New McKeen Fellowship Fuses Community Engagement and Academics

Among the many grants that Bowdoin offers in support of student research and internships is a relatively new one, the Denning Summer Fellowship. This fellowship, previously known as the Forest Foundation Fellowship, is unique in that it intentionally links advanced-level students’ summertime internships with their academics.

“The fellowship is for students who have a strong grounding in community engagement, and who want to do in-depth work on an issue with one organization over the summer,” explained Janice Jaffe, the McKeen Center’s associate director. Student fellows are encouraged to gather ideas, information, or resources from their summer experiences that they can apply to honors projects, independent studies or class research papers. The public issues that students engage with over the summer must be tied to their majors, Jaffe added.

While students need to have a vision for the research they want to do following the summer, they don’t need to have selected an organization to work with when they apply for the fellowship. “We help them connect with an organization,” Jaffe said.

The Forest Foundation, which funds the Denning fellowship, named the grant for Hanley Denning ’92, founder of Safe Passage, a nonprofit that offers education and social services to impoverished children and families who live around Guatemala City’s dump. Denning died in a car accident in Guatemala in 2007. Mike Poor ’64, who received a Common Good Award last year, and his wife developed the Forest Foundation, which provides start-up funds to nonprofits in the Boston area and offers summer internships for students.

Last summer, five students received the Denning fellowship: Michelle Johnson ’15, Marko Peraica ’15, Olivia Reed ’15, Emily Weinberger ’15 and Kaylee Wolfe ’15. Read about some of their internships and research projects below.

Three of the five 2014 Denning fellows: Olivia Reed, Michelle Johnson ’15 and Emily Weinberger ’15

Three of the five 2014 Denning fellows: Olivia Reed ’15, Michelle Johnson ’15 and Emily Weinberger ’15

Michelle Johnson ’15, Early childhood interventions

Internship: Last summer, Johnson interned with the international nonprofit Save the Children on its domestic public policy team. She worked with Rich Bland ’95, director of national policy. Living in Washington D.C., Johnson attended events about early childhood interventions and helped advocate for new laws for child care and school disaster preparation. She also got to jump into a breaking national story. “As the unaccompanied-minors border crisis unfolded, I got to do research and attend hearings to help figure out how the children could best be served,” Johnson said. “The whole experience taught me how change can be made on a large scale.”

Research: For her independent study, Johnson analyzed the advocacy messaging surrounding early-childhood interventions, looking at what works and what doesn’t. She also researched how different states have implemented public preschool programs and home visits, and she explored inexpensive parenting interventions, such as phone apps that provide tips on young children’s health and development. “During the summer, I got to do some research about how different states fund public preschool,” Johnson said. “It was helpful to draw on that knowledge when looking at the implementation of public preschool in more conservative states, and how they managed to fund the programs in places that are hesitant to raise taxes.”

Olivia Reed ’15, Deportability and Latino communities

Internship: Reed worked at the Political Asylum/Immigration Representation Project in Boston alongside attorneys, asylum-seekers and detainees. She helped compile asylum applications, prepared clients for asylum interviews, visited detention centers to deliver “Know Your Rights” presentations, and translated legal documents. “This experience furthered my understanding of immigration law and allowed me to put faces to the struggle of navigating our current immigration system, solidifying my desire to pursue a career in immigrant rights,” she said.

Research: Over the summer, Reed became interested in how the status of being deportable (deportability) affects immigrant communities. “Immigration from Latin America is one of the many topics covered in my course on Latinos and Latinas in the U.S.A. this semester, and I’m hoping to incorporate my work from last summer in a research paper that explores the effects of deportability on different Latino communities (composed of Latin immigrants as well as individuals whose families have been around for generations),” Reed said.

Emily Weinberger ’15, The psychology of punishment

Internship: Weinberger worked with law professors and law students at the University of Maine School of Law’s legal aid clinic, in both their refugee/human rights and juvenile clinics. One of her tasks was to help the organization with its campaign to reform, via new legislation, Maine’s juvenile justice system. In that process, she became interested in the alternative method of restorative justice, which has inspired her honors project. Restorative justice involves both the offender and victim to repair the harm done by a crime.

Research:  In her honors project in psychology, Weinberger is investigating how legal punishment is assigned in the criminal justice system, and how these decisions might be influenced by the justice sensitivity (a personality trait) and selective attention of judges and juries. She is also asking why, if restorative justice has proven to be effective, judges and juries aren’t using it more. And she is exploring whether an “individual’s default justice sensitivity” can be changed.

Kaylee Wolfe ’15, Doulas and the maternity care system

Internship: Wolfe interned both at Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, in its public affairs office in Portland, as well as at Speak About it, Inc. At Planned Parenthood, she helped recruit and manage volunteers and worked on campaigns to support candidates in favor of reproductive rights and women’s health initiatives. With Speak About it, founded by Shana Natelson ’10, Wolfe helped the nonprofit bring its performance-based sexual violence prevention education to high schools and colleges across the country. After Wolfe graduates, she will work as program coordinator for Speak About It, becoming its first paid employee.

Research: Wolfe is working on an honors project in sociology, investigating issues and inequalities surrounding birth, “a key area of reproductive justice,” she said. Specifically, she is looking into the experiences of birth doulas in hospital settings. (Wolfe is a trained birth doula.) “Through interviews with doulas throughout southern Maine, I hope to get a better sense of their impact on the maternity care system,” she said. She will also look at doulas’ challenges and opportunities when it comes to collaborating with hospital staff and improving maternal-child health outcomes.

 

thumb: