Bowdoin Student-Researchers Turn to the Community as Muse

community research social research
Chelsea Gross ’13 is completing an honors thesis that analyzes 19th-century artifacts discovered two years ago during an archaeological dig at Joshua Chamberlain’s Brunswick house. Eliza Warren-Shriner ’13 is researching food hubs in Maine and Vermont to study the differences between the two systems. Tess Beem ’13 is creating a series of maps for a proposed walking and biking path between Brunswick and Bath.

Of the more than 100 honors projects and independent studies that Bowdoin seniors are pursuing this year — on topics spanning the globe and academic disciplines — a handful of projects like these are incorporating local research in Brunswick or in Maine. Several more involve hands-on research completed during study-away semesters.

About 10% to 15% of honors projects and independent studies incorporate community-based research, according to estimates by the McKeen Center for the Common Good. Many honors projects and independent studies grow out of community-engagement experiences, whether through the McKeen Center, classes or summer fellowships, according to Janice Jaffe, the McKeen Center’s associate director.

The McKeen Center, in its commitment to support students in connecting their work in the community to academic research, recently hosted a forum for students to discuss their community-based independent study and honors work. The Center is also developing a database of these research projects at Bowdoin. “We want to keep an ongoing list of community-based research so that students can learn about and build on what others have done, share their experiences with peers who are doing related research, or connect with other organizations that may be interested in their work,” said Jaffe. Future students could pick up where former students left off to create ongoing research that could be useful to local organizations.

A further goal for the McKeen Center is to make students aware of opportunities to reach a wider audience with their work. In the past year three Bowdoin students have published their findings in a peer-reviewed journal devoted to community-based research.

Tasha Sandoval ’13, a McKeen Fellow for Community Engagement and a senior working on her own community-based honors project, said the McKeen Center would also like to organize workshops for first-year students to let them know about Bowdoin resources and community networks. This could prompt students to begin to think about and plan future projects early on in their academic careers.

Click on the photos below to read about four seniors’ community-based research projects.

Tasha Sandoval ’13 Contributes to South Africa’s Living History

Tasha Sandoval ’13 Adds to South Africa’s Living History

Tess Beem ’13 Creates Maps for Future Brunswick-to-Bath Trail

Tess Beem ’13 Creates Maps for Future Brunswick-to-Bath Trail

Eliza Warren-Shriner

Eliza Warren-Shriner ’13 Studies Food Hubs in Vermont and Maine

Chelsea Gross

Chelsea Gross ’13 Peers Into Lost World of Joshua Chamberlain

thumb: