Spotlight

B & E award

Three Ursinus students placed in the prestigious Early Leaders Case competition at University of Rochester’s Simon School of Business. This annual event requires intensive teamwork over a 24-hour period to analyze a real business challenge, develop a strategic solution, and formally present recommendations to a panel of judges.  Read more.

A snapshot of STUDENT RESEARCH

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Anthropology / Sociology

Danielle Kimmel
Healing Through Energy, Magic, Touch, and Prayer: A Cultural Account
Anthropology and Sociology
Mentor: Regina Oboler

Before modern science made its current progress in identifying the causes of illness, people relied on non-scientific means, such as energy, magic, touch, and prayer to assist in the recovery process. In the United States today, there still exist separate communities and individuals who believe in complimentary forms of healing to supplement modern medicine. I am conducting an ethnographic study of communities of people who are involved in non-somatic modalities of healing. Sources include books on complementary healing, as well as information I gathered during formal interviews and informal conversations with non-somatic healers, and through attending a gathering where I learned about, participated in, and received treatment using several forms of complementary healing modalities. My final paper will summarize and explain, without value judgments or assessments of efficacy, what the individuals I met believed regarding these techniques, including energy healing methods such as Reiki, Chinese Medicinal healing methods, such as Jin Shin Do Body-Mind Acupressure, and Native healing methods, such as Shamanic healing. Since this is an ethnographic account of a particular community, I cannot say with confidence that my conclusions are true for all practitioners of the same modalities around the world. However, regarding this particular community, the most noteworthy conclusion that I have come to is that, while I came into this research thinking that there were a number of distinct modalities of non-somatic healing, I’ve come to find that many practitioners of complementary healing seem to draw from several different techniques, rather than confining themselves to one.

Andy Murray
Meat Cultures: In Vitro Meat, Veganism, and How Foodies are Fallin’ for Pollan
Anthropology and Sociology
Mentor: Jonathan Clark

In vitro meat is a fledgling technology that aims to supplant traditional meat production. The idea is that meat can be grown in a laboratory, using cells extracted from farm animals. New Harvest, a nonprofit research organization promoting the technology, touts its numerous potential advantages over intensive livestock production: reduced environmental harm, reduced animal suffering, increased health benefits, and improved food safety. Beyond these anticipated benefits, New Harvest also promotes this new technology on the grounds that it produces not merely another meat analogue (like veggie burgers), but genuine meat. The developers acknowledge that several technological obstacles remain before cultured meat can hit the market, but the social obstacles may ultimately prove to be more difficult to surmount. This paper examines one of these social obstacles: the Michael Pollan Obstacle. Michael Pollan may speak more loudly than anyone on the subject of food in an increasingly food-conscious society. His audience represents a major section of the market of consumers actively interested in food. Pollan’s views indicate that, despite in vitro meat’s potential benefits, he would reject it, characterizing it as an edible meat-like substance rather than real meat. His audience of foodies may follow him in this rejection, posing a major problem for the widespread acceptance of cultured meat. Furthermore, Pollan’s sweeping arguments against reductionism, nutritionism, and food science could also apply to other alternatives to eating animals. To help make their case, advocates of veganism and vegetarianism must develop a nuanced response to Michael Pollan’s influential views.

Business & Economics

Stephanie Brodish
Winning Gold Medals in the Fast Fashion Race

Business and Economics
Mentor: Carol Cirka

Fast fashion is taking consumers’ eyes off the high fashion “prize” by weakening the perceived value of high fashion brands. The sector’s key players include Inditex, Hennes & Mauritz, the Benetton Group, Arcadia, Mango, and Forever 21, all of which make commercial apparel goods with style and quality similar to high fashion goods available to a larger market using lower-cost and just-in-time production methods that offer the latest trends at affordable prices. The six international key players are not only winning market share, but they are also setting record-breaking profits over their traditional competitors. Faster supply chains and more accurate demand forecasts allow fast fashion companies to obtain brand value that quick response and enhanced design specialty retailers are not able to achieve. The goals of this Summer Fellows project included gaining an understanding of the fast fashion industry at the macro and micro levels, writing the first fast fashion industry case, and identifying a significant question for an Honors project that results from and continues my industry research. While the fast fashion industry has low barriers to entry and appears to be in the growth stage of its lifecycle, concerns remain from ethical, competitive and cooperative perspectives. My Honors research will further investigate the sustainability of the fast fashion business model and the fast fashion sector’s lifecycle as a trend within the specialty retail segment of the fashion industry.

