Graduate Student Research Symposium Abstracts

Catherine Buck
Program: Creative Writing (MFA)
*Dean’s Conference Travel or Research Grant Recipient*

Title of Project: Lone Star: Fiction Thesis, Research on the Borderlands

Faculty Advisor: Prof. Robin Black

Written as a creative thesis for the MFA- Fiction program, Lone Star is a novel about youth in transition on the US-Mexico border. Using the Dean’s Graduate Research grant, I travelled to El Paso and Ciudad Juarez in January 2018 to meet with local writers, activists, and students to discuss the project and their own experiences with the areas it covers.

Over the course of my research, I have adapted the novel’s narrative plot lines to better accommodate the wide range of stories that youth on the border may experience. What began as a short story in a Spring ’17 workshop has now grown into a multi-part novel that follows a year in the life of five high school students in El Paso and Juarez, with occasional detours to a period after they graduate. By examining the selected year through the eyes of five students, I seek to discuss the lives of my characters from multiple angles, placing together multiple truths about a place where the personal and the political are inextricably merged.

A sweeping story with an intimate focus, Lone Star tackles complicated and timely topics: migration, sexuality, mental health, religion, and the ways that friendships grow and fade over time. It is ultimately about human connection and the necessity of reaching past borders to maintain relationships and raise up those who make a difference in our lives.

Matthew Closter
Program: Public Affairs (PhD)
*Dean’s Conference Travel or Research Grant Recipient*

Title of Project: The Emergence of University-School Partnerships as Strategies for Community Development in Small, Distressed Cities:  Lessons from a Comparative Case Study of Rutgers University–Camden and Clark University

Faculty Advisor: Dr. Gloria Bonilla-Santiago

The purpose of this research is to do a comparative analysis using an exploratory case study methodology to examine the emergence, formation, implementation, and sustainability of two university-school partnerships where, 20 years ago, university personnel actively developed a school as a vehicle for community development in distressed neighborhoods of small cities:  (1) Rutgers University–Camden and LEAP Academy University Charter School in Camden, New Jersey and (2) Clark University and the University Park Campus School in Worcester, Massachusetts.  The guiding research question is how have universities in small cities developed and sustained an educational pipeline as a community development strategy for providing access to college for students and families and for revitalizing distressed neighborhoods?  Using Herbert Blumer’s sociological theory of “collective definition” to solve social problems using five stages of development: (1) the emergence of a social problem, (2) the legitimation of a social problem, (3) mobilization of action, (4) formation of an official plan of action, and (5) implementation of the official plan, two cases are explored using interviews and historical document analysis to document the stages of building a university-school partnership within this framework.  Each partnership impacted policy outcomes and state legislation to enact new categories of public schools: charter schools in New Jersey and innovation schools in Massachusetts, that transformed the educational landscape.  The study finds that a university-school partnership remains sustainable when it is rooted in a grassroots and community development strategy with committed university faculty and leaders who institutionalize the educational experience for students and families from the community.

Kacey Doran
Program: Childhood Studies (PhD)
*Dean’s Conference Travel or Research Grant Recipient*

Title of Project: Little Red Riding Hood and Her Fellow Wolves: A Classic Story Exposes Fears around Children

Faculty Advisor: Dr. Susan Miller

Throughout her long history, the imagined child stand-in, Little Red Riding Hood, falls victim to the allegorical anxieties of her contemporaneous societies. Thus, versions of Little Red Riding Hood and the historical contexts surrounding them provide us readers with an interesting window into our evolving perceptions of children and danger. But danger can be found upon the path of pins and the path of needles: various versions reveal that it is not just the wolf to be feared, but also Little Red.

Through examining past and present scholarship on the evolution of the Little Red Riding Hood tale and its contemporaneous parental anxieties alongside the broader work in childhood studies, Kacey Doran will problematize current overbearing parenting against a fear of the imagined child. First, Doran will investigate some historical interpretations of the Little Red Riding Hood tale, such as the thorough analysis by Jack Zipes, The Trials and Tribulations of Little Red Riding Hood (1993). Next, she will discuss the present zeitgeist of progressively more controlling parenting evidenced in recent assessments of the tale, like Peter Arnd’s article “Absent Mother and the Wolf in Little Red Riding Hood” (2017). Then, she will link previous cultural concerns to current anxieties existing in versions of Little Red Riding Hood. Finally, she will use Bethan Woolvin’s and Marjolaine Leray’s recently published picture book interpretations of the tale, Little Red (2016) and Little Red Hood (2011) respectively, as case studies. Based on its evolution and current iterations, Doran intends to draw conclusions about the future of the tale and its continuing relationship with parental anxieties about children. It behooves this generation, riddled with helicopter parents and an ever-growing list of safety measures, to consider what we as adults fear about the child and not just what we fear for the child. Doran looks forward to continuing this great literary conversation by engaging perspectives from childhood studies.

