We are thrilled to have the following diverse and fascinating social science faculty projects as part of the SSSRP program.
We are thrilled to have the following diverse and fascinating social science faculty projects as part of the SSSRP program.
2023 Summer Research Programs
2022 Summer Research Programs
This project is at the Youth, Media, and Wellbeing Research Lab at the Wellesley Centers for Women (youthmediawellbeing.org). The fellow co-organized and co-facilitated an intensive week-long virtual workshop on imagining positive social media spaces with up to 25 6th-8th graders from across the country. The primary goal was to create more pipelines for STEM engagement in girls of color during a key developmental period of STEM and social media identity development. Collaborating with our Youth Advisory Board to shape the curriculum and recruitment plan, the fellow co-led ice breakers and small group discussions, and assisted with archiving and coding the workshop transcripts, and will analyze workshop evaluation data. Secondary tasks included conducting literature searches, writing summary reviews for reports and manuscripts, creating tables and infographics for project findings, and providing editorial assistance for a National Science Foundation grant proposal. In addition, the intern was invited to attend a weekly writing group at WCW, potentially developing a blog, infographics, or social media posts to highlight research lab findings.
In this project, the fellow assisted in creating an ethnographic and archaeological history of ritual violence and how it has influenced and shaped society. Stemming from archaeological practice to the present, ritual violence occurs at various frequencies. The student assisted on researching various ancient societies’ and ethnographic accounts of ritual violence. They analyzed the development of social complexity in relation to how states sanctioned various forms of violence over time and space. In doing so, this project served as the scaffolding for future career interest in anthropology, sociology, psychology, humanities, and bio/chemistry. This research culminated in a visit to Professor Schaeffer's research facility in Atlanta, GA (Georgia State University and Emory University), where they obtained wet-lab experience working with archaeological sacmples and integrating critical social theory and analysis.
Covid-19 was first discovered in China in December 2019, and since then it created a pandemic that was differently by different countries and with variable failures and success. China still appears to be one of the few countries that manages the pandemic effectively, albeit with a strict protocol and a heavy hand. The fellow conducted a thorough reading and review of China's news and social media, to reveal how the strict bio-political power was exercised, analyzed what kind of compliance or resistance it created among the people, and the metaphorical ways that Chinese authorities and people discussed and managed the pandemic.
This project added to our understanding of the cultural evolution of counting systems and children’s development of natural number concept. Children, despite learning how to recite from 1 to 10 by 2.5 years -old and hearing frequent numerical input, take another two years to work out the logic of counting – i.e., that the last number counted to summarizes how many are in the set. Adults from cultures without count lists are unable to represent large numbers, and error when asked to match sets greater than 4. These findings support the claim that natural number concept, instead of being innate, is a cultural construction. A precursor to the invention of counting is the use of tallies, external symbols to represent the number. Usually, one tally stands for one object, and its users possess the understanding that two sets placed in one-to-one correspondence are numerically equivalent (aka, Hume’s Principle). An unanswered question is whether the notion of tallying is readily transparent or is yet another constructed concept en route the evolution of counting systems. Classic Piagetian conservation tasks, showing that children fail to infer equinumerosity of two one-to-one aligned rows of objects, suggest that children initially lack an understanding of Hume’s Principle and thereby the concept of tallying. However, people have the intuition that children naturally use fingers to represent number, and historically tally systems often begin with fingers. The present project explored what 3- to 6-year-old children know about tallying with novel tasks such as asking children to infer the numerical contents of a box by watching a person tallying with fingers as objects enter and exists the box.
This research project explored the experiences and narratives of preservice teachers (students enrolled in a teacher education program in preparation for K-12 public school teaching) through a series of interviews conducted over a two year period of time. This three-year study came to a close during the summer of 2022. The fellow prepared and analyzed the final round of interviews as well as exploring the data collected over the three-year study, gaining experience reviewing interviews, coding data, writing analytic memos, and reviewing the literature.
