Ana Siegel’s AHSS Summer Research Project

Hello again,

As noted in multiple previous posts, students at the University of Puget Sound can compete for funding to support their summer research endeavors. Our department’s students were particularly successful in past years, and again this year we’ve had numerous proposals successfully funded. In short, the AHSS Summer Research Awards, varying from $3250 to $3750, allow students to pursue an in-depth research project over the summer months. I’ve asked each of this year’s batch of students to tell us a little bit about what they’ll be doing with their time, energy, and grant monies in the coming summer. Here’s what Ana Siegel had to say about her new project:

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Ana Siegel perched on the remnants of the Glines Canyon Dam on the Elwha River.

Though initially overlooked by Euro-American settlers as an arid wasteland, the Four Corners region of the American Southwest has historically been held sacred to countless stakeholders, specifically those with a pro-conservation stance. Many of the region’s indigenous groups—including the Navajo, Hopi, Zuni, Ute Mountain Ute, Uinta, and the Ouray Ute—attribute immense cultural significance to the land, as many of their traditional territories, reservations, and sources of cultural heritage lie in the region. For outdoor recreants, the region is a haven for climbing and trekking; for locals, the land has been used for generations of cattle grazing. Yet, in the last hundred-or-so years, the Four Corners region has been recognized for its natural resource extraction potential, as it is rich in uranium, vanadium, oil, and coal deposits. As a result of the conflicting cultural and economic interests, this region has often been played as a battlefield between contesting groups, toiled over by those who wish to either capitalize upon, or to protect those assets. Bears Ears National Monument is one such landmark, of which has recently come to the forefront of this familiar quarrel. After years of advocacy and petitioning of the federal government, in 2016, the Obama Administration placed Bears Ears under federal protection, by means of the Antiquities Act. But, on December 4, 2017, President Donald Trump made the executive decision to drastically reduce the land protected by Bears Ears National Monument, by 85%. Paired with the simultaneous reduction of Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, this ruling was “the largest rollback of federal land protection in the nation’s history” (Turkewitz 2017).  

There seems to be a vast disconnect between the understandings and interests of the seemingly-economically-driven decision-makers, and those of the pro-conservation stakeholders; my research will bridge that disconnect by not only drawing attention to, but also making more legible, the narratives of those pro-conservation stakeholders. With this disconnect in mind, the aim of my research is to explore the ways the shifting status, and resulting vulnerability, of Bears Ears has affected the relationship–the sense of place–that connects pro-conservation stakeholders–such as the region’s indigenous groups, environmentalists, outdoor recreants, and locals–to this landmark of the Four Corners region. 

Over the course of the summer, I will be spending time conducting fieldwork in Southeastern Utah; I will be working alongside pro-conservation stakeholders, using varying qualitative ethnographic research methods—conducting semi-structured interviews, engaging in participant observation, as well as organizing transect walks—to explore the ways in which these stakeholders’ relationships are shifting along with the shifting status of the National Monument.The ultimate goal of this research coincides with the fields of public and applied anthropology: I intend to both highlight and amplify these voices by creating a platform, that will be legible to the public and policymakers, through which pro-conservation stakeholders can vocalize their resistance to the reduction, as well as elucidate the reasoning behind their impassioned campaign to protect Bears Ears.​

We’re so excited for you, Ana, and can’t wait to see how your research develops once you get to Moab. We’ll look for an update from you in a few months!

Andrew

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Sam Lilly’s AHSS Summer Research Project

Hello again,

As noted in the previous posts, students at the University of Puget Sound can compete for funding to support their summer research endeavors. Our department’s students were particularly successful in past years, and again this year we’ve had numerous proposals successfully funded. In short, the AHSS Summer Research Awards, varying from $3250 to $3750, allow students to pursue an in-depth research project over the summer months. I’ve asked each of this year’s batch of students to tell us a little bit about what they’ll be doing with their time, energy, and grant monies in the coming summer. Here’s what Sam Lilly had to say about her new project:

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Sam Lilly found a book

I have always been intrigued and concerned about mental health, illness, and suicidality, as macabre as that sounds. As a philosophy major utilizing the tools of ethnography, this summer I will happily put on the hat of the philosophical anthropologist and hopefully gather stories and qualitative data that push past the empirical and didactic academic literature that is wildly available to the public.