Jeremy Garavel
Failure in the Automotive Industry

Business and Economics
Mentor: Cindy Harris

The most recent financial crisis has taken a toll on the world economy. One industry that has been hit particularly hard and, as a result, received a large portion of the aid from American taxpayers was the automotive industry. Even as the economy begins to recover, the automotive industry continues to lag behind. My research examined the characteristics of a strong automotive brand versus a weak one. Using examples from brands in foreign markets I examined how a turnaround in the American market can be successful. With foreign companies now dealing with the global market, I also studied the recent sales and acquisitions of brands by their parent companies. Using the example set by FIAT when they changed their operations for the better in 2004, I learned indicators of success in corporate management. FIAT used alliances to help their brands profit and predicted the market to produce products. Helping stage the turnaround in America is the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) which loans money to corporations to insure their financial stability. I looked at the role of government intervention to help General Motors and Chrysler, and how they plan to return to competitiveness against imported brands. Unfortunately the stipulations for receiving aid which were imposed on them narrow the candidates they can use for hiring new management and the required product development plans may shackle their profits in the future. Lastly I looked at last year’s Cash for Clunkers program, what it was supposed to do, how it worked and its effects on the industry one year after. Though it successfully brought traffic into automotive dealerships but brought dealer inventories to all time lows which hurt profits and growth in the months following.  

Kaitlyn Myers
White Men Can’t Run:

An Empirical Investigation of the Impact of Skin Tone Shade and Facial Symmetry on Running Backs in the National Football League

Business and Economics
Mentor: Jennifer VanGilder

Minnesota Viking running back Toby Gerhart is a Stanford graduate and Heisman Trophy runner-up. Statistically, Gerhart appears to match up to the profile of a great running back, but not everyone was in agreement that he would be successful upon entering the National Football League. According to Silver (2008), one scout was reported to state in an interview regarding Gerhart, “He’ll be a great second-round pick-up for somebody, but I guarantee you if he was the exact same guy--but he was black--he’d go in the first round for sure.” Although Gerhart has seen some success in his career one may question based on this statement whether or not superficial characteristics are impacting the level of his success based on playing time and draft pick. Using performance data (both college and professional), draft selection information, and personal characteristic data (height, weight, facial symmetry, skin tone, etc.), I plan to investigate whether or not there exists a level of reverse discrimination for the running back position. The question that I seek to answer is whether white players are held back from success due to non-productive characteristics or if black running backs are simply better athletes at this position.

Harry Pauff
Trends in Occupational Fraud since 2002 and the Effectiveness of Sarbanes-Oxley

Business and Economics
Mentor: Cindy Harris

Fraud can be one of the most potentially devastating problems an organization can encounter. Whether it’s a private, public, or even government organization, large or small, fraud prevention should be a priority. In 2009, the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners estimated that the typical organization loses about 5% of its annual revenue to fraud which when applied to the Gross World Product is a total estimated loss of $2.9 trillion. This paper examines the trends since 2002 in occupational fraud, which occurs when there is an abuse of one’s position of employment or a misuse of a company’s resources or assets for personal gain. These trends include the most common fraud schemes, the most costly schemes, the victims and perpetrators, and finally, the most common detection methods. Additionally, this paper considers the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 in order to determine if the Act has succeeded in reducing and deterring acts of fraud. 

