Undergrads Win Research Grants

Undergrads Win Research Grants

alana_farkasSenior Alana Farkas is researching sexual violence prevention efforts on college campuses.

School of Education and Social Policy (SESP) undergraduates received research grants from the Office of Academic Research to study everything from female entrepreneurship and empowerment in Morocco to technology and school discipline. 

The grants, called  Academic Year Undergraduate Research Grants (AYURG), provide up to $1,000 to pay research expenses for an independent academic or creative project in any field. The project must be connected to an independent study or thesis seminar.

SESP's 14 winners -- a school record -- include Ankita Ajith, Catherine Ettinger, Cesar Almeida, Eliza Beth, Sam Buresch, Ruthie Charendoff, Michael Deneroff, Alana Farkas, Nicholas Liou, Emma Meyerhoff, April Navarro, Sara Saltzer, Laura Zajac, and Cherie Zang.

In addition, Jamilah Silver and Jordyn Ricard won conference travel grants from the Office of Undergraduate Research to help defray costs associated with presenting their work. Silver, Ricard, and Isaac Doppenberg also serve as peer research mentors, who help create a sense of community among Northwestern's student researchers. 

Learn more about some of SESP’s 2018-19 undergraduate research grant winners and their projects:

Ankita Ajith, sophomore, Michael Farley Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation
Supported by an AYURG and the G. Alfred Hess Jr. Undergraduate Research Fellowship Fund, Ajith traveled to Marrakech and Rabat in Morocco to interview female entrepreneurs and leaders at various nonprofits to better understand the unique challenges Moroccan women face in the business world. The research experience helped Ajith develop a policy recommendation to help Moroccan women start their own small businesses.

Cesar Almeida, senior, learning sciences
Many young musicians around the world are returning to their roots by recording indigenous music and incorporating these recordings into contemporary styles of music. After taking up this model of music production, Almeida led a music conservation workshop at The University of Ghana to teach students how to record and sample traditional music in Ghana. Now, back at Northwestern, Almeida wants to investigate whether the complexity of traditional Ghanaian music can be recreated on a digital beat pad, a device used to “make beats.” To learn more about The Ghana Project, follow the.kid.from.chicago on Instagram. 

Samantha Buresch, senior, learning and organizational change
Buresch will interview recent Northwestern University alums whose parents did not graduate from a four-year institution. She’s particularly interested in how first-generation students transition to full-time, white-collar jobs. “I’ll be paying special attention to the transitional supports and lack of supports these students received during their undergraduate time,” she says. 

Ruthie Charendoff, senior, social policy and learning sciences
Charendoff is exploring the sexual health of Modern Orthodox Jewish women, a topic that combines her interest in health education, equity, Judaism and sexuality. She’ll interview volunteers about their experiences and perceptions of sexual health.

Catherine Ettinger, senior, history and social policy
Ettinger, who hopes to pursue a career in human rights work and refugee resettlement, is examining the sanctuary movement of the 1980s that sprang up among churches and religious communities after the federal government turned away thousands of Central American refugees. She'll look at how the Chicago Religious Task Force on Central America publicly challenged the legality and morality of the U.S. government's actions and offered shelter, support, and community to undocumented refugees that made their way to Chicago.

Michael Deneroff, senior, legal studies and social policy
Deneroff is studying how public schools in Southeastern Michigan use technology to monitor and discipline students’ online activities when they're not in school. He’ll compare these practices with how schools educate students to be citizens in the digital era and with how these disciplinary methods align with free speech case law. “This topic combines many of my interests: civic education, free speech, and surveillance technologies,” he says. 

Alana Farkas, senior, human development and psychological services
Farkas’s project looks at rape culture in Greek fraternities and sexual violence prevention efforts on college campuses. She’s gathering qualitative data to capture why rape culture exists within fraternities and to see how fraternity brothers respond to interventions. She'll interview fraternity members to get their perspectives on masculinity and hookup culture and to understand the social factors that contribute to rape culture. Farkas also will interview Northwestern staff to understand the design, content, and administration of sexual assault prevention programs. 

Nicholas Liou, junior, learning sciences and psychology
Liou is studying how to get visitors to engage with art museum collections by researching what type of supplemental information enhances their experiences. He’ll give his study volunteers historical background or a visual description of abstract paintings in written form or as an audio recording. His current study is computer-based, but he plans to run it in a gallery or museum space to better simulate a museum visitor's actual experience.

Emma Meyerhoff, senior, human development and psychological services
Meyerhoff’s research explores social media exposure to the “body positivity” and “fat acceptance” movements, which promote accepting and appreciating all body types, particularly those of larger-bodied people. Through interviews, Meyerhoff will study how those who have viewed online messaging feel about their body to learn about potential consequences. “As the body positivity movement grows more popular, I want to see the effects of different iterations of the movement: the original form -- created by and for marginalized bodies -- compared to the mainstream love-your-body rhetoric,” she says. 

April Navarro, Latina/o studies and social policy
Navarro is researching how academic departments that study oppressive systems and the empowerment of disadvantaged people are influenced by changes in higher education institutions. “With universities and individual students focused more on how their majors translate to the competitive high paying job market, education for social justice may have a prominent place,” she says. “Can these academic departments continue to exist in these spaces? How have their missions been corrupted?” 

Sara Saltzer, senior, political science and social policy
Of the 102 women currently in Congress, 89 are Democrats while 13 are Republican. Saltzer’s senior thesis analyzes this disparity and explores whether it’s due to stereotypes about the issue positions and abilities of women, or a desire on the part of some voters to elect individuals with certain identities. “As a social policy major, I’ve always been passionate about creating social change by electing people of diverse backgrounds who look like the populations they represent,” she says. “My interest in female representation in government blossomed this past summer when I interned at EMILY’s List, a nonprofit that campaigns for pro-choice Democratic women, and I realized that no such organization exists to support Republican women. Diversity in government is important for everyone, regardless of political party.”

Laura Zajac, senior, human development and social policy
Zajac is looking at the socio-economic, cultural, and political factors that affect how education policy spreads. She’ll specifically analyze the varying way states implemented the No Child Left Behind Act. Her project links education policy research and organizational theory and she hopes to add to a growing body of organizational research that aims to explain the variation in implementation of practices across different organizations.

Cherie Zhang, sophomore, economics and social policy
Zhang, who grew up in mainland China, said she naturally gravitated to the challenges facing the Chinese educational system in times of social change. Millions of migrant children have either poor or no access to the local educational system because their parents moved to places where they expected opportunity but found none. Her research centers around understanding the perspectives of the migrant parents and their children, when it comes to the expectations and frustrations for the current educational policy in Suzhou, China.                   

Conference Travel

Jordyn Ricard, junior, human development and psychological services
Ricard will present her research on trauma, psychopathology and suicidal behavior at the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students (ABRCMS) in Indianapolis. Her project, which she worked on last summer at Harvard University, explored the relationship between childhood trauma and suicidal behaviors. “We found the relationship between childhood trauma and the number of suicide attempts existed in the study in part due to psychotic experiences,” she says. Ricard was particularly interested in this topic after working in a psychosis lab with Northwestern associate professor Vijay Mittal and her background exploring trauma and its negative consequences.

Jamilah Silver, senior, human development and psychological services
Silver used data from the Multidimensional Assessment of Preschoolers Study (MAPS) to look at behavioral and emotional problems in a diverse sample of young children. “Major depression can occur early in life, but there’s little information on the co-occurrence of depression in young children with other types of behaviors that are linked to later outcomes,” she says. Silver wants to understand the development of depression in preschool-aged children in order to develop effective interventions based on a holistic understanding of children. She presents her research March 23 at the Society for Research in Child Development's 2019 Biennial Meeting in Baltimore, Maryland. 

By Julie Deardorff
Last Modified: 2/24/21