My summer research project will be an extension of the research I am currently working on in SOAN 299: Ethnographic Methods, and is entitled “Mental Health Care Professionals’ Perceptions and Attitudes Toward Suicidality.” The goal of both the current project and my upcoming summer research is to begin a lifelong exploration to ask a fundamental question of philosophy and life, which is:

Is suicide wrong? If so, how do we know?

The research that I will conduct in the summer will turn from my current research (concerned with the institutionalization of mental health care) to focus on individuals who have lost loved ones by suicide. I hope that these interviews will allow me to explore the varied and diverse perspectives and attitudes Americans’ have toward suicide and hopefully help elucidate how these perspectives relate and are shaped the medical model of mental illness and other institutionalized frameworks that permeate our everyday lives that I believe create a societal apprehension to understand suicide both as a social problem and social fact.

Sam, this project sounds fascinating, poignant, and perhaps treacherous — we look forward to hearing about some of the challenges and initial findings you encounter as the project commences.

Andrew

Gigi Garzio’s AHSS Summer Research Plans

Hi all,

Students at the University of Puget Sound can compete for funding to support their summer research endeavors. Our department’s students were particularly successful in past years, and again this year we’ve had numerous proposals successfully funded. In short, the AHSS Summer Research Awards, varying from $3250 to $3750, allow students to pursue an in-depth research project over the summer months. I’ve asked each of this year’s batch of students to tell us a little bit about what they’ll be doing with their time, energy, and grant monies in the coming summer. Here’s what Gigi Garzio had to say about her new project:

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Gigi Garzio

This summer I will be gathering data and conducting research for my project, titled Values, Justifications, and Perspectives Connected to the Anti-vaccination Movement. A large portion of the anti-vaccination movement is headed by upper to middle class, educated individuals who are able to comprehend professional medical information, yet they continue to adhere to anti-mainstream modes of thought (Geggel 2017). I am curious as to what mechanisms allow these individuals to continually justify their medical decisions and what contributes to making people so immovable in their beliefs, even in the face of accessed medical research and scientific discovery. The goal of my research would be to answer the question: How do people justify anti-vaccination perspectives, especially in the face of scientific research, and through what mechanisms do they accomplish this? I will look at the resources people utilize to spread information, such as online forums, as well as the personal accounts people give to justify their belief systems, and the presented logic behind their truths.

The anti-vaccination movement is diverse and is made up of a variety of motives and explanations for justification. This array of reasons for drifting from mainstream medical advice surpasses a lack of comprehension, but rather stems from the propagation of alternative ideologies and the rationalization of these perspectives through different modes of thought. This is extremely important because the distribution of inaccurate information by certain groups in the population can be detrimental for the whole. Vaccinations are a prime example of this because they work under the condition that everyone is getting vaccinated in order to protect the minority of people who are not able to for any number of medical or social reasons. In order to protect the efficiency of herd immunity, and the well being of the general US public, there is a demand for an increased understanding of the conflicting viewpoints, in order to move forward and display effective public health improvement. In a larger sense, we can apply this research to better understand how people justify anti mainstream modes of thought, not just in relation to medicine, but also to society as a whole.

This project is extremely important to the field of public health in the US. Because vaccinations are effective within the context of ‘herd immunity,’ or when 90-95% of the population is vaccinated in order to assure the safety of the whole population, a decrease in vaccination compliance may be detrimental to the immunity of our country. Recently, and specifically in the wake of the most recent presidential election, non-medical immunization exemptions have significantly increased in many states. In the past, this rejection of the advice of modern medical institutions has resulted in outbreaks in vaccine-preventable fatal diseases such as measles or pertussis.

