Undergrads Pursue Novel Research Projects

Undergrads Pursue Novel Research Projects

collage of five studentsAYURG winners Kendall Gail, Rohan Gupta, Madeline Lane, Madeleine Ward, and Sophie Boorstein.

Northwestern University School of Education and Social Policy students received 2020-21 Academic Year Undergraduate Research Grants (AYURG) to study everything from athletic shoe culture to the impacts of COVID19- and the Black Lives Matter movement on Black-owned businesses.

Winners include Adina Barg, Sophie Boorstein, Kendall Gail, Rohan Gupta, Akie Kadota, Madeline Lane, Lauryn Reynolds, and Madeleine Ward.

Kadota tied for first place in the Understanding Our World panel at the Undergraduate Research and Arts Expo for her project, “The Effect of Remote Learning on Secondary Ensemble-Based Music Education.”

Gail, who is sponsored by School of Education and Social Policy professor Tabitha Bonilla, was selected as one of 40 oral presenters for the Northwestern Undergraduate Research Exposition. She also recently won “Top Oral Presentation” at the Chicago Area Undergraduate Research Symposia for a separate independent project "'Si la mujer no está la democracia no va': The Impact of Gender Stereotypes on Chilean Women during the 1988 Public Referendum''.

School of Education and Social Policy students have a strong tradition of pursuing undergraduate research grants through the Office of Undergraduate Research. 

Last year, more than 80 percent of SESP students who applied received either an undergraduate research grant, a summer research grant or undergraduate research advanced grant, according to the Undergraduate Research Office.

Moreover, faculty sponsors like Lilah Shapiro, assistant professor of instruction, are fiercely committed to mentoring student researchers. In the last four years, Shapiro has sponsored five students through the URAP program, 15 students on independent projects, and eight students on Expo presentations (oral and poster). Several of her students have been finalists for the Fletcher Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Research or won prizes for their presentations.

“She is highly committed to providing students deeper and more substantive interactions with faculty,” said Megan Wood, associate director of undergraduate research.

Learn more about SESP’s 2020-21 AYURG winners:

Adina Barg
Faculty sponsor: Terri Sabol

Barg looked at preschool disciplinary practices by interviewing administrators and teachers from four Evanston-area. “I saw a shift away from negative disciplinary actions such as time outs, suspension, and expulsion towards a more positive reframing of behavior management such as safety breaks and the use of redirection,” she said. She was inspired by the class “Crafting Child Policy,” taught by Terri Sabol, assistant professor of human development and social policy, who became her primary thesis adviser. Next year she plans to attend the University of Haifa for a Master’s in Child Development. 

Sophie Boorsteinsophia boorstein
Faculty sponsor: Reuel Rogers, associate professor of political science

Leveraging her skills in social policy and statistics, Boorstein examined how COVID-19 and the Black Lives Matter movement affected Black-owned small businesses in Englewood in the spring and summer of 2020. She interviewed Black-identifying business owners and analyzed foot traffic data to find how people are shopping given stay-at-home orders and police-involved shootings. She hopes to learn more about the range of experiences Black entrepreneurs in Englewood face during crisis events and potential policy responses that could help support their survival and success.

Kendall GailKendall Gail
Faculty sponsor: Tabitha Bonilla, assistant professor of human development and social policy

Gail’s project compared how former president Donald Trump and General Augusto Pinochet of Chile used authoritative tactics in their political propaganda when appealing to female conservative voters during their election campaigns in 2020 and 1988, respectively. Gail analyzed Chilean television commercials, Donald Trump's personal Twitter account, and scholarly writings regarding the personality of authoritarian leaders. Her grant is a continuation of the 2020 Summer Undergraduate Research Grant she received to research Chilean women during Chile's 1988 public referendum. “I noticed patterns in how Pinochet used media and political propaganda to appeal to his conservative female votes and how Donald Trump used his own social media platforms to connect with his base,” said Gail, who is pursuing a concentration in human development and psychological services and minors in Spanish and legal studies.

