LEAP Symposium '08 Students

Posted: November 5, 2008

Danti ChenDanti Chen '09
Shanghai, China
Major: Mathematics/Economics (self-designed); Physics
Presentation: The Korea-EU Free Trade Agreement Talks in the Context of EU's External Strategy toward Asia

Danti Chen spent her summer as the only undergraduate intern at the Korea Institute for International Economic Policy (KIEP) in Seoul, South Korea. After orienting herself to the institute's work, she chose to join its Europe team, which was conducting research and reporting findings on the Korea-European Union Free Trade Agreement (FTA) talks in the context of the EU's external strategy toward Asia. "It was a great way to put my academic studies into practice and see how EU policy influences the world economy."

During her presentation, Chen offered a brief history of Korea-EU FTA, as well as outlining the EU's motivations in seeking agreements with Korea. She then described her activities as an intern, which included helping to organize a conference that brought together Korean policy makers and Bulgarian trade commissioners. "My work at KIEP challenged me to apply the critical thinking skills I have developed at Mount Holyoke," Chen said. "For example, though much of the research I gathered reflected Korea's perspective, I always tried to be more comprehensive and examine the issues from multiple angles."

As for how the experience changed her life, Chen now is considering a career in economic research. In fact, at the conclusion of her presentation, Chen was hurrying off to catch a bus. "I'm interviewing for a research analyst position with Compass Lexecon, one of the world's leading economic consulting firms."

Ximena GomezXimena Gomez '09
Hometown: Houston, Texas
Major: Art History and History
Presentation: Why Not Botticelli? A Reexamination of Alessandro Botticelli through the Works of Raphael

As the recipient of an MHC-Yale Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship, Ximena Gomez set out to explore how Raphael Sanzio, one of the most influential painters of the Italian Renaissance, was influenced by the work of Alessandro Botticelli. "For Raphael, whose skill improved through the study and emulation of other artists, it seems unlikely that he would have worked in the same city as Botticelli and not have yielded to his influence," Gomez explained.

However, after analyzing a sampling of their paintings, she came to conclude just the opposite. "For example, though I'd read a compelling article on how Raphael modeled the landscape in Vision of a Knight after Botticelli's Cestello Annunciation, my analysis of those paintings yielded no similarities."

The more she immersed herself in studying the two painters, the more interested Gomez became in why Botticelli's masterworks are more widely known than those of Raphael. "I posited that perhaps Botticelli better fits the idea of the modern artist and, thus, appeals more to modern sensibilities. He is an eccentric man with very specific ideas about beauty; this is closer to our idea of an artist than the elegant Raphael, whose imitations of reality were surpassed by photography."

It's a topic that Gomez is continuing to explore. Her senior thesis, advised by professor of art Michael Davis, is a reconsideration of Botticelli's role within the Renaissance canon. She seeks to prove that the fame of the Florentine painter is the product of modern art historians and viewers of art. She says that because of her experience at Yale, the thesis will deal more with historiography than a comparative study of two artists. "My fellowship also reaffirmed my interest in attending graduate school. But now I am particularly interested in the creation of the figure of the artist."

Rebecca GrovemanRebecca Groveman '09
Hometown: Chester, New Jersey
Major: Computer Science
Minor: English Literature
Presentation: Using the Nintendo Wii to Assess Motility

As a prospective student, Rebecca Groveman knew Mount Holyoke was the place for her the moment she stepped into the College library. Four years later, she has a much longer list of what inspires her on campus. "I love the environment, the area, the professors," she said. "And among the many reasons why I'm glad I chose to attend a women's college, one is key: I don't think I would have ended up studying computer science at a coed school."

Groveman spent the past summer working with Barbara Lerner, associate professor of computer science. Though initially unsure of a research topic, she knew for sure that she wanted a project "that would mean something." With Lerner's encouragement, Groveman began reading about technologies to assist the elderly. "Partway through the summer, we found articles discussing the elderly playing the Nintendo Wii. Simultaneously, we found articles about alternative ways to use the advanced technology in the Wii remote. That's when the direction of my project fell into place."

She began investigating whether the inexpensive and unobtrusive Wii system could serve as a viable alternative to the expensive, specialized equipment typically used to assess motility; that is, one's ability to move spontaneously and actively. "Assessing motility helps elders stay independent longer," she explained. "That is becoming increasingly important as the baby boomer generation ages. Institutional support for these elders will be challenging due to rising health care costs and a shortage of health care providers."

