2019-2020 Honors Students

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The Department of Anthropology is proud to recognize our 2019-2020 class of Honors graduates!  See below to learn more about their project and experience in the honors program.

Claire Biffl

Elisabeth Crusey

Emma Hanlon

Sarena Ho

Jahnvi Jain

Adama Kamara

Nora Keathley

Rachel Kim

Riana Peskopos

Ru Prasad

Naomi Tesama

 

Claire Biffl: Experiences of Aging, Kinship, Death, and Independence in an Independent Living Facility

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Major: Anthropology

Advisor: Dr. Kristin Phillips

Tell me a little about your honors project:

I conducted ethnographic research at an independent living facility in Georgia. My research centered around the lives of the residents and their experiences in this specific setting. I studied their social behaviors, their family relationships, the challenges and benefits of aging that were concentrated in the community, and how factors like loneliness or death impacted their own perceptions of life.

What was the most exciting thing you learned from your research?

The most exciting thing I learned from this project was that aging in late life should not be looked at as an unavoidable negative, but rather an exciting part of the natural life course. There is so much to be gained from life in an independent living community.

What did you learn personally or professionally from this experience?

Personally, I was so fortunate to be able to interview some of the most interesting people for this thesis; their life stories have taught me more about the world than I ever anticipated. Professionally, I learned so much about conducting research, analyzing qualitative data, and creating something meaningful as a product. I now feel confident designing my own research and I know the skills that I have developed over the past year will be a great foundation for future research projects in my career.

What are you doing next?

I am looking for a job in the government, and pursuing graduate school in the near future.

 

Elisabeth Crusey: “Does anybody have ibuprofen?”: An investigation of Emory undergraduates’ over-the-counter analgesic use

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Major:  B.S. in Anthropology and Human Biology; Minor in Ethics

Advisor:  Dr. Bisan Salhi

Tell me a little about your honors project:

My honors project explores how Emory undergraduate students use over-the-counter analgesics. These medications are in our backpacks, in our campus convenience stores, and sold in virtually every nearby grocery store and pharmacy. Despite their widespread availability and use, they can pose serious side effects. I interviewed Emory undergraduate students about their experiences with over-the-counter analgesics and found common themes among participants’ experiences, as well as some that I didn’t anticipate. Utilizing anthropological perspectives and methods in this project was a valuable way of gaining a better understanding of how we interact with over-the-counter analgesics and how they interact with us in this setting.

What was the most exciting thing you learned from your research?

For me, the most exciting part of any project is discovering findings and connections I didn’t anticipate. I enjoyed exploring those that arose in this project and incorporating them into the final product.

What did you learn personally or professionally from this experience?

It was an absolute pleasure to work with and learn from Dr. Salhi and the rest of my committee – I am incredibly grateful for their guidance and expertise. Working on any academic project for an extended period of time teaches valuable skills in time management, communication, and the importance of taking initiative and being creative. I am so happy to have had this experience and will certainly carry these skills with me as I enter graduate school and the professional world.

What are you doing next?

I am attending law school in the fall and am excited to pursue a career in health law.

 

Emma Hanlon: Spiritual Community, Sacred Congregation: Ritual, Discourse, and Space in the First Existentialist Congregation of Atlanta


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Major: Anthropology and Religion

Advisor: Dr. Anna Grimshaw

Tell me a little about your honors project:

This thesis is an ethnographic account of the First Existentialist Congregation of Atlanta. This congregation, founded in 1976, meets on Sunday mornings in its sanctuary in Candler Park, Atlanta for Celebrations of Life. Those who attend these gatherings represent a diverse array of religions, races, socioeconomic classes, belief systems, and identities that then come together as one congregation on Sunday mornings. There is a tension that arises in this space between the individual subjectivities that populate the sanctuary and the oneness of the congregational body. This paper interrogates this tension in three realms of ethnographic material: ritual, discourse, and space. Ultimately, this thesis concludes that the radical acceptance of multiplicity becomes that which holds this heterogenous congregation together

What was the most exciting thing you learned from your research?

There are infinite religious experiences and they are all equally significant.

What did you learn personally or professionally from this experience?

Through my research I have learned that I am good at making friends. Ethnography requires bravery and confidence but it also requires compassion and the ability to connect deeply with others.

What are you doing next?

I will be continuing my education in the ethnographic study of religion at Emory’s Candler School of Theology

Sarena Ho: Father Absence and Young Adult Romantic Relationship Ideals

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Major: Anthropology and Human Biology (B.S.); Linguistics (B.A.)