Education

Victoria Swany
Alienated society, alienated education: A discussion of prevalent forms of alienation
in modern society and its manifestation in schools

Education
Mentor: Stephanie Mackler

With the rise of industrialization in the United States during the 19th century came the development of mass institutionalized public education. Recognizing the potential pitfalls of such factory-like education, many scholars, from Ralph Waldo Emerson in the 19th century to John Dewey in the early 20th century to countless contemporary educational researchers, have criticized the school’s emphasis on efficiency and impersonal, passive education, calling instead for a more experiential and personalized education. Despite the acclaim of these arguments and the evidence supporting them, schooling nonetheless remains detached from everyday experience, and the personal knowledge and experience of the students are rarely taken into account. Learning is thus frequently perceived by students as unrelated to the real world, in addition to being unexciting and tedious. The result is a society in which members are alienated from knowledge about three universal aspects of existence that I will argue is essential to the well-being of individuals and the success of societies: knowledge of one’s self and his or her relations to other people and the environment. During Summer Fellows, my goal has been to explore the societal problems that are perpetuated by institutionalized education by exploring how the aforementioned philosophical arguments are reaffirmed by evolutionary theory, scientific data, and sociological studies. The second and third sections of this study, which I will undertake during the 2010-2011 academic year, will discuss the ways in which the education system propagates these problems and investigate possible pedagogical solutions to create both better schools and a better society.

Environmental Studies

Molly Devinney
Urban Farming and Neighborhood Revitalization: The Role of Social Capital

Environmental Studies
Mentor: Patrick Hurley

There is growing interest in urban gardening for its ability to help revitalize communities in urban areas. While urban gardening consists of diverse activities in urban environments, ranging from private, small-scale backyards to public vacant lots, urban farming focuses on food production. Research on urban gardening reveals that community participation reinforces and/or helps develop the social capital of the surrounding community, by strengthening features of social organization, such as trust, norms, and networks that improve the quality of human relations. When these are secure, they enable members of the group to cooperate and participate in community life in order to achieve mutual benefits. But such projects are often achieved with the help of outside funding from non-profit organizations or city government, raising the question: do these outsider projects create social capital within neighborhoods or does their success benefit from existing social capital? This paper explores a particular form of urban gardening known as guerilla farming, or farming efforts undertaken by individuals or organizations independent of government and that often take place without formal permission on public and private land. These gardens can only survive as sustainable operations with strong, consistent community cooperation and participation, or in areas where social capital is either already strong or must be simultaneously cultivated. For example, community members must participate to develop and maintain projects in their neighborhoods by planting, watering, weeding, and monitoring vegetable and fruit gardens. Using a case study in the Haddington section of West Philadelphia, this paper examines guerilla gardening efforts by Urban Tree Connection (UTC), a non-profit organization that has implemented a network of gardens. I explore the ways social capital helps us understand the varying degrees of successful stewardship and maintenance within UTC gardens, including examples of reinforcing existing social capital and developing new dimensions of social capital.  

Davis Howley
Calculating the campus greenhouse gas emissions for the President's Climate Commitment

Environmental Studies
Mentor: Leah Joseph

In 2007, President Strassburger and Ursinus College signed the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC). This agreement unites academic institutions from across the nation and abroad in dedication to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Each college or university that signs the ACUPCC agree to many stipulations which include the completion and public reporting of annual carbon footprint inventories and the creation of a Climate Action Plan (CAP) that chronologically and methodologically outlines the institution’s plans to reduce emissions. Beginning last summer, this project has been a two-year process that includes the completion of the carbon inventory for both this year and last year, a procedure that involves includes seeking out and tabulating data in a complex spreadsheet for factors such as budgeting, electricity usage, refrigerant and chemical purchases, and gas consumption. Additionally, an instructional manual to assist future students in completing the annual carbon inventory has been constructed. The manual will serve as a living document wherein students will continue to update the data collection methods concurrent with Ursinus operations and inventory methods of fellow ACUPCC members. 

Kyle Shelton
Urban Farming and Education for Sustainability: An analysis of the functionality of urban farming educational programs

Environmental Studies
Mentor: Patrick Hurley
Urban farming can be defined as the management of plants, animals, and greenspace within an urban environment specifically for the production of food. There has been marked growth in popular and academic interest in urban farming in the last decade, leading urban farming to grow to address concerns such as food security, environmental justice, community development, and education. This paper examines the educational role of urban farming within the communities where it exists. While the educational dimensions associated with urban farming might include aspects of biodiversity, gardening, or communicational skills, there is also an opportunity to address key dimensions of sustainability. Education for sustainability developed out of the environmental education movement of the past twenty years, but seeks to retain a focus on social, environmental, economic, and technological development goals. This paper focuses on education for sustainability as it relates to the creation of an active citizenry within an environment focused on place-based learning on an urban farm. It then seeks to develop a framework for systematically evaluating and analyzing urban farming educational programs and the potential for different programs and activities to develop knowledge within the community. As part of this development process, I draw on a case study of one urban farm, a CSA in West Philadelphia run by Urban Tree Connection (UTC), a local non-profit organization. In this case study, analysis of their educational programs is conducted and insights are offered. The goal of this process is to provide UTC with information about how to develop new programs while improving their existing ones.  