Although poverty in the United States has been defined by the federal government as the lack of income required to provide family members with basic necessities, scholars like Desmond and Western (2018) argue that poverty needs to be understood in social terms: poor people in the United States experience a lack of social integration. Desmond and Western’s argument builds on Sudhir Anand and Amartya Sen’s (1997) scholarly contribution to the field of economics, where both scholars proposed a measure of poverty that, “involve[d] not only the lack of necessities of material well-being, but also the denial of opportunities of living a tolerable life” (Anand & Sen, 1997 as quoted in Desmond, 2018). Desmond and Western further explain that the poor are denied the ability to feel fully secure and fulfilled in a community that does not recognize them as part of the community’s history and mythology. This project explored how Mexican immigrant women experience social integration and how the denial of social opportunities perpetuates hardships in their lives. This project is of importance due to the hight contestation of poverty and immigration in the U.S. Thus, this project aimed to demonstrate an inclusion of immigrant communities in understanding poverty not only as a lack of income but also as lack of social opportunities.
This project aimed to develop an intersectional understanding of the finances of programs targeting the poor, situating these programs within the larger landscape of financialization. The project considered racial and gendered capitalisms as they relate to financial systems in the United States, India and South Africa, focusing specifically on cash grant and loan programs in the late 20th century and early 21st century that target these countries’ poorest residents. In an era of widespread microfinance, cash transfer and welfare-to-work programs, how do state programs work with financial institutions to leverage racialized and gendered understandings of marginalized target group recipients in order to build sustainable businesses? How and why might these symbolic and political constructions undermine the ostensible purpose of those same programs while at the same time extracting financial value? While this project focused on 2-3 programs in each context, such as on NREGA in India, cash transfers in South Africa, and TANF in the U.S. The fellow worked on identifying beneficiaries, and how beneficiaries qualify for the programs, and learning to interpret the vast policy literatures in each of these locations from a feminist and critical race theory perspective.
The Culture and Family Development Lab examined how cultural and family processes shape development and well-being across the lifespan. The fellow participated in the Family Development Project, an ongoing study of stress and well-being in Chinese American immigrant families. The project examined how Chinese American immigrant parents pass on beliefs of race, social status, and social mobility to their adolescent children.
2021 Summer Research Programs
This project explores the costs and benefits of thought diversity in friendship, defined as friends who hold dissimilar views on moral or political issues. Professor Bahns and the Fellow consider whether thought diversity can be advantageous for fostering intergroup understanding across moral and political divides. Research shows diverse friendships can effectively reduce prejudice, although similarity is a powerful indicator of friendship choices. Her research also finds that people who have positive diversity beliefs are even more likely to share attitudes and values with their friends. Previously, she has developed the Comfort with Disagreement Scale to measure individual differences in willingness to engage in dialogue with a friend who holds different political views. Next, the project investigates whether comfort with disagreement is associated with positive relationship outcomes and positive intergroup attitudes, including attitudes toward others with opposing viewpoints. This answers the central question- is thought diversity beneficial for friendships and for intergroup relations?
Other Researcher: Eleanor Antezana ('23)
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Dr. Charmaraman leads several research projects within the Youth, Media, and Wellbeing research lab (www.youthmediawellbeing.org) pertaining to the risks and benefits of using social technologies in adolescence. These projects include a.) survey and interview studies of middle school students, their parents, and school staff on how they manage social technology use, b.) implementing digital wellbeing, identity, and STEM workshops to middle school youth in parternship with the Computer Science department, and c.) developing and piloting digital wellbeing lessons for middle school Open Circle programming, a nationally recognized social-emotional learning (SEL) curriculum housed at WCW.
In addition, the UMW research lab analyzes and disseminates results from the 2020 presidential election surveys that investigated how adult voters used social media to inform their voting behaviors and how racial/ethnic, gender, sexual orientation, and/or political identity plays a key role in their decision-making. The Fellow helps organize and co-host a virtual week-long STEM workshop for middle school students, including recruitment, ice breakers, leading small group discussions, archiving and coding the workshop transcripts, and analyzing workshop evaluation data. Secondary tasks include conducting literature searches, writing summary reviews for reports and manuscripts, and creating tables and infographics for project findings (a, b, or c above).
Other Researcher: Quan (Connie) Gu ('24)
Click here for the presentation. Note that the presentation is password protected. Please contact the researchers to request access.
This is a book project that investigates the history of modern empire and the Phillippines through arenas of beauty and fashion.
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Professor Dendere is continuing her work on her book project on the impact of voter exit on political systems. She and the Fellow work on a deeper analysis on the ways in which the HIV pandemic and Cholera forced people out of the system via death and by weaking individual ability to participate in politics. They research the multitude of ways that governments can manipulate crisis for their own gain to strengthen their autocratic hold on citizens.