Advisor: Dr. Craig Hadley

Tell me a little about your honors project:

The population of children without a consistent father-figure has grown considerably over the past 50 years. Previous research has outlined the effect that father absence can have on child development, highlighting the importance of having a father-figure and the negative ramifications that father absence can have, including child stability and behavioral problems as well as social and emotional withdrawal. One area that has yet to be explored is the effect that father absence has on their children’s long-term romantic relationship development. This issue is of importance because understanding the effect that fathers have on their children’s attitudes towards romantic relationships can help to mitigate adverse effects on relationship development in situations when the father can still be involved to some extent in their child’s life, such as in the case of divorce or work commitments. This study aimed to identify attitudes towards relationships and uncover differences in romantic ideals between those raised with and without a consistent father figure through semi-structured interviews with young adults.

What was the most exciting thing you learned from your research?

The results suggest that father absence does play a role in how individuals approach romantic relationships. As hypothesized, a large impact was seen within the female father-absent sample, where respondents reported struggling to establish and maintain romantic relationships due to a lack of experience with them and general discomfort being emotionally intimate in their interpersonal relationships. Surprisingly, the male absent-father sample reported similar experiences as the male present-father sample, indicating that perhaps a father’s large impact on their son is not their approach to relationships or their beliefs but rather on their personality development. Ultimately, father absence is correlated with attitudes towards romantic relationship, particularly for father-absent females, as such connections are often avoided. Even when they exist, they are strained and unstable as compared to those of the father-present sample.

What did you learn personally or professionally from this experience?

With the guidance of my advisor, committee, Dr. Phillips and Heather, and my cohort, I learned how to develop and execute a research project from beginning to end. The most rewarding part of the entire process was looking back on the journey at the end and recognizing all of the smaller pieces I created that came together to comprise my project.

What are you doing next?

I will be attending Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health to pursue my MSPH in Health Policy and Management.

Jahnvi Jain: Effects of a Brief Breath Focused Mindfulness Meditation Intervention on Heart Rate Variability and Dissociation in Patients with PTSD and Dissociation

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Major: B.S. Anthropology and Human Biology

Advisor: Dr. Negar Fani

Tell me a little about your honors project:

I was looking at how a mindfulness meditation intervention can improve autonomic functioning, as seen by heart rate variability, and dissociation symptoms in patients with PTSD and dissociation. I looked at both clinical and physiological data to determine if this breath focused mindfulness intervention helped improve dissociative symptoms while simultaneously improving autonomic functioning. 

What was the most exciting thing you learned from your research?

The most exciting thing I learned from the research was that there was a significant correlation between a decrease in dissociative disengagement symptoms and increase in HRV (which is what we want to see). This indicated that as dissociation symptoms related to disengagement decreased, autonomic functioning was improving in PTSD patients. This has fascinating clinical implications since dissociative disengagement is a factor that contributes to treatment resistance in PTSD patients. Maybe by utilizing this mindfulness intervention in the future with dissociative patients, we can improve their treatment efficacy and help them recover from their trauma more effectively while also improving their autonomic nervous system functioning.

What did you learn personally or professionally from this experience?

I personally learned how much I loved clinical work since I was directly interacting with participants while working in the lab and conducting the research. The whole experience, in a way, encouraged me that I was on the right career path as an aspiring physician since the clinical component of the research was the most rewarding and fulfilling experience. Professionally, I was able to challenge myself with software and procedures I was unfamiliar with especially when it came to HRV analysis. Working with the graduate student in my lab, Drew Teer, to troubleshoot with software I was unfamiliar with and adapt to the data was challenging, but taught be a lot about being flexible and being able to problem solve. I know these skills will definitely help me as I transition into the workforce and medical school. This project would definitely not have been possible without the incredible help from my mentor, Dr. Negar Fani, and the members of the Grady Trauma Project and FANs lab so I have to express my utmost gratitude to them.

What are you doing next?

I am currently applying to medical school for Fall 2021 matriculation and planning to work in the research field as a clinical research coordinator/associate during my gap year.

Adama Kamara: The Politics of Empowerment and Black Female Sexuality: Perceptions Through the Lens of Atlanta’s Trafficking Networks

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Major: Anthropology

Advisor: Dr. Bayo Holsey

Tell me a little about your honors project:

I explored how perceptions about Black female sexuality affect counter-trafficking efforts in the Greater-Atlanta Area. More specifically, how these perceptions about the sexuality of Black women, especially regarding victimhood and vulnerability, might impact their access to counter-trafficking resources.

What did you learn personally or professionally from this experience?

That Anthropology can be so much more than one thing, It has the capacity to be whatever you make it as a storytelling tool.

