experiences and practices, as well as to debate whether they fit the criteria and were truly contemplative to us. Places that met the criteria included the two campus labyrinths, Sunset Lake, the Library Quiet Room, the Observatory, and Music Library. We also touched on the Shakespeare Garden, the Earth Circle, and the Collins Boardwalk. We consulted with several Vassar faculty and staff about equipment and technical procedures, as well as their own perspectives on contemplative spaces. We captured each location in various ways, through regular photos, regular video, 360 photos, 360 video, and even time lapses, choosing the best and most immersive media for each location. Finally, we posted these on the publicly available Vassar website: http://contemplative.vassarspaces.net

Kaitlin Gelman ’24 with Michele Tugade (Psychological Science)

The main goal of resilience stories was to make evidence-based strategies of resilience available to the public, for these sorts of tools are of powerful use and have the potential to make positive changes in individuals’ lives. This summer, I researched these strategies and transformed them into easily digestible Instagram posts. Themes for these posts included resilience, micro-moments of joy, mindfulness, grit, self-compassion, social support, growth mindset, positive emotions, and many more. Some posts, such as “Quick Tips for Daily Mindfulness,” impart advice on incorporating resilient techniques into daily life. Other posts, such as the “Doing Mode vs. Being Mode” post, involve presenting information that could aid in developing resilient skills. The intention behind this project was to widen the impact of scientific findings. Rather than keeping evidence-based coping skills to the realm of scientific journals, or even only in therapy sessions, we wanted to make this information accessible to anyone. These techniques belong in everyone’s toolkit, and we are striving to make them as widespread as possible with our launch date in the fall.

Beyond our resilience lab Instagram, I also aided in Dr. Tugade’s lab study involving Neurofit. Neurofit is an eye-tracking device, involving an eye-tracking task, that gives indications of an individual’s cognitive health. This summer, we worked on developing a mindfulness-based intervention to determine whether mindfulness can improve cognitive abilities. After creating a procedure with Dr. Tugade’s other lab members – in which I specialized in developing the mindfulness intervention because of the extensive research I have done on that topic – we pilot-tested our study. We will begin actual testing this upcoming fall.