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Ports have come to play an important role in governing shipping. They are frequently the location where national or international rules can be enforced on ships, and ports occasionally impose rules beyond those required by their states, including those relating to sustainability. Ports have also, for their own reasons, decided to provide incentives to ships that adopt various private governance measures and some ports have taken measures to make their options more environmentally sustainable. This study examines environmental governance measures adopted or enforced by the busiest 200+ ports around the world, during the periods from 2005-2020, characterizing which greening measures ports take on (or do not) and when. The ultimate goal is to examine a variety of characteristics of ports and their contexts to determine what leads ports to adopt which types of greening measures.
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Currently, Professor Gleason's students are working on a project examining the forms and functions of imaginary companions (ICs) and pretend play (PP). Typically, ICs are considered a form of PP, but anecdotal evidence suggests that they might serve different functions for children than does engagement in common forms of pretend play. In fact, ICs might hold a unique position in children's understanding of fantasy and reality given that they tend to juxtapose the two, whereas most pretend play is not incorporated into the outgoing stream of reality in the same way. This distinction is interesting because learning to combine fantasy and reality might be an important developmental task. After all, adults use imagination to combine what is with what might or will be every day, we consider counterfactuals in decision-making; in enjoying fiction, we feel real emotions about unreal scenarios. This ability to simultaneously distinguish between fantasy and reality to purposefully ignore or blur that distinction has received little attention in development. She and the Fellow investigate the similarities and differences between these two phenomena through coding and analysis of diaries that parents have kept for this research on their young children's ICs and PP.
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This study is rooted in in-depth interviews with undergraduate students enrolled in a teacher education program. These interviews are conducted over the course of each participant's participation in the program and seek to explore the ideas and beliefs that new teachers carry into their practice about working with students' families. Data from the interviews have shaped the development of a series of workshops for participants which introduce them to the theories and practices of engaging families during their program year. The last interview is conducted with each participant a year after their completion of the teacher education program to explore their experiences connecting with students' families as classroom teachers.
The Fellow will analyze the data collected during the 2020-2021 academic year. They review literature, prepare, analyze, and code interview and workshop data, and engage in regular research team meetings to discuss findings.
Students in the ANTH 220 (T3 2021) course on epidemic and pandemics are required to keep a "pandemic" journal in which they are encouraged to write about the impact of the pandemic on their lives, families and communities at large. At the same time, students are encouraged to reflect in their journals on how past pandemic experiences (such as the plague, cholera, and smallpox) compare with our current coronavirus pandemic. Students are also encouraged to research topics such as pandemic denial, conspiracy theories, metaphorical ways of thinking, socio-economic and racial disparities in incidence and deaths, as well as how American individualism was not sacrificed for the good of the community.
Professor Karakasidou and the Fellow work on compiling a pandemic journal that could be made available to the College community and/or the Internet.
Click here to view the presentation. Note that the presentation is password protected. Please contact the researchers for access.
The project aims to classify at least three types of bias in decision-making from textual data: 1.) habitual (taken-for-granted) bias, 2.) motivated bias, and 3.) socially influenced bias. While the textual data that Professor Lee has collected pertains to the domain of alliance relations, classifying types of bias from texts could be helpful for many other areas of study. In her cross-national survey experiments on UK and ROK (South Korea) adult citizens, she asked survey participants to write down whatever that went through their minds as they chose government approval levels in the experimental scenarios. She followed the Verbal Protocal procedures, developed by Ericsson and Simon (1984). The open-ended responses are collected, and she has already developed a Codebook. The student researcher offers assistance for inter-coder reliability index and code, based on her Codebook, sample of open-ended responses in both English and Korean.
Other Researcher: Gunjan Singh ('23)
Click here to view the presentation.
Batteries are going to play a key role in enabling a clean energy future. But the history of batteries is not so clean - it is tangled up in intensive industries such as mining and raises environmental justice concerns. Professor Turner's research focuses on what lessons can be drawn from the environmental history of batteries and the social and environmental implications of deploying batteries at new scales to support a more sustainable future. He is in the final stages of preparing a book manuscript. The research assistant 1.) fact checks the manuscript and 2.) prepares materials for a public outreach website.
Click here to view the presentation.
