Tag Archive | Research

Grace: USM event on barriers to education and finishing up research

A few weeks ago I went to an event at the University of Southern Maine on the barriers New Mainers face in navigating higher education. There was a panel of refugees ranging from high school students to one of my co-workers at Catholic Charities who finished law school. There was also a panel of individuals working in service organizations and education. Here is a link to a story MPBN did on the event: MPBN event.

After the event at USM, I was able to interview two individuals working at different local high schools. Our conversations were fascinating, and I was surprised to find out how high the percentage of refugee and immigrant students were in the two schools (at the school in downtown Portland it’s about 1/4, and at the other school ten minutes out of town it’s about 1/3). In both conversations we spoke about barriers these students face, the biggest being language, as well as the programs schools are using to address these issues.

The interviews I have been able to conduct have been very rewarding and I have met some of the nicest people through the process. That said, it has been a lot more difficult than I expected to get individuals to commit to an interview. I feel that my project is only just now really gaining some ground and I don’t feel ready to return to school for the senior conference and then classes. I am excited to start the writing process again, but I feel as if I need more time to follow up on all of the new contacts I have been given (perhaps I will have to come back to Portland on the weekends or conduct interviews over the phone). I do not know if one ever feels quite finished with this type of research, but I definitely feel as if I need more closure to this project. Six weeks has felt like just enough time to get my bearings and to skim the surface. It is hard to leave just as I am getting at the good stuff!


Caroline: In New Orleans

This field work term has been the most stressful I’ve had, by far. It’s shown me both how difficult it can be to access certain people and how warm and open many individuals are. Few of my interviewees hesitated to welcome me into their homes and most made sure I had some kind of drink in my hand. I spent more time than I thought I would chatting about anything and everything on porches around the city, pleasant follow ups to the more formal conversations had in the presence of a recorder. I am coming away from this winter term with a better sense of my academic interests, my city, and myself. I’ve done more internal reflection than I expected and have found that to be just as enriching as the project itself. With one week left there’s still much to do, but I am looking forward to tying those strings together and returning to Bennington for my final semester. I do feel a strange sense of sadness about coming to the end of the interviews and conversations this project has facilitated – it has allowed me to glimpse into the homes and worldviews of my fellow New Orleanians, something that has been truly fascinating.

Scott: FWT and Senior Work

This project has afforded me the opportunity to look back on how my work here at Bennington has changed over time, and has built towards a final project that brings together my interests in education and my involvement with the Bennington Sustainable Food Project. Amidst all of this I have been looking towards the future, and a of advice I received on the value of a Bennington education, from one of the administrators I talked to. They said that when you graduate from Bennington, the plan process leaves you with more than just the sum total of the knowledge you acquired over the course of your study. They also told me that, as I look towards graduation, “It’s not about getting a job, it’s really about finding your work in a more meaningful way. And to me that is what it means to have a meaningful life. You will think, ‘I know there are challenges, I know it is difficult, and I know there are lots of things I don’t understand, but I feel like I can figure them out. I have these tools, and I understand how learning happens, and I know where to go.'” This quote really sums up what I felt I was going to walk away from Bennington with, and it was really great to see my experience in someone else’s words.

It has been really fantastic to see the conversations I have been having around my senior work, and my own experience here at Bennington come together. And I look forward to writing my senior work, and adding my own two cents to the picture. To borrow from the Forest Service’s Leave No Trace ethic, hopefully I can leave this place better off than I found it.

Caroline: Bennington in New Orleans

The more interviews I do the more strongly I believe that returning to New Orleans in a professional capacity is an important thing for me to do. Speaking with New Orleanians working in different ways for environmental groups around the city has not only been enlightening, but inspiring as well. I feel closer to understanding the complexities of the environmental landscape of New Orleans as well as what it is I might want to do with my degree from Bennington. The other night I spoke with a fairly recent Bennington Alum (we actually overlapped one term) who is living in New Orleans and working her dream job with a group called Gulf Restoration Network. We hung out with her dogs and drank wine while we talked, making for another almost ideal interview situation. Speaking with her and others has made me realize how perfect this flawed landscape may be for not only my academic, but my professional interests.

FWT around the World

Thus far we’ve had Bennington people on FWT check in from: Pakistan, Ireland, Cambodia, Afghanistan, the United Arab Emirates, England, Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Louisiana, Washington D.C., and Vermont.

Additionally we’ve had viewers and commenters from: the US, Pakistan, India, Bulgaria, Guatemala, Belgium, Peru, Mexico, Kenya and Italy.

That’s a pretty good global reach.  If you want to contribute in the final week or so of FWT, let me know!