Politics & International Relations

Stephanie Bonaccorsi
From Queenpins to Mules: Women’s Participation in the Mexican Drug Trade

Politics and International Relations
Mentor: Houghton Kane

Women’s participation in the Mexican Drug Trade has increased significantly over the past two decades. However, there have been few studies that have explored the cultural and social implications which allow and attract women to become involved with this industry. This paper will analyze the cultural complexities that have made illegal drugs an embedded part of Mexican culture. Furthermore, despite the patriarchal nature of the industry women have consistent, varied, and even unique roles in the business. Economic desperation, family association, and cultural circumstances are the major incentives for female participation with illegal drugs. Women are also attracted by empowerment over or competition with men. These motives are influential in shaping a woman’s level of involvement: high, middle or low. High level drug trafficking encompasses Queenpins and Cartel Boss Ladies. However, the majority of women are in the middle and low levels, working under a male boss and as mule carriers. I will conclude by arguing that men sustain women’s participation in the drug trade for two principle reasons. Men typically do not want women to become educated (as a means to better employment) and the nature of the industry allows men to maintain women as subordinates. Many women hope employment within this multi-billion dollar industry will allow them to escape painful domestic lives and achieve some freedom. In reality though, women are just entering into a parallel realm with the same transpiring cultural norms. 

Alex Branham
Malaise of Democracy: Responsible for the Rise of the Radical Right?

Politics and International Relations

Mentor: Rebecca Evans

This paper examines the recent rise of the radical right, paying particular attention to the role of what has been dubbed the “protest vote.” In other words, given the fact that almost all advanced industrial democracies have undergone a rise in dissatisfaction with the institutions of government (e.g. parliaments, political parties, etc), do some disillusioned citizens vote for parties that aren’t necessarily representative of their political opinions? Although this paper emphasizes the European case, the arguments may be generalized to countries such as the United States or Canada. Although not necessarily the main cause of the rise of the radical right, protest voting does indeed help some radical right parties. Moreover, some studies indicate that this phenomenon is not limited to the radical right; there is evidence that voters may vote for any small, non-institutionalized party as a means of expressing discontent with government. The outcome of this strategy depends greatly on the political system in the particular country. For example, in countries where it’s easier to create new parties, such as Norway, this dissatisfaction can be channeled back into the political system through the rise of new parties, which shows dissatisfied voters that their opinion counts in the political system. However, in countries where creating new political parties is relatively difficult, such as the United States, dissatisfaction cannot be re-channeled into the political system, and it may be more difficult to re-integrate disaffected citizens.  

Jessica McIlhenny

Turkey's Political Transformation: Redefining the International Scene

Politics and International Relations

Mentor: Joseph Melrose
Turkey has been on the rise in the international scene over the past years and has become increasingly more active politically both in regional and global affairs. It has been going through a political transformation which has led to it becoming a rising political player with the potential to shift the balance of power globally because of its growing influence. This paper focuses specifically on Turkey’s role within the United Nations because it has recently used this international organization to make an impact within the global community. It has used its nonpermanent membership in the Security Council to voice its concerns. This paper examines the underlying factors that contribute to the recent political changes such as national interest, desire for international legitimacy, and its application to the European Union. In order to analyze Turkey’s recent change, it is important to also understand why Turkey has become more active and what kind of political agenda will define its political future. There are two differing theories among experts. One school of thought suggests Turkey will become more aligned with the West while the other believes stronger ties with the Arab world will result. This paper seeks to understand the bases for these widely differing theories and to consider whether one will prevail or whether perhaps Turkey will seek to keep a foot in both. Hopefully I will emerge with a better understanding of the motives behind Turkey's current political behavior. This research will be expanded into an Honors project throughout the upcoming school year.  