2020 Summer Research Projects
Faculty Member: Angela Bahns | Student Fellow: Olivia Postel | Civil disagreement: Embracing thought diversity in friendship
This project will explore the costs and benefits of thought diversity in friendship. We will consider whether thought diversity can be advantageous for fostering intergroup understanding across moral and political divides. Research shows diverse friendships can effectively reduce prejudice, although similarity is a powerful predictor of friendship choices. When left to do what is easy or comfortable, by and large people choose to be friends with others who are like them. Professor Bahns' own work shows that people with positive diversity beliefs are more likely to have diverse friends, at least when “diverse” is defined in terms of race/ethnicity or sexual orientation. However, her research also finds that people who have positive diversity beliefs are even more likely to share attitudes and values with their friends. While many people actively avoid areas of potential disagreement in conversation with friends, others embrace disagreement and seek out opportunities to debate moral or political issues. Perhaps those who lean in to disagreement see the exchange as an opportunity for learning and growth, or perhaps they find disagreement intellectually stimulating. An initial goal of the project is to define the construct “embracing disagreement” as an individual difference measure, and to map out the psychological profile of people who are high and low on embracing disagreement. Next, the project will investigate whether individual differences in embracing disagreement predict friendship outcomes such as having friends with different social values or political beliefs; and closeness, intimacy, and satisfaction.
Faculty Member: Julie Norem | Student Fellow: Mohan (Iris) Li | Connecting Self-concept and Personality
This project will be looking at the content of self-knowledge and its relations with other aspects of personality. A special focus will be on the self-concepts of those who score high on the Impostor phenomenon. Professor Norem and her research assistant will look at three datasets from three different time periods that include data from different cohorts of Wellesley students. Analyses from the 1990's suggest that gender role conflicts were especially salient in the self-concepts of those with strong impostor feelings during that time. They will be exploring whether gender remains salient in relation to impostor feelings for later cohorts, including those from 2005-2006, and those from 2012, and 2016-2018. They will also look for other patterns in the ways that the self-knowledge of impostors differs from those who do not feel like impostors.
Faculty Member: Stephen Chen | Student Fellow: Grace Chang | Stress, Development, and Well-Being in Asian American immigrant families
The Culture and Family Development Lab examines how cultural and family processes shape development and well-being across the lifespan. SSSRP participants will have the opportunity to participate in two ongoing projects in the lab.
First, the Family Development Project is a longitudinal study of stress and well-being in Chinese American immigrant families. Specifically, the project examines how stressors related to immigration and acculturation impact the well-being of Chinese American immigrant families. SSSRP participants would be involved in multiple aspects of the project, including data entry, coding and transcription of multilingual family interviews, and analysis of health-related data (BMI). Specific projects will be assigned based on students' previous experience and language proficiency.
Second, the lab is expanding our investigation of culture, stress and well-being to under-represented Asian American ethnic groups and AA high school and college students who are the first in their family to attend college. SSSRP participants have the opportunity to be involved in the preliminary stages of this investigation through literature reviews, analysis of large-scale datasets, and the development of research protocols for middle, high school, and college-age populations.
Faculty Member: Kyung Park | Student Fellows: Vanessa Ntungwanayo & Cindy Zhao | The Role of Speech Patterns in Racial and Gender Discrimination
The goal of this project is to examine the role that speech patterns play in racial and gender discrimination. We would like a student to conduct an extensive literature review on this topic. The literature would span multiple disciplines. The student would then help us use this information to help to craft an experimental design that would allow us to parse out the role of speech more rigorously. This is joint work with Olga Shurchkov.
Faculty Member: Pinar Keskin | Student Fellow: Soumaya Dammak | Thirsty Factories, Hungry Farmers: Intersectoral Impacts of Industrial Water Demand
Professor Keskin is an applied micro-economist focusing on public policy issues, with a particular emphasis on issues of gender, ethnicity and resource access in developing countries. This summer she, along with her coauthor, plan on analyzing a recently acquired data set to investigate the impacts of industrial water use directly on groundwater scarcity and indirectly on day-to-day decisions of rural farmers in India.
Developing countries, governments, and international organizations have been promoting industrialization as a necessary component of the structural change that is part of economic development. However, many scholars have concerns about the sustainability of industrialization. The economics literature has so far focused on input-output linkages and labor movements as the two primary mechanisms through which industrialization and industrial policies (such as trade policies and anti-trust law) can affect the agricultural sector. Professor Keskin seeks to examine a natural-resource link between industry and agriculture, both theoretically and empirically. In particular, we will introduce water as an additional channel through which industrial policies affect agricultural production decisions. The premise is that industrialization may hurt agricultural productivity since farmers compete with industry for an important resource, i.e. water.
