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CSA Day 2021: Student Spotlights in Sociology, Criminology and World Languages

Interviews have been condensed and edited for clarity.

Natalya sitting inside with a cityscape behind her
Photo courtesy of Natalya Brown

Natalya Brown

Project title: "The Impact of Othering on Central American Immigrants and Refugees at the Southwestern Border of the United States"

Please describe your research.

I conducted my research in the Department of World Languages and Cultures as well as the Department of Sociology and Criminology. “Othering” is defined as a phenomenon in which a group of individuals do not fit within the norms of a social group and are labeled as different. This often involves negative generalizations and creates social distance between mainstream society and the group that is being Othered. I used this theory, among additional theories, to study the situation of Central American immigrants in the United States. Most specifically, I looked at the experiences immigrants and refugees have had in detention camps at our border and how the Othering this group has undergone allowed this to happen.

What inspired your topic?

As a Spanish, sociology and criminology major, immigration is an obvious intersection for my disciplines. In addition to the overlap, I have been an advocate for immigrant rights my whole time in college so to me this topic made the most sense. Although I have followed discourse on immigration and politics over the past four years, I also wanted to know more about the structures that allowed the things I saw in the media to occur. This topic delves more deeply into the topic and taught me a lot about how our society has operated in regards to immigration.

How did COVID-19 impact your research process?

Since my research was mainly based on secondary sources, the impact of COVID-19 was not as strong for me as it may have been for other students. The biggest transition was probably doing it all virtually with my main advisor, Callie DeBellis. We met weekly on Zoom to talk about the trajectory of my project and what I had accomplished each week. Additionally, I wrote about the impacts COVID-19 has had on asylum seekers in terms of waiting in unsanitary conditions for their court hearings.

Do you feel that this research or some aspect of what you’ve learned will apply to your future, whether in continuing education or in the working world?

I believe doing this research will inform the way I operate in my job in the future. My more profound understanding I developed while doing this research has led me to be more aware of how citizenship impacts the lives of immigrants and refugees. Also, since my thesis was interdisciplinary it wound up being about double the length of an average thesis. Writing at that level required me to organize and plan in a way I never had to before but in a way that has prepared me to do something similar in graduate school. The topic I chose and the length of my thesis have prepared me to be a better writer in graduate school and a more informed citizen who operates in the world.

Miryam Bryant

Project title: "The Non-Binary Evolution of the Spanish Language"

Please describe your research.

I am conducting my research in the Department of World Languages. My research concerns the lack of non-binary (or ungendered) language in Spanish and how that impacts non-binary Spanish speakers.

What inspired your topic?

I have always been interested in the interaction between language and thought. After I read The Stranger by Albert Camus and The Portrait of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde in high school for a paper about how perception creates reality, I haven't been able to stop thinking about it. I was interested in how a non-binary person is able to conceptualize themselves in a language that does not provide room for people outside of the binary. I think that LGBTQ rights and accepting environments are an extremely important component of creating a better world for everyone, so I wanted to research this "gap" in this Spanish language and how it may be negatively impacting my peers.

How did COVID-19 impact your research process?

Because my research was all reading based, COVID-19 didn't particularly impact my research process. If anything, the ease of Zoom meetings made getting feedback on my work a less painful process.

Do you feel that this research or some aspect of what you’ve learned will apply to your future, whether in continuing education or in the working world?

The biggest thing I will take away from my research is the importance of respecting everyone's gender identity. I will continue to advocate for the use of non-binary Spanish and encourage the others around me to do the same.

Interviews compiled by Jessica Dedho-Doradea, Contributing Writer, and Freya Dahlgren, Staff Writer


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