Groveman is continuing her work as an honors thesis. "I enjoyed the research so much that I'm glad to have the opportunity to expand upon it."

Christiane KoenigChristiane Koenig '11
Accra, Ghana
Major: Economics and French
Presentation: Women's Civic and Political Participation in Sub-Saharan Africa

Thanks to the McCulloch Center for Global Initiatives, Christiane Koenig spent her summer interning at the Global Fund for Women (GFW). Headquartered in San Francisco, GFW is an international network that advocates for and defends women's human rights by making grants to support women's groups around the world; its president and CEO is Kavita Ramdas '85.

"I worked with GFW's Sub-Saharan Africa program," Koenig explained. "Through research and final report summaries, I learned how women are empowered when their civic and political participation is increased. In Ghana, for example, a group of women supported by GFW ensured the passage of a domestic violence bill in 2007."

For Koenig, the most enjoyable part of her work was meeting representatives of women's groups to discuss their initiatives, challenges, and successes. "I was particularly impressed by a group called the 3 Sisters Adventure Trekking, which trains young women as guides for female trekkers in the mountains of Nepal. It has rescued many girls from forced labor and reduced women's dependency on their husbands by enrolling them into an apprenticeship program that enables them to earn their own wages and guiding certifications."

As a result of her internship, Koenig plans to conduct research in Ghana during J-Term with two recipients of GFW grants. Overall, she sees a new focus for her academic work at MHC. "I initially was focused on pursuing a corporate career but now I want to take courses related to economic policies and their impact on women's issues, environmental justice, and economic development. I am also looking for future internships that merge my interest in business with my new interest in nonprofit work."

Taylor NelsonTaylor Nelson '09
Newburyport, Massachusetts
Major: Studio Art
Minor: English
Presentation: Fair Trade Jewelry Design in the Highlands of Guatemala

Taylor Nelson came to Mount Holyoke seeking intellectual challenges and the chance to meet intelligent, strong women from all over the world. She got both and, while pursuing her passion for art, Nelson also discovered a passion for community development. This past summer, she decided to combine those interests as an intern with Mercado Global, a nonprofit fair trade organization that promotes female artisan cooperatives in the rural highlands of Guatemala. "This was an opportunity to help empower women by teaching them various jewelry making techniques, such as metal and wire work. I also received an education in the design and production process of fair trade products and discovered some of the challenges of working in an international business setting," Nelson said.

Though Nelson knew no Spanish, she set off for Panajachel, Guatemala. Located in the isolated Lake Atitlan region, it is a community where Mayan women lack access to education and have few options to earn a living.

"My friendships with the local artisans were the most enjoyable part of my internship," Nelson said. "Three local indigenous women helped me learn the language and shared their way of life. While I taught them wireworking and metalsmithing, they instructed me in traditional forms of jewelry. We also learned from one another through trading personal stories and walks around town."

As for the resulting jewelry, it will be sold at Hallmark and Levis stores, as well as through Wear Your Difference, Mercado Global's online store. Nelson, meanwhile, hopes for a job working with women in international community development. "I am open to going anywhere in the world--and am very excited to see what happens."

Lauren SilverLauren Silver '09
Barrington, Illinois
Major: Psychology
Minor: Philosophy
Presentation: Internship as Research Assistant at Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School

It was through an email from MHC's psychology department that Lauren Silver heard about an internship at Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School. Months later, she was contributing to the Study of Adult Development, the longest study of aging in the world.

The study consists of 824 individuals, all selected as teenagers more than half a century ago and studied for their entire lives. "In the words of George Vaillant, one of the lead investigators, it offers significant data that can help us understand what successful aging is and how it is achieved," Silver explained.

The study's emphasis on successful aging was precisely what attracted Silver to the internship. "I am interested in positive psychology. This study looks at what we can do for ourselves as we age--it's about what works."

As an intern, Silver organized, transcribed, coded, entered, and analyzed data. She also participated in weekly project meetings and case conferences regarding research design. "Although I carried out most of my work individually, I enjoyed the sense of a team effort that was evident at weekly meetings and conferences. There were doctors and specialized researchers and interns all working together," she said.

Looking ahead, Silver is thinking of working for a few years after graduation then heading back to school for a Ph.D. in psychology. "Whatever I do, this experience is something I'll always remember. It was an opportunity to contribute to research that has the potential to change lives."

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