Increasing general understanding of the modes of thought that lead individuals to stray from mainstream, modem medical guidance will aid in the public health field’s ability to reach a wider audience when discussing these issues.

Gigi, your project sounds great! Good luck, and we look forward to touching base a little bit later in the summer.

 

Andrew

Tessa Samuels’ AHSS Summer Research Plans

Hi all,

Students at the University of Puget Sound can compete for funding to support their summer research endeavors. Our department’s students were particularly successful in past years, and again this year we’ve had numerous proposals successfully funded. In short, the AHSS Summer Research Awards, varying from $3250 to $3750, allow students to pursue an in-depth research project over the summer months. I’ve asked each of this year’s batch of students to tell us a little bit about what they’ll be doing with their time, energy, and grant monies in the coming summer. Here’s what Tessa Samuels had to say about her new project:

The global attention to the refugee crisis and the role of American communities in receiving and welcoming new families escaping trauma has become one of the most contested and glorified topics in the recent years. Within the past two years Montana has resettled one hundred individual refugees per year, making refugee populations a very small and conspicuous minority within Missoula – a town located in Western Montana. Missoula brought International Rescue Committee (IRC) leaders in from Salt Lake City, Utah to establish an IRC locally. As a result, activists in Missoula founded a non-profit organization called Softlanding to help with the transition for the refugees. Missoula is now home to refugees from four different countries: Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. During the summer of 2017, I was the Childcare Coordinator for the IRC in Missoula where I registered the children from the newly arrived refugee familiesin schools and helped their family acquire childcare services.

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Tessa Samuels

My own experience working with Softlanding showed me, and the literature affirms, how many refugee families struggle with the transition process. In some communities they feel forced assimilation in order to be welcomed (Lazarevic 2006: 218), as well as adjusting to new customs. Refugees are considered semi-non-voluntary immigrants because often times they are forced to flee their home either from an environmental disaster or persecution based on race, religion, political standing, or ethnic identity (Lazarevic 217). The transition and acculturation process is more challenging for these newcomers than for voluntary immigrants, because they do not feel that it was their choice to resettle (McBrien 2005: 330).

Compounding the challenge of relocation is the intergenerational dimension of this transition, defined as dissonant acculturation or segmented assimilation. Dissonant acculturation is when a child acculturates faster than their parents, the parents are often times holding on –with every right to be –to traditions and cultural norms and language from their original country while the child learns the language faster and is more at ease with balancing the culture of the host country and the culture of their original country (Stepick 2006: 394). Although children tend to acculturate faster than parents, they still struggle with the integration and socialization process (McBrien 2005: 360) while sometimes balancing different expectations from home with those set at school in regards to language, beliefs, values and norms and therefore socialization culminating in a feeling of isolation.

My own research will thus intervene by asking refugee parents what schools can do to meet their children’s needs of socialization and a softer transition. What obstacles do parents perceive their children facing in schools?  How can schools help the children make friends and get involved, as well as aid them in sustaining and thriving academically? In addition to exploring these questions, I also will examine the factors that limit parental and school efforts to facilitate that integration such as transportation and special programming. I will ask about family’s expectations for their children’s academics and what parents want to see for their children’s social life during the transition period. I will then compare these perspectives to what teachers are saying about how they are meeting the needs of families. I will ask teachers if they are always told when a child is a newly arrived refugee. I will also share insights from the refugee parents to see if there is common ground on which they can meet, despite potentially differing expectations. For after school programs, based on parent interests, I will examine if there are flagship programs that could be established and how accessible that would be considering transportation.

This study will consist of both ethnographic methods and analysis of preexisting surveys. For the ethnographic methods part of my research I will conduct semi-structured interviews with seven of the newly arrived refugee families. I will also talk to the childcare facilities, teachers at the three schools, and instructors at the three day-camps to elicit their views on the challenges refugee children face and the strategies they use to help these children socialize or to create a more multicultural environment in their classrooms/schools. I will simply be asking what ways schools and childcare centers could change to help the socialization process for the family, and in what ways could schools support a multitude of cultures while remaining in the bounds of being a public school or institution in the United States. I will also be asking about leisure time activities and how that impacts the socialization in schools, because leisure activities –and in Missoula Montana those activities comprise often times of outdoor recreation or sports –are a large social factor in schools and day camps.