Nora Keathley: Latinx Women and Labor in the Digital Age
Exploring Childbirth and Medical Authority Through the Use of YouTube

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Major: Anthropology and Human Biology, Spanish

Advisor: John Lindo

Tell me a little about your honors project: My honors project looked at how Latinx women choose to navigate medical authority and birth medicalization in the context of reproductive health and childbirth. I was interested in how women tell stories about childbirth, and so I looked at “mom blogger” Youtubers who filmed their labor and delivery and filmed follow up videos talking about their experience. I found that through a command of narrative creation in the medium of YouTube, the women I looked at not only create important representation for the greater Latinx community within discourses of childbirth and reproduction dominated by the voices of upper-middle class white men and women, but they also share valuable didactic information with viewers that has the potential to shape the way in which people who watch their videos give birth.

What was the most exciting thing you learned from your research? During the background/literature review research for this project I learned a lot about how in medical practice in general, but in this case in the context of reproductive health, even though we take for granted that medical practice reflects purely scientific knowledge, it also reflects a lot of long held cultural beliefs about the body.

What did you learn personally or professionally from this experience? Doing this project solidified my desire to pursue a career in reproductive health, and as I got deeper into my research I discovered more about what exact kind of role I want to play in that field.

What are you doing next? I’ll be moving to NYC once it’s safe to do so.  Hopefully I’ll find a job as a medical assistant, or working in an OBGYN office. I’m planning to do some doula work, and get more involved in the birth work community in NYC. I’ll also take my last med school pre-reqs and apply to medical school. I’m hoping this leads to a career as an OBGYN/abortion provider.

Rachel Kim: Representation Matters: Changing Portrayals of Asian-Americans in Hollywood films from 1993 to 2019

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Major: Anthropology

Advisor: Dr. Anna Grimshaw

Tell me a little about your honors project:

My honors project explored how portrayals of Asian-Americans have been developing from 1993 to 2019 as two major Hollywood films with the majority of Asian casts were released during that time period. I wanted to find out how these two films differ from previous films, before the 1990s, with Asian characters. I also wanted to find out how these portrayals affect the audience and what direction should the Hollywood take for more frequent and sophisticated portrayals of Asian-Americans by conducting in-depth interviews. My honors project involves literature review, film discussions, interviews, and analysis of my findings.

What was the most exciting thing you learned from your research?

The most exciting thing you learned from my research is that my interviewees, who enjoy watching movies, are passionate about this topic! Although interviewing and transcribing the recorded interviews was a long process, I truly enjoyed hearing my interviewees’ opinions and perspectives. No interviewee had the same background, and all of them were very enthusiastic to participate in my research. They helped me to broaden up my perspective much more and also made me think as well. This was the most exciting that I was able to detect some answers that I found while I was completing literature review or just learn new information. I remember asking them what Hollywood should be doing to continue portraying Asian-Americans more sophisticated, and they gave me a wide range of answers from having more Asian-leads, providing more in-depth characterizations, and so forth. Interviewing was a nice way to connect with my interviewees and learn from them. 

What did you learn personally or professionally from this experience?

Personally, I think I learned that I am capable of completing an original project that I wanted to learn more about. Developing a project to defending a thesis is a long and huge process. The process itself is not going to be linear that there will be some ups and downs. But I was able to push through them and work around them. I found myself to become more intellectually curious, thought-provoking, and analytical. This has been a great challenge where I learned that I will be able to undertake any projects and how persistent I am.

Professionally, I found myself to be a stronger writer who can discuss pop culture topics in a scholarly manner. Writing is probably the greatest skill that I have gained from this experience, and this is important not just in a classroom setting but in a working world. During my undergraduate career, I think completing a honors project is where I learned the most in terms of the subject matter, the research process, and transferrable skills such as communication and time management. I also think this helped me to build a professional network of professors too!

After all, this experience benefitted me in so many ways. This is just more than completing a research. I find this as an opportunity to grow both professionally and personally, and I viewed it in that way.

What are you doing next?

My manager just offered me an extension on my full-time internship that I currently have at WarnerMedia! I will be interning until May 29th. I am super excited and thankful, because I truly enjoy working with my team and the company. My job-hunting stress decreased a lot while coping with the COVID-19, so I know I am still able to work with this weird situation that is going on around the world. Hopefully, the situation improves significantly by the end of May.

 

Riana Peskopos: Title of Honors Thesis: “The Queer Female Medical Narratives”

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Major: Anthropology & Human Biology

Advisor: Dr. Grimshaw

Tell me a little about your honors project:

My thesis explores the interactions between queer (LGBTQ) female medical patients and their healthcare providers in the American South – I specifically wanted to collect narratives from queer women on how their sexual identity influenced their quality of medical care. I gathered data through in-depth semi-structured interviews, which included photo-elicitation.

What was the most exciting thing you learned from your research?

I had expected most subjects to talk about experiences in obstetrics and gynecology, and I was very surprised to hear that almost all of the people I talked with had notable experiences in mental health care (therapy, psychiatry, counselling), general primary care, and emergency room care. 