Follow her on Twitter at @KendallRGail or visit her website to learn more about the project. Her grant was an Off-Cycle Summer Undergraduate Research Grant (OCSURG) which allowed her to do eight weeks of full time research during Winter Quarter.

rohan guptaRohan Gupta
Faculty sponsor: Shirin Vossoughi

Gupta studied whether African-based Latin American spirituality offers the same types of spaces for freedom and liberation for Chicago’s Puerto Rican community as it does for practitioners in Cuba. Building off his research supported by a Summer Undergraduate Research grant, he interviewed a wide range of people who practice African-based Latin American spirituality to understand how they view liberation. He has previously researched Spiritism and African-based religious traditions in the Caribbean through a 2019 Historical Memory Fellowship and has taken courses in Cuba. At SESP he has taken courses in religious and Latinx Studies.

“With my 2020 SURG, I learned that Puerto Ricans in Puerto Rico engage with ALAS because of the nourishment and belonging it provides them, but also because it offers them a connection with their African ancestors and a place to celebrate non-western identities,” he said. “Many practitioners found that ALAS offered spaces of a communal experience of liberation. What is unclear is whether these experiences and themes are consistent across the diaspora.”

Akie KadotaAkie T. Kadota

Faculty Sponsor: Sarah Bartolome

Kodota participated in the dual degree program in music and education and social policy, which allows students to develop their passion for music as a tool for creating change in learning environments, human relationships, organizations, and the field of social policy. Her thesis looked at how music teachers adapted their teaching in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. She interviewed 12 choral and instrumental public high school music teachers to see how the accessibility issues of learning in the pandemic shifted their educational values and the impact on classrooms. “A mass curricular reformation due to a pandemic can potentially incite new perspectives and values of what should be taught in the music classroom,” she said.

Maddie LaneMadeline Lane
Faculty sponsor: Lilah Shapiro

Lane interviewed 20 Northwestern students to examine the impact of COVID-19 related instability on academics, activities, relationships, and responsibilities. Early findings suggest that students “have markedly shifted towards pragmatism and have assumed a number of ‘adult responsibilities,’ including caretaking and monitoring relatives’ behavior,” she wrote in her abstract. “Students also describe disillusionment with America, altered peer relationships – whether influenced by trust, judgment, or a transition to virtual communication – as well as perceiving schoolwork as endless.” She noted that further analyses could help Northwestern and other institutions who want to support undergraduates in the current moment and in future disasters. “This window into students’ sources of stress and their reactions can inform psychosocial service applications,” she wrote. “Specific interventions may intentionally support students in navigating changes in peer relationships and networks and accentuate boundaries between 'work' and 'life.'”

Lauren ReynoldsLauren Reynolds

Faculty Sponsor: Lilah Shapiro

Reynolds looked at where Northwestern students draw the line between acceptable free speech and restrictions. She also explored the role of personal identities and affiliations as factors that influence one’s perspective of acceptable speech. The free speech debate is important because “while college campuses are considered a marketplace of ideas, those ideas may be perceived as racist, bigoted, or hurtful towards other students,” she said. “College students will contribute to the next generation of cultural thought leaders, so it is imperative to understand what they view as acceptable speech, and how they navigate campus debates about the issue.”

Maddy WardMadeleine (Maddy) Ward
Faculty sponsor: Jolie Matthews, assistant professor of learning sciences

 “Sneakerheads" are people who enthusiastically collect, trade, sell and wear athletic shoes as a hobby or for a living. In the thrill of the chase to find rare sneakers, collectors used to wait in line for days to get new releases or hang out in shoe stores to learn more about brands. Ward researched how online shopping and forums has impacted sneakerheads’ social identity and sneaker culture by surveying and interviewing both new and veteran sneakerheads who are members of either the NikeTalk.com or the SneakerheadsUnite! Subreddit online forums. Ward’s interest in athletic shoes was piqued by a high school visit to the Converse headquarters. She joined sneaker sketching classes at the local public library, designed different sneaker patterns through a summer graphic design job, and befriended people who had side hustles restoring and selling sneakers. “I was always more interested in the creative side of sneakers, but with my thesis I wanted to learn more about individuals within sneaker culture and how they form communities online,” she said. 

By Julie Deardorff
Last Modified: 6/9/21