On Campus Summer Research Opportunities in the Humanities and Social Sciences Open to Williams Students

Media contact: Noelle Lemoine, communications assistant; tele: (413) 597-4277; email: [email protected]

WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass., Feb. 26, 2009 — In the summer, Williams College is a hive of research activity: students and faculty involved in math and sciences at work in the labs and students and faculty in the humanities or social sciences at work in the libraries.

The earliest summer research programs on campus began in Division III (sciences and mathematics). About 150 students participate each year. The Division I (humanities) and II (social sciences) Program was inaugurated in 1997 with the hope of replicating the great success of the college’s Summer Research Program for Division III students.

The aim of the program is to let students work on “substantial and significant” projects that “provide authentic involvement in academic research,” said John Gerry of the Dean of the Faculty’s office. “The initiative fosters a student research climate on campus in the humanities and the social sciences.”

The program titled the Class of 1957 Summer Research Program is open to first-years, sophomores, and juniors at Williams College. Students whose proposals are approved get free on-campus summer housing, in addition to a $3,600 stipend for 10 weeks of full-time research. Applications for the program are due Wednesday, March 4.

Of the 28 students who participated last year, one-third did research in economics. A number of students worked in English and political science, while the rest studied topics in a range of disciplines, from classics to religion.

Rachel Schneebaum ’09, a philosophy and English major from Derry, N.H., said her summer research on consciousness helped to hone her thesis topic.

Schneebaum got the chance to restructure the course “Minds, Brains, and Intelligent Behavior: An Introduction to Cognitive Science” with Joe Cruz, associate professor of philosophy.

They met weekly and kept in regular contact via email. “I transcribed and edited his recorded plans for lectures, and researched information about modeling in science,” Schneebaum said.

She also began her own research on “alternative approaches to the problem of consciousness, and how literature and a philosophical understanding of consciousness might hopefully interact with each other.” That independent research let her explore her options for her senior thesis.

“I also wanted to get a sense of what doing independent research in philosophy or cognitive science is like, in case I end up doing something similar in the future,” she added.

Sarah Riskind ’09, a music major from Needham, Mass., worked with professor of music M. Jennifer Bloxam to make a website about a 15th-century mass.

One of Riskind’s jobs was to finish a flash-animated annotated score of Jacob Obrecht’s “Mass of St. Donatian.” In addition, she researched and wrote content pages for the website about the people, places, art, music, and documents associated with the mass.

“It was a wonderful chance to learn about a piece I probably would not have stumbled upon otherwise,” Riskind said. “I loved learning about the musical culture of 15th century Bruges and spending a great deal of time working with one mass.”

Ryan Ford ’09, a history and political science major from Middlefield, Conn., edited his professor’s manuscript for her forthcoming book on Franklin Delano Roosevelt. He also compiled letters and advice from the Founding Fathers to their children and families.

He worked for Susan Dunn, the Preston S. Parish ’41 Third Century Professor in the Arts and Humanities.

“Most of my research was done in the Williams College Library and involved combing through the many volumes of the Founding Fathers’ papers.” The correspondence he found may be included in another forthcoming book, a “volume of famous letters and advice that the Founders wrote to young people.”

Aroop Mukharji ’09, a math and political science major from Prairie Village, Kan., got to help one of his professors write a book on the Iraq War.

“My time was mostly spent doing three things: gathering material, summarizing my positions, and citing data,” he said. He met twice a week with Michael D. MacDonald, the Frederick L. Schuman Professor in International Relations, to present the data he’d found.

Mukharji not only got to respond to MacDonald’s hypotheses, but he also got to propose his own. And he appreciated the one-on-one time. “It was almost like a tutorial,” he said, referring to the small classes Williams offers between two students and a professor.

“Work never got boring, and the fact that the subject is so relevant to understanding today’s geopolitical dynamic made it that much more exciting.”

During the summer, Mukharji added, “the academic climate is more relaxed than a regular semester. There aren’t problem sets and GPAs to worry about, the weather’s beautiful, and there is still enough of a critical mass of students on campus to kick back and have a good time.”

The following students participated in last year’s Class of 1957 Summer Research Program for Division I (Humanities) and II (Social Sciences) students.