Jenna Poligo

How Far Can the Law Go? A look at the growing role of genetics in the legal system
Politics and International Relations
Mentor: Houghton Kane

The United States justice system is designed to insure the collective safety of its citizens while respecting each individual member’s fundamental rights. This balance was initially struck through the creation of the Constitution. Since the great Chief Justice John Marshall first deemed the Supreme Court responsible for upholding the Constitution, the Court has sought to maintain this balance in an ever progressing country. So what happens when these two goals come into conflict? With the developments in genetic technology and neuroscience, it has been discovered that there is a genetic condition connected to a predisposition to violence. Those who lack the MAOA gene, or even those who have a low-activity variant, have been found to have a higher likelihood of anti-social behavior, specifically violence. So how will a government charged with the task of protecting the safety of its citizens react to such valuable information? More specifically, how with the judiciary allow the government to act? In this paper I will examine the constitutionality of a mass screening project to detect those who might be at risk for such a predisposition. I will then look at the three logical means of reactions to the results of such a test: coerced rehabilitation (or medication), preventative detention, and monitoring. Even though there are some exceptions, the general trends lead to the conclusion that the Court will find almost all attempts to regulate and control those with certain genetic characteristics violations of the Constitution. Only monitoring may have the ability to pass the scrutiny of the Court, and this would be possible only after people willingly consent to a genetic screening.  

Carolyn Smith

The French Identity Crisis

Politics and International Relations
Mentor: Joseph Melrose
The present work traces the foundation of the French national identity from its foundations in the French Revolution to its strong impact on the French integration policy today. French national identity since the eighteenth century has focused on certain republican values: equal rights, democracy, strong unitarism and laicité (the French form of secularism). This research paper analyzes what it means to “be French”: whether French identity today rests on these values or whether this identity has morphed into a more ethno-cultural one. In order to understand the modern day problems of integrating large immigrant populations, it is essential to understand French national identity. Integration is, in essence, when a non-French national takes on French identity. This paper discusses how a person adopts French identity and what it means to be fully integrated into French society. This work further investigates the hurdles to being integrated in French society. Secondly, this work examines closely the French government’s role in integration. The policy of integration in France is often hotly contested as being counterproductive or being too weak. My goal is to examine both sides of this argument, and discover whether the current state focus on the French national identity is a benefit or detriment to integrating the immigrant population. Thirdly and finally, I will present my conclusions about French integration policy and make recommendations for improvements that will take into account France’s unique political history and the needs of an increasingly diverse population. I intend to expand on this research for a distinguished honors project in the fall, which will analyze the sociopolitical situation of Muslims in France.  

David Weilnau

Health Care Reform 2009/2010: Demonstrating the Need for Congressional Reform
Politics and International Relations

Mentor: Gerard Fitzpatrick

This project is a case study of the “politics” of the recent effort to reform America’s ailing health care system. My research materials include original sources documenting the reform effort, such as statements by members of Congress and news coverage in The New York Times, and reflections upon what transpired, as found in news commentary and opinion articles. Drawing upon these materials, I emphasize the factors that shaped the way Congress handled health care reform, such as Senate individualism, weak party leadership, and intense partisanship. Concluding that our political process, particularly Congress, is too “Madisonian” to solve some of our most pressing national problems, I suggest reforms, particularly in the Senate, aimed at enabling Congress to act more quickly and to legislate more coherently.  

Psychology

Chelsea Lee
These Memories Will Not Be Judged On the Color of the Rabbit but On the Content of Their Memory Characteristics: Exploring Age Differences in the Content of Children's True and False Reports
Psychology
Mentor: Gabrielle Principe
This research extends the previous findings by analyzing the qualitative differences between children’s true and false reports of a target event and how that affects children of different conditions and age groups’ memory. In Principe and colleagues’ former studies, they looked the extent to which a rumor (circulated via adults or peers) influenced children’s reports of an event. The current study added a witness group to the mix, which included children who actually experienced the rumored event. We directly compared the memory reports of children who were exposed to the rumor to those who actually witnessed the target event. Consistent with Principe’s earlier findings, reports of the non-experienced rumored event were found mostly in children’s free recall. Furthermore, younger children (ages 3- to 4- years old) reported having seen the target activity more than older children (ages 5- to 6-years old), as well as gave more perceptual and contextual details, as opposed to providing more semantic information. This age and, ultimately, ability discrepancy is due to the rate and direction the human brain develops. The results of these kinds of studies are most relevant in legal settings, where these findings can be used as guidelines to further understand and help make decisions about how children’s testimonies should be used, rather than abused.  