Malia: Journalism in Cambodia

This year for Field Work Term, I decided it was finally time I try my hand in the field I hope to someday work in: journalism. So I found myself flying half way around the world to Phnom Penh, Cambodia, to intern for the English language newspaper, the Cambodia Daily. It was more than just fresh fruit a desire to get away from the cold Vermont winter that brought me here though, I knew that working for the Daily as opposed to staying at a US paper would give me the chance to do some real reporting. In the six short weeks I’ve been able to develop my own feature stories to write as well as rewrite and assist in writing some news stories.

My first day here was an abrupt introduction to the problems Cambodia’s facing today with protests from garment worker’s striking for a higher minimum wage, and the opposition party trying to gain attention for the election last summer that they see as unfair. These protests have become violent more than once since I have been here, and it’s become a long drawn out saga that no one can see an end to any time close. Underneath the news though there are real people living with these minimum wages, and who’s lives are affected by the corrupt government

I’m a Bennington student, so unlike most interns that pass through here I’m not on a straight track to study journalism. Because I’m mostly interested in anthropology, I’ve been able to focus my own feature stories on human interest and even find stories that connect with a specific interest in indigenous cultures. It has been an amazing opportunity to use the sources and insight from the newsroom to connect to this country and it’s people.

Hilary: The Brain Initiative and Public Values

Hello! Hilary Whitney, here. I am in Washington D.C., finishing up my second and final FWT. That’s because I transferred into Bennington as a second-term sophomore, and I’m about to begin my senior year. So far, my undergraduate studies have focused on brain and cognitive sciences, and—since joining Bennington—the realm of public action. I’ve really taken interest with ‘the social life of brain science’. For example, I just wrote my final paper for David Bond’s course, The Anthropology of Science and Technology, on the issue of public literacy in neuroscience—what do most people understand about and learn from fMRI images?


Our office on Connecticut Avenue. CSPO is a part of Arizona State University (ASU).

Here in D.C., I am working with the Consortium for Science, Policy, and Outcomes (check it out: www.cspo.org). In particular, I focus on a project called Public Value Mapping (PVM). It’s a method for analyzing public programs and their societal impact. The central question of PVM is: What are the public values that justify public investments in scientific research, and what is the capacity of a given research initiative to yield outcomes that support and advance those values?

I got to design my research this FWT, so I am asking Read More…

Caroline: Nature in New Orleans

I arrived at my interviewee’s home mildly sick and bundled against the chill of this unusually cold New Orleans winter. I was welcomed in, preoccupied with how I would suppress my coughs for the sake of the audio recording, and was pleasantly surprised by a warm and welcoming tea spread in his living room. We chatted and the interview got started, taking a familiar trajectory right off the bat.

“Nature for me is something that I’m not connecting to in New Orleans and so I- when I think about it I almost feel lost […] Nature for me is- in this area is, the swamps and dangerous and kind of scary and uncomfortable.” We continued to talk, covering topics from the mostly invisible but groaning Mississippi to the museum-like Audubon Park, this feeling of disconnect following through. “You know, we’re sealed off from the river. We don’t- we have this big wall that goes down, so we can’t even really see it unless Read More…

Kate: Singing in Dublin

I’ve finally arrived in Ireland and my research is going better than I could’ve hoped for!  Already I’ve been to two singing sessions, one in the heart of Dublin and another in the seaside suburb of Howth, as well as a concert put on by a more mainstream Irish singer inside a beautiful church in Dublin.  The next session I’m aware of isn’t until this Friday, so my task until then is to start scheduling and carrying out interviews.
The sessions have been fascinating thus far, consisting of people sitting around the pub drinking pints and taking turns sharing songs.  It is apparent that everyone is there to have a good time, but there is little talking and the songs are listened to with a sense of great seriousness.  People often close their eyes and seem to be almost in a state of meditation, only breaking the silence to say words of encouragement or maybe sing along for a phrase.  I saw a lot of the same faces at both sessions and was amazed by the encyclopedic memory of some singers- many seemed to be familiar with almost every song and I probably heard close to 100 songs!

I was also the youngest person there by close to 20 years, and many seemed amused that a young American girl traveled all this way to Read More…

Scott: The Bennington Sustainable Food Project

This winter I have had the opportunity to have some really fantastic conversations in the interviews I have been conducting with members of the Bennington Sustainable Food Project (BSFP) and administrators at Bennington College.

I have been hearing about the experiences my friends and peers have had here at Bennington and with the BSFP, and have been overawed by their excitement and enthusiasm for Bennington and the educational opportunities offered hereAnd in talking with administrators I’ve been able to pick the brains of the people who shape the Bennington educational experience in a very real way, and see how they think about how students are and should be taught here. The timing of these conversations could nobe better, as I begin to reflect upon my own time here and prepare for my final term. All in all, I count myself lucky as I cherish the opportunity I have been given to conduct this research, have these conversations, and hopefully have a positive influence myself on the education here, all because of how Bennington is structured and the focus that is put upon student driven education.

I very much look forward revisiting these conversation (quite literally as I go back and code my recordings) and to seeing where they take me, it has certainly been a great ride so far.