Your project is fascinating, Tessa, and we look forward to hearing an update this summer after your research is underway.

Andrew

Charlotte Parker, SOAN Class of 2018, Fulbright Scholar!

Hi all,

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Charlotte Parker on a previous trip to Taiwan

As noted in our previous post, the Department of Sociology and Anthropologywas pleased to learn that two of our graduating seniors had been awarded Fulbright scholarships for the coming year. The Fulbright program has long endeavored to connect America with the diverse cultures of our world by funding Americans’ time abroad. Indeed, several faculty in the SOAN department began their careers with a Fulbright cultural exchange. We asked Charlotte Parker, one of our two awardees, to tell us a little bit about what the Fulbright award has in store for her. Here’s Charlotte’s response:

大家好!My name is Charlotte and I will be traveling to Taiwan in August of 2018 on a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship (ETA). While in Taiwan I will be living in a city called Changhua (彰化) located in the center of Taiwan. Just an hour away from Taiwan’s two largest cities, I will be living and working in the most densely populated county in Taiwan! I am especially excited to be working in Changhua because this is the first year a Taiwan ETA will be placed there! Although many details are still to come from Fulbright, I will be working alongside a Lead English Teacher (LET) instructing a class of elementary or middle school students. I also plan to maintain a steady diet of bubble tea (which was invented in Taiwan!), spiced tea eggs, and soup dumplings!

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A temple in Changhua

I also really value my experiences in the SOAN department at University of Puget Sound. As a SOAN major with a Chinese minor, I spent the last four years learning about the connections between language, culture, and identity. My interests concern linguistic anthropology, where questions regarding how language shapes our interactions and our perceptions of the world are explored. Taking SOAN classes also helped me think critically about my responsibility as a teacher and as a cultural ambassador. I feel very strongly that it is my responsibility to explore how we as anthropologists can work to improve the quality of life for those around us. 

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Charlotte (lower right, center) walking a dachshund through verdant Taiwanese pastures

In addition to my experience in the SOAN department, I have spent the last four years teaching Spanish and Chinese at a number of local Tacoma and Gig Harbor schools. Because language is my passion, I am very excited to continue sharing this passion with young students. During my time in Taiwan, I hope to gain a better understanding of the Taiwanese education system, and to bring this knowledge back home so that the American education system can continue growing and improving. Additionally, I have spent the last few years training as a marathon runner in Tacoma, and I hope to join a local running team while in Taiwan. If all goes well, I will also run in the Wulai Gorge Marathon in January 2019! I am very much looking forward to this upcoming year and all the experiences to be had during my time in Taiwan!

加油!

Charlotte, we’re so very proud of you, and we’ll be in touch again for an update from Taiwan.

Andrew

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Charlotte and friends in Taiwan

Hannah Borgerson, SOAN Class of 2018, Fulbright Scholar!

Hi all,

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Hannah Borgerson (lower right, center) blending in with the local fauna

The Department of Sociology and Anthropology was pleased to learn that two of our graduating seniors had been awarded Fulbright scholarships for the coming year. The Fulbright program has long endeavored to connect America with the diverse cultures of our world by funding Americans’ time abroad. Indeed, several faculty in the SOAN department began their careers with a Fulbright cultural exchange. We asked Hannah Borgerson, one of our two awardees, to tell us a little bit about what the Fulbright award has in store for her. Here’s Hannah’s response:

I’m excited to announce that I’ll be traveling to Argentina in March 2019 as a Fulbright scholar with an English Teaching Assistantship (ETA) grant. What exactly my time in Argentina will look like is still up in the air. Because March is almost a year away, I don’t yet know what city I’ll be living in or at what school I’ll be teaching. However, I do know that Argentina ETA grant recipients are appointed to assist in English teacher-training colleges or universities –- which means I’ll be working with young students like me who are also interested in education and language learning.

