Research projects

College scholars tackle interdisciplinary research projects

Does activism around a local environmental issue inspire people to become more active around climate issues in general? Is there discrimination at work in the verification process of certain social media platforms? Do Asian Americans and African Americans empathize more with each other because they have both experienced unfair treatment?

These are some of the questions this year’s class of Robert S. Harrison College Scholars have been studying since they were accepted into the program as sophomores. They presented their final theses at a one-day event on May 7 at Goldwin Smith Hall, the culmination of their work in the College of Arts & Sciences’ selective program.

Harrison College Scholars design their own interdisciplinary majors, organized around a question or topic of interest, and pursue programs of study that cannot be found in an established major. They work closely with faculty and program advisors to choose their courses and design these independent senior projects.

“The class of 22 did most of their honors thesis research at an unprecedented time, during a global pandemic,” said Michael Goldstein, professor of psychology and director of the Harrison College Scholar program. “Their presentations clearly show that they have succeeded – they have found ways to do innovative and original research under these difficult conditions.”

The audience for the annual event includes researchers, as well as their academic advisors and family members or community members who have been involved in student research.

Chris Kitchen


Emma Goldenthal explored how climate action can lead to more activism.


Emma Goldenthal ’22 presented her work in front of her parents and grandparents, as well as several local activists and county government officials from the town of Dryden in Tompkins County. The 2011 Dryden fracking ban and its impacts on local activist networks and state politics were part of Goldenthal’s study.

For his project, Goldenthal interviewed 21 county residents and interviewed 183 other residents, who had a wide variety of levels of activism around the issue of fracking. She found a positive relationship between people’s activism related to fracking and their activism around other local issues down the road.

At the end of his project, Goldenthal developed suggestions for environmental activists and organizers concerned with triggering action on local environmental issues and climate change. She emphasized prioritizing action over attitude change, and the importance of social connections and community building within movements.

“Dryden’s fracking ban was a successful example of environmental action and what psychologists call ‘positive behavioral fallout,'” she said, but “it’s really become an example of ‘climate’ action when grassroots movements stopped just saying ‘no’ to fracking. , and started to say “yes” to the local development of renewable energies, with advantages accessible to all. »

Anna Hu’s stint at Cornell in 22 coincided with recent attacks on Asian Americans and the Black Lives Matter movement. She researched how the two groups have sometimes been allied throughout history.

Along with extensive historical research, Hu conducted an experiment with 672 Asian American participants, to assess whether remembering a personal incident of discrimination would improve their attitudes or behavior toward African Americans. She actually found the opposite to be true, at least in her study.

“This kind of political solidarity often depends on the issues and fails when people who are discriminated against realize how different they are,” she said. However, she ended her speech with some hopeful suggestions from the recent campus visit of Leymah Gbowee, winner of the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize, whose suggestions included keeping people at the center of the conversation.

Anuli Ononye ’22 also performed in front of her parents and grandparents, who traveled across the country to attend. She focused her work on social media verification, a process used by Instagram and Twitter to legitimize the accounts of some of their most popular content creators. Verified accounts are more trustworthy and more likely to attract followers and advertisers, she said.

From interviews with creators, Ononye found that the verification process is a closely guarded secret – they don’t know what criteria are needed to receive it, and they don’t understand why they’re denied. They wonder if the process is done by a group of people or by an algorithm, she said. And many of them wonder if their race, ethnicity, or the subject matter of their content could negatively impact their ability to be verified.

“Students on this campus and most young adults really care about verification,” Ononye said. “But there is a lot of dissatisfaction with the verification process.”

Other Harrison College Scholars graduates and their projects include:

  • Vanessa Olguin: “Movement in a warming world: the implications of anthropogenic climate change on migration, politics and politics”
  • Benjamin Feldman: “Improving Lives and Building Trust: How Countries are Breaking the Cycle of Fragile States and Improving Governance”
  • Lucy Dybner: “Pañuelos Entretejidos: transmission as power in the Argentinian feminist struggle for abortion”
  • Anjelika Amog: “To live and die in madness and mourning again: telling the story of grief, memory and trauma”
  • Luke Aslanian: “The Grim Reader: Four poignant ways the living have thought about death and interacted with the dead”
  • Jack McLeod: “Scriptwriting for Social Impact”
  • Lily Elkwood: “How blockchain will affect key players in the art market”
  • Grace Tran: “Reimagining the Art Museum: Envisioning an Accessible and Socially Engaged Future for the Herbert F. Johnson Art Museum”
  • Sara Mills: “The Psychology of” Protest Music: “The Rhetoric, Effectiveness, and Limits of Countercultural Music”
  • Amelia Clute: “Eat This, For This Is My Body: Tlazolteotl and the Confusion of Digestion and Reproduction in Ancient Mesoamerica”
  • Aliou K. Gresseau-Gambrel: “Gade Tèt Ou, Moom Sa Bopp”
  • Alia Adler: “Examining the Effects of the Midday Meal Program on Gender Inequality through the Lens of International Development and Beyond”
  • Dana Slayton: “Talk with us and talk with others: imagined discourse and imagined community in Coptic language revival movements”