Faculty Member: Kartini Shastry | Student Fellow: Tara Kuruvila | Foreign Aid and Vaccination Coverage Rates
Faculty Member: Beth DeSombre | Student Fellow: Kelsey Dunn | Post-policy system evolution / Green Port governance
There are two projects Professor DeSombre will be working on:
2) Green Port governance -- Ports have come to play an important role in governing shipping. They are frequently the location where national or international rules can be enforced on ships, and ports occasionally impose rules beyond those required by their states, including those relating to sustainability. Ports have also, for their own reasons, decided to provide incentives to ships that adopt various private governance measures and some ports have taken measures to make their own options more environmentally sustainable. This study examines environmental governance measures adopted or enforced by the busiest 200+ ports around the world, during the period from 2005-2018, characterizing which greening measures ports take on (or do not) and when. The ultimate goal is to examine a variety of characteristics of ports and their contexts to determine what leads ports to adopt which types of greening measures.
Faculty Member: Soo Hong | Student Fellows: Katharine Conklin, Ayla Han, & Haeli Warren | Essential Understandings: New Teachers' Beliefs About Family and Community
As new teachers prepare for their work in the classroom, how do they describe their experiences, expectations, and challenges in connecting with students' families? What kinds of beliefs do new teachers hold about students' families and communities and the role they play in supporting the academic development of their children? The Hong research team has been exploring these questions over the past year through a pilot study focused on in-depth interviews of elementary and secondary teacher education candidates. This summer, the research team will complete the data analysis for the pilot study and launch the two-year study by recruiting new participants, finalizing research instruments, and beginning a new round of data collection with new study participants.
Faculty Member: Chipo Dendere | Student Fellows: Rahwa Michael & Vicky Ncube | Explaining the impact of party survival on authoritarianism
This summer we will continue work on my book book project on two fronts - analyzing the HIV mortality data and making the connection to party survival as well as conducting a deep dive into 300 interviews that need to be sorted and coded.
Faculty Member: Sun-Hee Lee | Student Fellow: Michelle Lee | Creating the Image of North Korean Defects in Media
This research project provides a data-driven critical discourse analysis of public discourse regarding North Korean Defectors (NKDs). The analysis examines how media functions to formulate the identity of NKDs and stereotypes/prejudices through linguistic representations. Professor Lee is planning to explore the representation of NKDs in the western newspapers and broadcasted news as well as Korean newspapers published in English including Korea Times and Korea Herald. The data is built by collecting texts from various online newspaper articles. In addition to building news corpus focusing on NKDs, the study adopts a relatively new approach combining a quality-based analysis of historical and socio-political contexts and a quantity-based methodology using computational and statistical tools. The outcomes of the study will explicate how media employs language to represent this new minority group with a focus on whether there are different attitudes between the Western vs. the South Korean media, different media genres (pressed newspapers vs. broadcast TV news), and different groups of population, and whether there have been changes over time. Furthermore, the outcomes are expected to reveal empirical issues and challenges not only for current South Korean society and its inclusion of NKDs, but also for the progress of the North Korean human rights.
Faculty Member: Sabriya Fisher | Student Fellow: Jiahui Zhang | Local Attitudes Towards Boston Speech
Faculty Member: Jennifer Chudy | Student Fellow: Sasha Blachman | Racial Sympathy in Americal Politics
2019 Summer Research Projects
Faculty Member: Nancy Marshall | Student Fellow: Holly Bourque
Holly ('21) is thrilled to be working at WCW this summer, with the Work, Families & Children Research Group. She primarily conducts research on career pathways of Wellesley alums. Some fantastic opportunities Holly is exposed to includes learning more about careers after Wellesley, and participating in ongoing research with Professor Marshall. Holly’s main interest has been in developing skills using excel databases for analysis, in statistical analysis, and in presenting data in ways that are meaningful and understandable to a non-research audience. With her free time, she has been conducting library research and web research on career pathways for college-educated women. Holly and Professor Marshall’s project also allows for learning about other research the WCW are doing on child care, in tangent to related policy issues.