Matt Pall

Lucky charms and leprechauns, they’re magically fictitious:
Fantasy beliefs and false memories in young children
Psychology

Mentor: Gabrielle Principe
To examine how knowledge, expectations and peer group socialization can impact young children’s memory reports, a sample of 180 5-and 6-year-olds with differing levels of belief in Leprechauns were prompted to recall a staged to-be-remembered St. Patrick’s Day event. Leprechaun traps, constructed by the students from shoe boxes, were placed in the hallway and baited with Lucky Charms cereal. Within each level-of-belief group, the children were split on the bases of exposure to clues and the opportunity for social interaction. As expected, children who subscribed to the reality of Leprechauns provided more fantastic accounts such as seeing or hearing a Leprechaun. Strong social contagion affects were observed in the disbelieving and uncertain children.  

Erica Schindewolf

“I KNOW IT! I KNOW IT! But I can’t remember it…” Analyzing childhood amnesia
and the origins of episodic memory in preschool aged children
Psychology Mentor:
Gabrielle Principe

Episodic memory, the re-experiencing of personally significant events of the past, is the substance of one’s life narrative. The development of this unique memory system extends into childhood, resulting in a lack of memories for the period prior to its emergence known as childhood amnesia. The current study attempts to shed light on this phenomenon by comparing semantic and episodic memory in terms of neurological development, theory of mind, social interactions and bindings to assess the relationships and interactions that bring about the development of episodic memory during the years of childhood amnesia (3-4 yrs old) and shortly after (5-6 years old). Children were placed into experience conditions that could either allow or prevent the formation of episodic memories of the target event. Because they are based solely on semantic knowledge, indirectly experienced events (i.e. being told or shown that they occurred) do not form episodic memory traces, and thus cannot be re-experienced. Only those in the direct experience condition could yield episodic traces. Additionally, theory of mind tasks were used to assess children’s ability to understand the origins of their beliefs. We expected that children under the age of four would have difficulty understanding how and what they remember, thus preventing them from storing memories of events that were actually experienced. Further, we expected these children to be more adept at recalling semantic information, in accordance with current theorized memory development timelines. Findings that episodic memory capabilities may not develop until certain age could have serious implications for legal child testimonies.

media and communication studies

recent Honors research

“Princess Culture: Disney, Feminism, and the New Girlhood” Alexandra E. Wilson (2011), Advisor: Frances Gateward

“The Death of Music Videos? An Analysis of the Effectiveness of Music Videos as a Promotional Tool” Carmen Cheng (2010) Advisors: Lynne Edwards (Media & Communication Studies) and Heather O’Neill (Business and Economics)

“Which Box Do I Check?: A Study of Biracial Adolescent Identity” Caitlin Dalik (2010), Advisor: Sheryl Goodman

“Journey to Catharsis: Rehabilitation of the Father-Daughter Condition Through Autobiography, Performance Art, and Community Based Theatre” Abbie Cichowski (2010), Advisors: Louise Woodstock (Media & Communication Studies) and Beverly Redman (Department of Theater and Dance)

“Luring Language and Virtual Victims: Analyzing Cyber-Predators’ Online Communicative Behavior” Amanda Kay Leatherman (2009), Advisor: Lynne Edwards

“Talk About Race: Cultural Norms and Discursive Strategies” Judith Millili (2009), Advisor: Sheryl Goodman

“Creative Commerce: An Analysis of Authenticity and Marketing on Project Runway” Heather M. Turnbach (2008), Advisor: Louise Woodstock

“Place and City: A Narrative Analysis of the Feminist Issues and Place in Sex and the City” Ashley N. Drogalis (2008), Advisor: Lynne Edwards

“Identity: Uncovering Twin Mythology in American Film” Carly Haines (2008), Advisor: Lynne Edwards

“Talk About Race: An Ethnographic Study of Student Perspectives” Sarah Weddle (2007), Advisor: Sheryl Goodman