From piracy to parasites, student research projects earn Mellon grants

From the crimes of pirates on the high seas to the economic price of ethics, Gettysburg College students will research a wide variety of topics this summer with support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

This will be the fifth consecutive summer during which Mellon grants have supported collaboration between students and faculty members. Topics include service learning, the environment, or writing.

Gettysburg College's scholar development program supports undergraduate research and creative activities throughout students' four years. The program facilitates fellowships, scholarships, and grants. It also celebrates student research at an annual colloquium.

Pirates
Great Britain's 18th-century campaign against piracy will be the focus for David Fictum, Class of 2011. He will analyze an early text, Charles Johnson's A General History of the Robberies and Murders of the Most Notorious Pyrates.

"How much of Johnson's book is fact and how much is fiction?" asked Fictum, a history major. " It is my contention that Johnson's work is a combination of both, and therefore can be relied on only in conjunction with other sources. I plan to select several key figures in the book and compare them to other period sources such as newspapers, government documents, and legal records." The figures include Edward Teach, infamous as "Blackbeard."

"David's pursuit of this topic has real intellectual depth," said his mentor, history Prof. Timothy Shannon "Atlantic history is a relatively new field ... and has breathed new life into the pursuit of maritime history, by focusing on the labor history of merchant marine and naval seamen and by examining the political challenges that pirates, maroons, and other ‘stateless' peoples offered to the emerging imperial regimes of the New World."

Ethics
"Who would want to appear anti-green or indifferent to the animals during product testing?" asked Nevena Todorova, Class of 2011.

Yet, "there is a huge gap between attitudes toward unethical firms and the behavior consumers exhibit.," said the dual economics and psychology major. "Selfish human nature often prevails, and a cheaper good from an unethical firm is preferred." To attempt to determine how much of a premium consumers are willing to pay for ethical behavior, Todorova plans to simulate market conditions in the lab, using real money as she exposes participants to carefully constructed scenarios.

"With additional work, Nevena and I can turn her project into a solid honors thesis and eventually a joint publication" in a scholarly journal, said her mentor, economics Prof. John Cadigan.

• Has economics lost touch with morality? Chris Carrier, Class of 2011, hopes to find an answer by probing the social costs and benefits of treating infectious parasitic illnesses among impoverished people.

Melding economic and philosophical methods, Carrier plans to base his research on "care ethics - a system that honors compassion, care and empathy - rather than the utilitarian ethics that spawned much of late 19th and 20th century economic theory." Carrier, an economics major and mathematics minor, will collaborate with economics Prof. Eileen Stillwaggon and philosophy Prof. Dan DeNicola.

Other Mellon-funded summer projects will focus on local issues with broad social implications.

Immigration
Abby Weaver, Class of 2012, will interview Hispanic immigrants in the Gettysburg-Adams County area and "make those stories known to the nonimmigrant population," said her mentor, Spanish Prof. Paula Olinger. Weaver grew up in Adams County and has a dream of "making a difference in her own community by helping to overcome racial and cultural prejudice through education," said Olinger, who leads El Centro, a local after-school program for Latino children.

Food insecurity
Anthropology and Spanish double-major Gracie Raver will examine access to food and recommend community-based solutions. She will look at the Adams County Food Policy Council (ACFPC), which comprises several food and social service programs. "I plan to identify the current challenges that ACFPC faces ... and anthropologically examine how the different organizations and individuals work towards overcoming these obstacles," said Raver, who also plans to work with the groups as a volunteer. Raver, Class of 2011, will work with anthropology and globalization studies Prof. Donna Perry.

Sustainability
Sara Tower, a dual environmental studies and globalization studies major, plans to develop and implement a plan for a comprehensive sustainability assessment of Gettysburg College. Tower, Class of 2012, plans to compile existing information and work with various stakeholders to establish a baseline of current conditions and set goals. "This is an important project which should be undertaken in order for the College to take the next steps down the pat toward sustainability," said environmental studies Prof. Randy Wilson, who will be Tower's mentor.

Land use
Wilson will also mentor Sara Cawley, Class of 2011 as she studies varying approaches to collaborative land-use planning that communities have applied to public lands in the Intermountain West, where the interests of ex-urban residents, environmental groups, resource-extraction industries, government resource managers, and others collide.

Previous studies have focused on the dynamics of individual groups, said Cawley, an environmental studies and political science major, who will meet with officials in Washington, D.C., take Wilson's Colorado field summer course, and conduct research with him and colleagues in the Rocky Mountains. Wilson's research has focused for a decade on environmental management, policy, and collaboration.

• Human interaction with the land will also be the focus for history and anthropology major Joshua Stewart, Class of 2011. He will work with anthropology Prof. Julia Hendon to study Mexico's pre-Columbian city of Teotihuacan and other sites in light of archaeological approaches to social memory and landscape.

Writing
"Adolescents can derive special benefits from writing therapy," said Eric Kozlik, who will develop a pilot curriculum and facilitate writing exercises for students in the Gettysburg Area High School summer program.

Kozlik, who is majoring in psychology and a self-designed therapeutic writing program, will work with English Prof. Kathrynn Rhett and psychology Prof. Mimi O'Neill. The latter is the mental health consultant for the local Head Start program and a former school psychologist.

• Researching programs that help develop and produce new plays will be the first act for theatre arts major Stephen Krzyzanowski this summer. Act II will be writing his own script and submitting it to appropriate programs. Krzyzanowski, Class of 2012, wrote a one-act play performed at last year's campuswide celebration of undergraduate research. He will work with theatre arts Prof. Susan Russell, who has experience in play development in the professional theater, and whose own original musical was presented as a staged reading in New York City with support from the Mellon Foundation.

• Brian Kaehler, Class of 2011, a French major currently studying abroad for a year in France, will write an analysis of the roles that the written word, memory, love, and desire play in the Flaubert's classic Madame Bovary and contemporary Quebecois novelist Louise Dupre''s La Memoria. His mentor is French Prof. Florence Ramond Jurney.

Founded in 1832, Gettysburg College is a highly selective four-year residential college of liberal arts and sciences with a strong academic tradition that includes Rhodes Scholars, a Nobel laureate and other distinguished scholars among its alumni. The college enrolls 2,600 undergraduate students and is located on a 200-acre campus adjacent to the Gettysburg National Military Park in Pennsylvania.

Contact: Jim Hale, online content editor

Posted: Sun, 18 Apr 2010

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