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Hannah in front of impressively ornate banos

As a SOAN major with an emphasis in Education Studies and a minor in Spanish, I’ve studied education in relation to questions of institutional inequality as well as transformative pedagogy. Classes here at UPS have sparked my curiosity in the cultural implications of language learning for older youth and adults, and I am therefore honored to get the opportunity to work with language learning and teaching methodologies in another country. While I know that my skills as a native English speaker will be useful in the classroom, I’m also confident that the students I interact with will have much to teach me about their experiences with language teaching and learning, and for this I couldn’t be more exited.

Outside of the classroom, I hope to engage with all that the Argentinian community has to offer. Two things that I’m eager to learn more about while abroad are dance and geography. The first may seem fairly obvious – Argentina is known for their seductive yet sassy tango dance. When done well, this dance gracefully portrays lovers’ most romantic moment as well as their worst fight. However, when I attempt the tango, I look like a frazzled ostrich … this is something I hope will change with time and practice.  

In terms of geography, I imagine there is much to explore. As any good cultural geographer would tell you, culture is both influences and shapes the place it inhabits. While in Argentina, I hope to gain a better sense of place of the area I’m assigned by listening to the stories and histories of the community. Particularly, I have great interest in exploring the economic, cultural and political impact that the Rio de la Plata has had on the city of Buenos Aires. This body of water has a rich trade history that has affected commercial relations between four prominent South American nations — Uruguay, Paraguay, Brazil and Argentina. Currently, the river region is is facing major energy policy alterations due the proposed deconstruction of hydroelectric plants in the La Plata basin. Not to mention, there is a bridge called Puente de la Mujer (bridge of the woman) just off one of the river’s deltas –- and I just adore bridges. Yet there is a chance I will placed somewhere other than Buenos Aires, and if so, there are probably other fascinating bridges, bodies of water, and places to experience! Adventure awaits, I suppose.

It sounds like you have an amazing adventure in front of you, Hannah. We’re so happy for you, wish you the best of luck, and we’ll be in touch next year to hear about how it’s going in Argentina.

Andrew

SOAN Students at the SfAA Conference

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SOAN Seniors on the streets of Philadelphia

Hi all,

Twelve SOAN students — all seniors except for Nicholas Navin — just returned from the the annual meeting of the Society for Applied Anthropology in Philadelphia. This meeting is perennially a high point for the students in our department, and the Philadelphia meeting was no exception. It’s also of note that the SfAA convenes a diversity of academics, students, researchers, and practitioners employed in a diversity of fields including international development, in the public sector, in education, public health, and the non-profit sector, and many more areas of society. 

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The SfAA Poster Session 2018

The student contingent from the University of Puget Sound commenced their time at the conference with a roundtable session entitled Lessons Learned and Vistas Sighted: A Roundtable Conversation Concerning Undergraduate Research Project. This roundtable session was one component of the track established and sessions organized by Dr. Brian Foster as part of the Anthropology of Higher Education Topic Interest Group (TIG). The roundtable session provided Puget Sound students with an opportunity to briefly describe their independent research projects, and to further discuss some of the challenges and problems they’ve encountered as they shepherd their projects toward the impending finish line. 

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Kathryn Stutz and her prize-winning research poster

On the following day, all twelve Puget Sound students participated in the SfAA poster session. This three hour session is perennially one of the busiest junctures of the conference, and it provides students with an opportunity to interact with other students, practitioners, and faculty who share some of their budding research interests. Numerous conference attendees pulled me aside to compliment the solidity of our students’ contributions to the poster session, and senior Kathryn Stutz brought home yet another award from the Society for her project poster, entitled The Ethics and Practicalities of the Museum Collection. 

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Dim sum dinner

We concluded the day with dinner at a wonderful dim sum restaurant near the city center — and picked by Charlotte Parker, a SOAN senior who grew up nearby.

Andrew