What did you learn personally or professionally from this experience?

This thesis gave me great hands on experience that I believe will be very useful for my future in public health. I crafted the interview guide, conducted the interviews, and also recorded and transcribed each interview. Likewise, I observed how methods like semi-structured interviews and photo-elicitation can be great ways to extract common experiences and concerns among people who are marginalized in society – had I not used those methods, I would have only obtained a small fraction of the rich narrative each subject gave.

What are you doing next?

Going into an epidemiology master of public health (MPH) program at Emory’s Rollins School of Public Health in the fall!

Ru Prasad: Mental Illness and Pregnancy among Women in Mysore, India: Health Provider and Women’s Perspectives

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Major: Anthropology and Human Biology

 

Advisor: Dr. Joyce Burkhalter Flueckiger

Tell me a little about your honors project:

Global Mental Health (GMH), a subfield of the broader study in global health, examines

how mental health affects populations across the world. As part of a collaboration between the Public Health Research Institute of India (PHRII), University of Oregon, and Emory University, my honor’s thesis studies how women’s mental illness was discussed and treated in urban Mysore, Karnataka. Through interviews with community mental health providers and women over a three-month period in the summer of 2019, I hear stories of healing, understanding, pain and relief from both those that diagnose and those that suffer from mental illness.

What was the most exciting thing you learned from your research?

I learned that healing and mental illness are diverse concepts that exist and manifest differently depending on who you are. I had the privilege of hearing from providers such as astrologists, psychiatrists, religious leaders, and spiritual healers that all expanded my perspective on what it means to be a health provider. Similarly, when I talked to women about their experiences, I heard how different the same mental illness was described, how varied symptoms were, or how each woman might self-diagnose. It was lovely at the end of the summer to walk away with a new sense of what mental illness means to Indian women and Indian providers, and how each provider might treat the same illness differently.

What did you learn personally or professionally from this experience?

I learned how to navigate living and conducting research internationally. I owe a huge debt to PHRII and my advisors both at Emory and in India for supporting through this work, because I had never done anything like this before. Whether it was learning how to ride a motorcycle to my interviews or analyze my interview transcripts, I had a strong support network in and out of Mysore to guide me. I learned to adapt to new situations, communicate with people that did not speak the same language as me, and lean into mishaps that may occur along the way because I can learn from them.

What are you doing next?

I had planned to conduct reproductive rights research in Phnom Penh, Cambodia for the next two years but currently the programs I am deciding on are on standby till May.

 

Naomi Tesama: Mobile Phone Apps for HIV Prevention Among College-aged Black Women in Atlanta: Preferences and Prototype

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Major: Anthropology and Human Biology

Advisor: Rasheeta Chandler, John Lindo

Tell me a little about your honors project:

My project focuses on the use of mobile apps to bolster HIV prevention interventions targeted at young Black women, the second most at risk demographic group in the United States to be affected by HIV. Under the direction of my PI, Dr. Chandler, I studied the willingness and preferences of this group regarding the use of reproductive health apps from a biocultural perspective, considering race, class, and culture. This view allowed me to better understand the factors that influence the reproductive health of Black women and find creative ways to improve it. Based on the data I collected, I was able to show a high willingness to use health apps among the sample and created a prototype of what such an app would look like.

What was the most exciting thing you learned from your research?

From the focus group discussions held for this study, I learned that young Black women are deeply invested in their healthcare and feel very similarly to how I do. I think that I sometimes feel alone and hesitate in speaking my thoughts so being able to help create a space where such conversations can be held for others like me to freely discuss topics that impact us was truly exciting. This project was very personal to me in that way and I felt a strong connection to my community and identity groups from completing this project.

What did you learn personally or professionally from this experience?

I greatly increased my skills in research such as forming a hypothesis, collecting data using surveys, carrying out focus group discussions, and analyzing data using software such as SPSS, something I will take with me in the future. I also had the unique opportunity to design an app prototype! Being able to express myself creatively is one of my favorite things to do, so at the beginning of the project, I told my PI that this was a main goal of mine and she gave me resources to help me start. Some people may believe that research is an analytical and dry process, but I found my experience to be nothing like that. 

Designing an app prototype necessitated that I focus time on color, images, and design arrangements to create an aesthetically pleasing product users would want to engage with. I never considered myself a computer whiz or particularly adept at app building, but I am someone who appreciates digital art and knew this project would be a unique way to combine my interest in design and health. I learned that seemingly impossible tasks at the beginning, such as prototype building, can actually be very fun. Presenting my prototype was the highlight of my presentation! 

What are you doing next?

I will be attending medical school in the fall. I plan on conducting projects centered on health disparities with a higher emphasis on clinical research. So, this project is the first of many similarly focused research studies I plan on contributing to in the future.