October 22, 2015

Global Social Justice Summer Research Symposium

“What did you do this summer?” is a common question to hear around campus at the beginning of the fall semester.

Often, students who conducted research projects or worked internationally answer that question with a simple “I went abroad”—the nuance of their experiences is lost.

“We needed a space for students to share the incredible work they were doing over the summer,” said Professor Andria Wisler, the executive director for the Center of Social Justice.

Under Wisler’s guidance, the Global Social Justice Summer Research Symposium has become one such venue.

Summer Research Symposium

In an effort to showcase student and faculty research, the Center for Social Justice hosted its fourth annual Global Social Justice Summer Research Symposium in September 2015. The event highlighted research conducted by undergraduate students, as well as one alumna, a graduate student, and an academic-community partner research project. It also included a research methods workshop from adjunct professor of justice and peace Dr. Michael Loadenthal.

With additional funding from the Office of the Vice President of Global Engagement, the event expanded this year into a full-day symposium.

Wisler said the research shared at the symposium not only inspires other students to do their own research, but also can promote real social change.

“It’s great to share your research with your peers and professors and administrators, but you can also use it for change,” Wisler said. “It’s not research for research’s sake—it’s research for a more just and humane world.” 

Education and Society in Brazil

Adam Barton (COL’16), one of the student panelists, shared his research on education in Brazil.

Since the summer of 2014, Barton has conducted research about community health education in Brazil, most recently researching the country’s Mais Educação (“More Education”) extended school day policy and its psychosocial impact on community conceptions of education.

Barton received the David F. Andretta Summer Research Fellowship to fund his research in Brazil. The fellowship, presented though the David F. Andretta, M.D., Explorer Fund, awards a rising senior $5,000 to conduct eight weeks of research on a social justice issue anywhere in the world.

Barton said he appreciated the opportunity to present at the symposium because it offered him a chance to process his experience and research.

“I had to distill all that I worked on over the summer to a few key points, which was a very useful experience for me as I look to publish my research and take my work to other conferences,” Barton said.

Barton plans to apply for a Fulbright Grant to return to Brazil and extend his research across multiple communities. 

Climate Change and Agriculture in Belize

Charlotte Cherry (SFS’16) also shared her summer experiences, which focused on researching climate change in Belize for her honors thesis in science and technology in international affairs in the School of Foreign Service.

Her work examined agricultural adaption to climate change over time by excavating Mayan field systems to deduce ancient cultivation techniques and comparing them to those of small-scale farmers in the area today.

Cherry’s research in Belize was funded through the Lisa J. Raines Fellowship, which provides sophomores and juniors the opportunity to design, investigate, and produce an original research project over the course of ten weeks during the summer. Cherry was also awarded the Improving the Human Condition Grant, which supports unpaid humanitarian internships.

“Being able to synthesize my research and present my initial findings was really useful. I will be presenting my thesis in May, so the symposium was really good practice,” she said.

To see video of Cherry’s presentation, as well as other student research from the symposium, visit the Center for Social Justice’s YouTube channel.

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