Faculty Member: Beth DeSombre | Student Fellow: Zara Tarter
Professor DeSombre is gathering research for a book project on post-policy system evolution in environmental policy. The premise begins that any sort of policy action is simply a starting point. Once a policy has been adopted, many things – some of which are predictable – change. A regulatory change will likely trigger innovation through technology forcing, and thus draw those who can profit by encouraging the development of a cheaper or easier way to meet the new regulation through invention of substitutes or new technology. Previously existing substitutes or technology may become cheaper from the economies of scale that result when production is ramped up to take account of the new demand. Disruption of standard operating procedures may lead to new ways of meeting regulatory requirements that are, at the least, less costly than simply adding in the cost of the new regulation. Perhaps the new ways are even more efficient than the pre-regulation approach.
Professor DeSombre and Zara Tarter (‘21) work with a derived set of predictions about the types of post-policy system evolutions that will come about. After deriving an initial hypothesis about the types of regulatory approaches (or environmental issues) that will most effectively trigger these types of systemic evolutions, they are examining a selection of empirical cases to explore what happens as policies are implemented. Zara especially assists by examining literature, while continuing to identify and research possible empirical cases.
Faculty Member: Jay Turner | Student Fellow: Madhur Wale
In many ways, the Trump administration’s anti-regulatory attack on environmental policy parallels that of the Reagan administration in the early 1980s: characterized by efforts to weaken the Environmental Protection Agency, roll-back environmental regulations, and undermine key environmental laws. In the 1980s, public response to such efforts led to significant gains for environmental organizations, which saw their memberships swell and budgets expand, allowing them to strengthen their lobbying presence in Washington, D.C. Professor Turner works with Madhur Wale (‘20) to investigate the extent contemporary environmental organizations have been able to seize on public outcry over Trump administration’s anti-environmental agenda. Has there been a similar growth in membership? Has the public outcry empowered existing groups like the Sierra Club or new groups like the Sunshine Movement? How does the backlash reflect changes in the nature of organizing and lobbying in the 21st century? These are all questions Madhur and Professor Turner are trying to answer. Madhur supports by generating quantitative and qualitative information pertaining to the Reagan era and Trump era in order to defend a comparison of environmental organizing and activism during these two time periods.
Faculty Member: Julie Walsh | Student Fellow: Sarah Winshel
The traditional mind-body problem originated in the17th century by French philosopher René Descartes. Descartes holds that mind and body are two distinct, utterly heterogeneous substances. Mind is an immaterial, spiritual substance; body is a material, corporeal substance. It is an empirical and phenomenological fact, however, that these two heterogeneous substances interact—for example, sensory experiences of the body (like a mosquito bite) seem to cause events in the mind (like the idea of pain), and events in the mind (like the will to move my arm) seem to cause changes in the body (like the movement of my arm). The Cartesian mind-body problem is thus articulated in the following way: how to explain the fact that two distinct, utterly heterogeneous substances—immaterial and material—interact? Commentators have spilled much ink trying to understand whether Descartes had a solution to this problem.
Professor Walsh and Sarah are spending their summer looking at the mind-body problem in a different angle. The aim of their project is to shift focus away from the problem of interaction of mind and body, and towards a heretofore underexplored problem: ensoulment. This problem runs as follows: how does an immaterial thing, the mind, become connected to a material thing, the body, in the development of a fetus? It turns out that following this line of investigation uncovers a series of early modern philosophical conversations about race, progress, culture, and nature.
Faculty Member: Linda Charmaraman | Student Fellow: Cynthia Serrano Najera
Professor Charmaraman and Cynthia (‘21) have been excitedly working for the Youth, Media, and Wellbeing Research Lab at the Wellesley Centers for Women. As an intern, Cynthia has had the opportunity to assist in analyzing survey and interview data from middle school students on their social technology use, psychosocial health, and behavioral health associated with the beginning stages of using social media, including phone use, gaming, YouTube videos, etc. Cynthia works in a research team, where she is able to collaborate and analyze parent survey data of how they monitor their child’s social technology use. These two main data sets complement each other perfectly for this project. In addition, she is in the middle of developing and piloting an app designed to reduce social pressures of smartphone use in tweens. This involves mentoring middle school students in their communities and collaborating with a computer science and communications team. To learn more about the WCW summer research and Cynthia's feature, visit this page.
