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Foster ’18 Goes Deep on Higgins Lake Research


Gabriela Foster ’18 is engaged in a research project that goes beyond mere academics this summer. Foster, who is researching the different political and environmental interest groups that are impacting policy on Higgins Lake in Roscommon, Michigan, has been visiting the lake for her entire life. “The lake is an important part of my family history. The cottage we visit every summer was built in the 1880s by my great-great-grandfather, George Augustus Harman,” Foster said. Her research is being conducted with Associate Professor of Government Peter Cannavo and is sponsored by the Arthur Levitt Public Affairs Center.

about gabriela foster '18

Major: Government

Minor: Environmental Studies

Hometown: Manlius, NY

High School: Fayetteville Manlius High School

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Beyond Foster’s personal interest, control of lake levels (a relative measure indicating the difference between the current depth and the depth at which water begins to spill over) has been an ongoing, often times heated discussion in the community surrounding the lake. “I wanted to explore this issue further, as this is a place I care about,” she added.

Specifically, Foster will be looking at the different stances of groups that are in favor of or against the removal of the Cut River Dam that controls lake levels, how political and environmental interest groups perceive the lake and how they interact with each other. She will also analyze how the groups impact policy concerning lake levels and what this all means for the future of the lake.

To accomplish this, Foster will go over legal documents, look at scientific studies conducted by institutions of higher learning in Michigan, interview key players from the interest groups and read relevant blogs, news articles and books on Higgins Lake and the concept of places, one of which is Cannavo’s book, The Working Landscape.

She has so far discovered the dichotomy of opinion regarding the lake. “There are two camps concerning lake levels—those in favor of dam removal and those who oppose its removal and seek to maintain legal levels instituted in 1926.”

Foster is optimistic about the impact of her summer research, commenting, “This is a very important issue for those who care about Higgins Lake, and I hope to bring a better understanding of the conflict over the control structure to the people of Roscommon.”

While her future plans do not necessarily reflect the content of her research, Foster intends to intern with an economic development and financial consulting firm in Washington, D.C. and will participate in Hamilton's domestic study program there in the fall.  

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