Anetha Perry
Program: Public Affairs (PhD)
*Dean’s Conference Travel or Research Grant Recipient*

Title of Project: Place-Identity at a Predominantly White Institution: Civic Engagement in My City

Faculty Advisor: Dr. Stephen Danley

The latest upsurge in the educational justice movement has raised a dozen new questions about the commodification of education, racial justice, tactical unity, and the possibility of successful resistance.  Given the intense pressure to commodify educational services, is there hope for saving public education?  Is there solidarity between those who fight neo-liberalism and those who fight racism? Given the history of racial injustice within the public schools, is the fight for public education actually the answer for families of color? Can solidarity between unions and community exist beyond defensive battles and extend to a new vision for schools?  Are the perceived “rules” of academia an impediment to activism? How do scholars whose own lives make them part of these movements combine participation in them and writing about them?

Justin Riggs, Anetha Perry
Undergraduate Group Members: Sarah Filippi-Field, Nia Phillips, Aaron Smith
Program: Public Administration (MPA) (Justin); Public Affairs (PhD) (Anetha)

Title of Project: Parkside Business Community In Partnership (PBCIP) Tenant-Landlord Coalition

Faculty Advisor: Dr. Natasha Fletcher

Rutgers University–Camden has increasingly been initiating and participating in service learning efforts within the City of Camden. The Fall 2017 Housing Policy course at Rutgers–Camden employed a service learning pedagogy model. Rutgers–Camden and the Parkside Business & Community in Partnership (PBCIP) collaboration afforded us the opportunity to gain a real-world, hands-on experience in the field of community development. For PBCIP implementation purposes we have prepared a potential Tenant-Landlord Coalition (TLC) framework. These sound recommendations are based on a semester of research for a TLC ideal structure, best practices, programmatic implementation and operations.

PBCIP is a 501c3 (incorporated in 1993) and their goal is to support the Parkside Community through quality education, mixed income housing and commercial development.  To that end PBCIP mandated us to produce the following deliverables stated below, with the corresponding requested crucial points to address within the framework:

1) Identify 2 – 3 comparative localities and/or communities currently utilizing a TLC approach to improved property maintenance and enhancement, increased property values and strengthened social capital.

2) Identify a method or practice for implementation and operation of TLC that produces results to achieve the following:

  1. a) Inform renters that they are not second class citizens who must accept substandard living conditions                                                                                                                           b) Educate tenants of their rights as renters   
  2. c) Provide a resource for landlords who are seeking ways to educate their tenant on their home maintenance responsibilities
  3. d) Improve homeowner/landlord tenant relationship management and conflict mitigation
  4. e) Significantly change aesthetics of the neighborhood block by block
  5. f) Increase social cohesion within the Parkside community

3) Identify an organizational structure that determines how the roles and responsibilities for operation of TLC are assigned, controlled, and coordinated, and how information flows.

The targeted clientele for the project is PBCIP, landlords, tenants, community stakeholders, City Leaders, and potential residents.

Juliana Roth
Program: Creative Writing (MFA)
*Dean’s Conference Travel or Research Grant Recipient*

Title of Project: River Swell

Faculty Advisor: Robin Black

Set in the historic Hudson River Valley in the midst of an impending environmental disaster, River Swell is a novel following Stella, a young filmmaker, as she seeks to understand the sudden and mysterious death of her best friend. Moving in with her friend’s band after the death, Stella fights to find her way out of not only the path she’s been set on to take over her family’s animal farming business but from the exploitative hold a rogue political campaign has over her father. From ghostly communications to corrupt chemical companies to young artists trying to make it, River Swell is intent on finding the places where the self and the environment diverge – and the spaces where they cannot. This novel asks how we accept what’s fated, what’s tragic, and where we may find our power.

Nicholas Silcox
Program: English (MA)
*Dean’s Conference Travel or Research Grant Recipient*

Title of Project: Playing in the Dark: Making Space in the Anthropocene

Faculty Advisors: Dr. James Brown, Dr. Jillian Sayre , Dr. Ellen Ledoux

In our contemporary moment, the popular imagination is dominated by images of dystopia and apocalypse. Two of the primary sources of this collective anxiety are the rapidly expanding production of digital space and the impending ecological collapse. These two concurrent cultural phenomena are inextricably linked and this can be seen in the digital fiction work 17776 released on in the summer of 2017. 17776 is dystopian work of speculative fiction that imagines a distant future where all earthly crises have been solved and humans no longer die, and have come to see themselves as entirely alone in the universe. To pass the time, they play games; specifically, variations on American football. As an experimental, multimedia work concerned with space, 17776 touches both on the ecological and the digital in form and content. Through extending the ecocriticism of Timothy Morton and Donna Haraway to include a game studies notion of “play,” I argue that the issues of digital subsumption and ecological destruction reflect each other. 17776 embodies much of Morton’s notion of ecology without nature, or ‘dark ecology,’ and develops an implicit concept in his work; the significance of play. Both are issues of networked space that are overly determined by a Romantic view of Nature. We think of ourselves as separate from “Nature” which prevents progress on ecological issues. Technology is human, and therefore unnatural. Culturally, we need to move beyond the discourse of Romantic Nature and become more present in space, both ecological and digital. I propose that through “structured play” or gaming, we can become more present in space and elevate the status of the nonhuman to ontologically significant as we move further into the Anthropocene. 17776, as a speculative and experimental work, provides a model for art that embraces play.

Matthew Ward
Program: History (MA)
*Dean’s Conference Travel or Research Grant Recipient*

Title of Project: A Brief History of American Women’s Boxing

Faculty Advisor: Dr. Janet Golden

As a graduate student in Dr. Janet Golden’s Research:  History of American Women course, I analyzed and answered the following question in my research paper last semester:  How did female boxers challenge and shape gender identity in the sport of boxing, and overall sports culture, from 1990 to 2010?

This period of women’s boxing history was by far the most popular period of history for the sport, and helped to open the door for the inclusion of women’s boxing as a competitive sport in the in the 2012 Olympic Games in London. In analyzing and answering this question, I explored the relationship between female boxers during this period and gender roles in American society, feminism, the LGBT community, and sex.

During my research, I relied on a number of primary and secondary sources including newspaper articles, magazine articles, interviews, and published books. During the semester, I was awarded a research grant from the Rutgers University Graduate School to fund my travel to

Notre Dame University. There, I met with George Rugg, who serves as the Special Collections Curator for the Sports Rare Books and Special Collections. George and his staff assisted me in locating a number of primary sources that I used in my research paper. These primary sources included boxing periodicals from the 1980s to present day which covered the sport of women’s boxing.

Elisabeth Yang
Program: Childhood Studies (PhD)

Title of Project: Inscrutable Moral Agents: Prolegomenon to the Problem of Infants and their Moral Agency

Faculty Advisor: Dr. John Wall

While childhood itself has been an “enigma” or what Jacqueline Rose describes as an “impossibility,” agency among children remains an even deeper quagmire. The agency of children has been a site of exploration for sociologist, anthropologists, psychologists, art historians, historians and scholars of other fields, according to David Oswell. Initially under the purview of sociologists in the late 80s and early 90s, the notion of children as actors and agents increasingly captures the attention of parents, laymen, and specialists, as children trumpet their agency and voice in the modern economic, social, and political arenas. In this paper, I proffer a historical sketch of various theological and philosophical views of the child and childhood that culminate in a more nuanced conception of children and childhood, thus problematizing the dichotomous and oversimplified caricature of the inherently sinful vs. innocent child. Another binary which a historical overview challenges is one that figures children strictly as either active or passive participants within the moral economy. Further inquiry into the moral agency of children requires one to re-examine what is meant by agency. A reconceptualization of agency warrants one to consider an alternative view to an Augustinian-Kantian notion of agency that includes pre-verbal infants. I consider the work of contemporary feminist theologians Bonnie Miller-McLemore and Cristina Traina, and anthropologist Michel-Rolph Trouillot in re-conceptualizing agency and its implications for identifying agency among pre-verbal infants, toddlers and those, heretofore, marginalized. Finally, I consider a Thomistic notion of agency as a positive alternative to current understandings of children and their agency that not only insists on an ontology of moral agency but also comports well with a post-structural framework or narrative.