Betsy Todd of Falmouth, Mass.: “The Greek orators: oratory and rhetoric in 4th-century Athens,” advised by Kerry Christianson.
Ji Ae Rhee of Seoul, South Korea, and Samantha N. Barbaro of Staten Island, N.Y.: “An edition of Mary Wroth’s sonnet sequence, Pamphilia to Amphilanthus,” advised by Ilona Bell.
Arletta K. Bussiere of Peacham, Vt.: “‘Great Expectations’ E-book enhancements for Penguin Classics,” advised by Alison Case.
Marissa A. Kimsey of Westfield, N.J.: “The visual record? Girl scouting, sexuality, and gender in ‘found’ photographs and scrapbooks, 1920-1970,” advised by Kathryn Kent.
D. Brian Kim of Chandler, Ariz.: “Performing gender on the Russian stage, 1800-1825,” advised by Julie Cassiday.
Sarah D. Riskind of Needham, Mass.: “The sounds of salvation: A Renaissance merchant remembered in music,” advised by Jennifer Bloxam.
Richard M. Stone of Cross River, N.Y.: “The timing and nature of recent state income tax reforms,” advised by Jon Bakija.
Rebecca L. Staiger of Madison, Wis., and Erica Siwila-Sackman of Lexington, Mass.: “Learning from others in games,” advised by Robert Gazzale.
Valeria M. Cueto of Miami, Fla.: “Intellectual property rights in the fight against AIDS,” advised by Kiaran Honderich.
Madeline D. Jones of Brunswick, Maine: “Why do taxpayers get refunds? Evidence from panel data,” advised by Sara LaLumia.
Harsh Sodhi of New Delhi, India: “Case studies in applied macroeconomics and international economics,” advised by Peter Pedroni.
Courtney R. Asher of Paoli, Pa.: “Financial sector reforms in India,” advised by Ashok Rai.
Rachel A. Levy of Larchmont, N.Y.: “Computer simulation of bargaining and trade in heterogeneous goods markets,” advised by Stephen Sheppard.
Richard A. McDowell of Paoli, Pa.: “Annual vs. monthly self-reports of health insurance coverage: Implications for estimates of the efficacy of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program,” advised by Lara Shore-Sheppard.
Denise G. Duquette of Acton, Mass.: “Ourselves Unborn: Fetal Meanings in modern America” and “Families and Family Values at the Border,” advised by Sara Dubow.
In Daniel Kim of Seoul, South Korea: “Navigating imperialism in China: Steamship, semi-colony, and nation, 1860-1937,” advised by Anne Reinhardt.
Ryan J. Ford of Middlefield, Conn.: “FDR and the election of 1940,” advised by Susan Dunn.
Rachel E. Schneebaum of Derry, N.H.: “Consciousness, self, and embodiment,” advised by Joe Cruz.
Michele S. Chinitz of N.Y., N.Y.: “Authenticity and the changing boundaries between humans and technology,” advised by Jana Sawicki.
Aroop Mukharji of Prairie Village, Kan.: “The US and the Iraq War,” advised by Michael MacDonald.
Charles D. Dougherty of Montvale, N.J., and Lauren M. Anstey of Cos Cob, Conn.: “Ellsworth Bunker and the Tet Offensive of 1968,” advised by James McAllister.
Martin A. Indiatsi of Nairobi, Kenya: “Election reform in selected states,” advised by Alex Willingham.
Christina M. Fanciullo of Slingerlands, N.Y.: “Beyond Human,” advised by Denise Buell.
Lauren T. Brantley of Charlotte, N.C.: “Ghosts and resurrections: The shifting boundaries between the living and dead in 19th and 20th century Japan,” advised by Jason Josephson.
Ina T. Liu of Miami, Fla.: “Digital archives of violence: Maps, newspapers, and images,” advised by Arafaat Valiani.


Founded in 1793, Williams College is the second oldest institution of higher learning in Massachusetts. The college’s 2,000 students are taught by a faculty noted for the quality of their teaching and research, and the achievement of academic goals includes active participation of students with faculty in their research. Students’ educational experience is enriched by the residential campus environment in Williamstown, Mass., which provides a host of opportunities for interaction with one another and with faculty beyond the classroom. Admission decisions are made regardless of a student’s financial ability, and the college provides grants and other assistance to meet the demonstrated needs of all who are admitted.
To visit the college on the Internet:www.williams.edu

News: Alison Hansen-Decelles