Faculty Member: Justin Armstrong | Student Fellow: Cassandra Morales
Professor Armstrong's research project examines the cultural history of money by charting its development and use across time and place. Beginning with the giant stone currency (rai) found on the Pacific island of Yap, and moving through increasingly portable and eventually intangible examples (coins, paper currency, credit/debit cards, Venmo), this project seeks its logical endpoint in a discussion and cross-cultural comparison of newly emergent cryptocurrencies and the forms that have preceded them. Cassandra ('21) is the student research assistant who helps Professor Armstrong in developing an argument that humankind's social and cultural constructions can be directly linked (and mirrored in) to our relationship with currency. This claim is a result of the research conducted through a careful examination of our transition from the tactile to the digital, from an oral to an electronic world of communication and exchange.
Faculty Member: Stephen Chen | Student Fellow: Jessica Wu
The Family Development Project is a longitudinal study of stress and well-being in Chinese American immigrant families. Specifically, the project examines how stressors related to immigration and acculturation impact the well-being of two samples of Chinese American immigrant families: 1) families from Boston Chinatown and surrounding urban areas, and 2) families from the suburbs of Greater Boston/Metrowest Boston. One of the dominant aims of the project is to identify how socioeconomic disparities between these two groups may be associated with disparities in family functioning and well-being.
Professor Chen and Jessica (‘21) use the assessment protocol to originate results in their study. This involves multiple methods (e.g., survey, computerized tasks, behavioral observation, semi-structured interviews) to assess various domains of parent and child well-being, including mental health, family relationships, and self-regulation. Jessica is involved in multiple aspects of the project, including data entry, coding and transcription of multilingual family interviews, and analysis of health-related data (BMI, physiological indicators of stress). Because of her background and language proficiency, Jessica can adeptly contribute to this project, and is excited to be using her skills in a meaningful way, all while gaining new experiences.
Faculty Member: Soo Hong | Student Fellow: Chelsie Ahn
What kinds of beliefs do new teachers have about working with students' families? Increasingly, there is evidence that family engagement in education produces positive outcomes for students such as school attendance, graduation rates, and literacy proficiency. Schools have primarily attempted to enhance family engagement by creating parent education programs to improve parent support of educational goals and increase parent participation in family outreach efforts. While these efforts can be successful in drawing parents into the school and providing a space for interactions between educators and families, they are not as effective at building consistent and meaningful communication between parents and educators.
In urban schools, the majority of students are students of color, yet most teachers are white. As is the case for educators who work in communities that are new and unfamiliar to them, the existence of bias and a lack of established trust may influence the interactions between educators and families. This creates challenges in the efforts to enhance relationships between teachers and parents. It then becomes important for schools to develop professional development and support for teachers to effectively engage families. New efforts in teacher education programs seek to introduce preservice teachers to effective family engagement strategies before they enter the classroom. In order for these efforts to be successful, it is important to explore and understand new teachers' beliefs about families--their roles in supporting education and the possibilities for family engagement.
Professor Hong is conducting research to understand and explore these beliefs in order to answer the questions previously asked. Chelsie (‘20) is an intern under Professor Hong, and seeks to interpret the gaps held open between educators and families of non-white heritage.
Faculty Member: Tom Burke | Student Fellow: Sami Habel
In his influential work on the politics of public policymaking, John Kingdon points to the role of stories, "focusing events," in putting social problems on the political agenda. The 9/11 catastrophe for example pointed public attention to problems in airline security, but also opened the way for the Bush Administration to justify wars in both Afghanistan and Iraq. But focusing events need not be so grand. A recent genre of focusing event, a type of narrative that seems to fuel many policy proposals in the past couple of decades, concerns bad things that happen to young people, usually young girls. This genre is so common, in fact, that one can find a law or proposal named after nearly every popular girl's name--"Emma's Law," “Sarah's Law," and so forth. In this research project, Professor Burke and Sami (‘20) use this genre of political narrative as a lens to examine how race and gender affect the politics of public policymaking. Sami references authoritative sources to create lists of the most popular girl names of the past two decades, the most popular boy names of the past two decades, and the most popular names of Latinx and African-American children. Together the two create a kind of "content analysis" of the proposals, bills, and laws linked to those names within the United States, examining their content, the political context in which they were proposed, and their success or failure in the legislative arena. This process leads to examining partisan, racial and gendered patterns in these stories, and how they are crafted and received by policymakers.