2020-2021 Honors Students

Bailowitz_Margot_photo.jpg Margot Bailowitz

Major: Anthropology and Human Biology

Thesis Title: Visual Communication in Native American COVID-19 Campaigns 

Advisor: Dr. Debra Vidali

Tell me a little about your honors project: For my Honors project, I took a person-centered ethnographic approach to studying visual art and communication in Native American communities during the COVID-19 pandemic. Through semi-structured interviews with seven Indigenous artists, I explored the use of art and its dissemination through social media to spread awareness, medicine, healing, and community connectedness during the pandemic. Included artworks ranged from political cartoons, to murals, to patterned COVID-19 facemasks, to illustrations and paintings. 

What was the most exciting thing you learned from your research? I was most excited to learn that many of the artists I interviewed used their artwork to spread values of medicine and healing to their communities, focusing on the continued resilience of Indigenous peoples. COVID-19 has been such a dark time for everyone, and it has had a dramatically disproportionate effect on many Native American nations. With the extreme uncertainty and pervasive poor mental health caused by the pandemic it is natural to become discouraged. Therefore, I was excited to hear from the artists about their efforts to use their work to spread positivity and hope.

What did you learn personally or professionally from this experience? I learned a lot about adaptation through this experience. Since the onset of this project at the beginning of the pandemic, research methods, guiding questions, and available research participants have all shifted greatly. This has been a valuable lesson in problem solving and remaining flexible. On a personal note, I am so grateful for the invaluable mentorship of my advisor and committee members. Additionally, I’m incredibly appreciative of the time and thoughtfulness provided by each of my interview participants.

What are you doing next? This summer I’m starting a position as a Medical Assistant at a Dermatology practice near Washington, D.C.! Down the road I hope to continue learning about public health and working alongside Indigenous communities.

 

Blackman_Olivia_photo.JPG Olivia Blackman

Major: Anthropology and Human Biology, Spanish Minor

Thesis Title: The Immigrant Experience in Atlanta: The Arduous Path Toward Citizenship

Advisor: Dr. Michael Peletz

Tell me a little about your honors project: I conducted semi structured interviews with first-generation immigrants in the Atlanta area and also observed citizenship classes for individuals studying to take the naturalization citizenship test. I explored their experiences adjusting to life in the United States, navigating immigration law, and interacting with the American legal system more generally.

What was the most exciting thing you learned from your research? The most exciting thing I learned from my research were the personal stories I heard from each of the individuals I interviewed. Their experiences were inspiring, heartbreaking, and incredibly powerful and I am so excited that I am able to share a snippet of their lives through this project.

What did you learn personally or professionally from this experience? The interviews I conducted taught me how to connect deeply with others, particularly while discussing challenging topics. Establishing a level of comfort between oneself and one’s interlocutors is vital when conducting ethnographic research, which was something I had never done prior to this project. I also learned how to conduct independent research and how to navigate the many challenges that come along with this. I am confident that this experience has given me a strong foundation for conducting other projects in the future.

What are you doing next? I will be working as a Teach for America Corp member in Boston this upcoming fall.

 

Cantor_Isabella_photo.jpg Isabella Cantor

Major: Anthropology and Human Biology

Thesis Title: End-of-Life Perspectives Among Couples Aging Together in Assisted Living: A Narrative Approach

Advisors: Dr. Melvin Konner and Dr. Molly Perkins

Tell me a little about your honors project: I conducted a somewhat modified ethnography of two Jewish couples living together in a Jewish assisted living community in metropolitan Atlanta. Due to the constraints of the Covid-19 pandemic, in-person research in long-term care communities was nearly impossible, so I read interviews that were conducted prior to the pandemic and was able to Zoom with one key informant. I also took Covid-safe field trips to various places that were important to my participants’ life histories. I learned about the couples’ shared life narratives, relationships with family members, and dynamics of their couplehood through these interviews and field visits. With these aspects as background, I learned about their perspectives surrounding death, dying, burial, and the afterlife.

What was the most exciting thing you learned from your research? I found it fascinating that when my participants considered death in the abstract, they had an “it is what it is” attitude. They were often perfectly happy with the trajectories of their lives, and they realized, of course, that death was inevitable. They knew they didn’t want to suffer and that they hoped to die quickly and painlessly. However, when they had to confront the possibility of cognitive decline, they expressed great disdain for that trajectory, even when either they or their spouse was already experiencing Alzheimer’s or another dementia.

What did you learn personally or professionally from this experience? I never quite fully believed that I would be able to finish this massive project, and I have to say that I’m really proud of myself for doing it and doing it in a meaningful way! So, I’ve learned that I have enough motivation and dedication to this work to keep going even when the task is large. This project also solidified my goals of working in the field of geriatrics and gerontology in the future.

What are you doing next? I’m not sure yet! I’m hoping to work in the healthcare field in some capacity, whether as a medical assistant or as a patient navigator. This will hopefully help me figure out if I want to apply to medical school in the future or do something else!

 

Mulugeta_Makda_photo.jpeg Makda Mulugeta

Major: Anthropology and Human Biology

Thesis Title: Implications of gender for perceptions of wellbeing and agency in low-income communities: the case of South Wollo, Ethiopia

Advisor: Dr. Peter Little

Tell me a little about your honors project: My project explores how female and male household heads vary in objective wellbeing, subjective wellbeing and agency. The study region, South Wollo, Ethiopia, has been well-documented for its chronic food insecurity and poverty. With this context, I studied how gender of the household head impacted poverty through material possessions and indicators of food insecurity and what implications it had for perceptions of life satisfaction and agency.

What was the most exciting thing you learned from your research? Given the context, I was surprised to see that female household heads in the wealthy neighborhood had higher life satisfaction than males. It was an interesting case as the male household heads there had inversely related perceptions of subjective wellbeing and agency, a case theorized to be due to their proximity to the capital of the region.

What did you learn personally or professionally from this experience? Through this project, I was able to learn a lot about statistical methods and develop professional skills in SPSS. I was able to practice and improve my research skills, which I will take with me in my professional life. Personally, I learned so much about how our perceptions of life strongly influence our ways of existing and vice versa, and how much that impacts our happiness. I also learned numerous life lessons, such as that of resilience. I will carry these rewarding skills, lessons, and experiences in both my personal and professional life!

 

Wachspress_photo.jpg Anna Wachspress

Major: Anthropology and Human Biology

Thesis Title: Justice for Georgia: An Ethnographic Documentary Exploring Civil Rights Activism in Atlanta

Advisor: Dr. Anna Grimshaw

Tell me a little about your honors project: Justice for Georgia is an ethnographic documentary which seeks an understanding of contemporary civil rights activism through exploring the efforts and experiences of two Atlanta-based activists as they manage their organization Justice for Georgia.

What was the most exciting thing you learned from your research? Exciting might not be the right word, but one of the most important and noteworthy things I learned is that there is a place and need for anyone passionate about racial justice in civil rights activism. I think a lot of people—including myself at the start of this project—are afraid of getting started since they don’t think they have enough prior education. Every activist starts somewhere, and this work requires a team of different people working in different directions to achieve a shared goal.

What did you learn personally or professionally from this experience? Through this project, I am grateful to have grown my filmmaking skills at all stages of production and learned how meaningful and validating documentary work can be for its subjects whose voices are elevated by sharing the film. If interested, you can watch Justice for Georgia here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5PklwoWuUdE

What are you doing next? Deciding between pursuing a job in documentary-style video production or taking a break from “the traditional path” to get a random job somewhere fun for a change of pace—TBD!