Mellon Mays Undergraduates Present Wide-Ranging Research

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The 2014 MMUF Fellows along with MMUF alumni Emily Coin ’14 and Tiffany Ebrahim

This year’s ten Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship (MMUF) researchers recently presented five weeks worth of research to professors, faculty advisors and fellow students at Bowdoin’s 2014 Mellon Mays Undergraduate Summer Research Colloquium. The MMUF is named for Benjamin E. Mays, former president of Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia, and mentor to Martin Luther King, Jr. The Fellowship supports students from underrepresented groups in becoming scholars, with the aim of increasing the number of these students who pursue PhDs, as well as encouraging diversity in academia. This summer, Bowdoin’s MMUF program brought together students and faculty mentors from Bowdoin and from the University of  the Witwatersrand in South Africa. Find out more about the fellows’ wide range of research topics below.

Bowdoin students:
Carl Boisrond ’16
Boisrond is exploring W.E.B. Du Bois’s mid-twentieth century Pan-Africanism. He is researching “the later career (1945-1963) of the Pan-Africanist, historian, sociologist, editor, and prolific writer,” he said, and examining the influence of African decolonization and a post-war context on Du Bois’s thought during this period.

Bill De La Rosa ’16
De La Rosa’s research focuses on the strategies that undocumented migrants use to cross the Arizona portion of the U.S.-Mexico border, which is known to be the most hazardous to immigrants. De La Rosa focuses on individual narratives to examine “why migrants choose to risk their lives and how they manage this process.” De La Rosa did on-site anthropological research last summer while living in the Sonoran Desert, and is gathering observations this summer at an immigrant shelter in Nojales, Mexico.

Allyson Gross ’16
Gross is examining whether the Occupy Wall Street Movement has “created an enduring public, through applying public theory to social movement theory on the tactic of occupation.” She will explore who the “99%” of the Occupy Movement represents on three levels (“direct occupation, the Internet, and mainstream media”) as well as the ways in which a social movement can not only influence a society, but also become an identity for members of that society.

Michelle Kruk ’16
Kruk’s research addresses the problem of “food deserts,” that is, areas in which residents have little access to fresh foods. She analyzes whether community urban gardens on the South Side of Chicago help this problem, asking, “what relationship do South Siders have with urban gardens, if any, and what type of urban garden politics is best suited to fit the South Siders’ needs?” A Chicagoan herself, she hopes to contribute to general understanding of the South Side and the needs of poorer, urban neighborhoods.

Dashiell Lora ’16
Lora explores cultural development by examining the role of jazz music for immigrants transitioning to life in the United States. His research incorporates “elements from Assimilation theory, mainly the concept of Americanization, and theories on Cultural Evolution/Development” to create a theory on how migrant groups adjust to a new environment.

University of  the Witwatersrand students:
Kamogelo Makgopela
Makgopela’s project takes an anthropological and archaeological focus; her research is “aimed at examining the relationships between ideology, power and material culture.” She will look at changes in roads over time as a marker of social change, intertwined with the progression of “politics, economics, religion and gender.”

Winnie Mutungi
Mutungi analyzes the connections between the democratic form of government in Tanzania, the party systems, governance structure and the country’s foreign policy. Mutungi incorporates a variety of primary and secondary sources to gather data, including “annual reports and mission statements” from the Tanzanian government.

Mthobisi Ndaba
Ndaba is using “semi-structured interviews and a focus group” to research higher education in post-apartheid South Africa. He will use qualitative data to examine whether students from “previously disadvantaged Black Schools” feel that the quality of their high school education puts them at a disadvantage relative to students from “previously White schools” during their first year at the University of the Witwatersrand.

Jamie Plaatjes
Plaatjes’s research uses two philosophical texts, Immanuel Kant’s Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morality and Robert Nozick’s Anarchy, State and Utopia to analyze the “deontological ethical commitments of the minimalist state.” Plaatjes focuses on electronic tolls in Johannesburg to contextualize her argument.

Bambi Stewart
Stewart is assessing the institutional characteristics that contribute to political instability in Africa. “The marginalization of African countries in global politics is of concern to me,” she explains, “I have mobilized New Institutional Economics as an analytical framework and hope to eventually understand present debates regarding the institutional legacy of colonial rule.”

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