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Levitt Offers Research Opportunities Over Winter Break


Due to the extended break between the fall and spring semesters, Hamilton’s Arthur Levitt Public Affairs Center offered students the opportunity to spend the time conducting research. Some 39 students and 13 faculty-led groups – with an additional 40 students doing research as part of a team  –  collaborated on a variety of projects that ranged from the philosophical endeavor of community-based teaching to militarized policing and political stability.  

We asked students from seven groups to share a little about their projects, what questions they hoped to answer, and how they plan to continue their research going forward. Here are some of their responses:

Majority Minority County Mortality Rates during the COVID-19 Pandemic: An Economic Study

Maya Mathews ’23 with Professor Ann Owen (Economics)

“The restricted CDC data we’re [George Diebel '23, Huzair Latif '23] aggregating has an enormous amount of missing pertinent information. Over 40 percent of our 13 million individual patient data set has missing information regarding one’s race, making it difficult to make clear widespread analyses and conclusions. This surprise brings up questions surrounding inconsistencies in EHR [Electronic Health Records] and the means, or lack thereof, in the U.S. for accurate reporting during this pandemic. We hope to identify the source of the COVID-outcome gaps between different races. What could be the main variable affecting the difference in positivity, hospitalization, ICU, and death rates during the pandemic?”

The WNBA as a Site of Placemaking

Josten Perez ’22 with Professor Alex Manning (Sociology)  

“The question I hope to answer is how can institutions of sport transition and become a space where the athlete is not solely an athlete, but also a person, and furthermore, how do they use said identity and person cultivated by that space to create change larger than just within the world of sports? The research focused on a particular case, the Warnock election. Former Republican Senator Kelly Loeffler was defeated by Raphael Warnock in [Georgia’s] January special election. Loeffler co-owns the Atlanta Dream, a WNBA franchise team. She had spoken against the Black Lives Matter movement, and [the team] campaigned for removing her from office. In the future, it would be good to hone in on other instances to further legitimize the space and the power behind these athletes in the WNBA and how it makes them different.”

Seasonal Blues

Zeyan Jerry Tang ’21 with Professor Rob Knight (Art)

“Through the lens of documentary photography, I explore the forgiving attitude of coping with solitary and melancholy in this unusual time. My visual essay aims to document the shifting sociopolitical landscape and the ongoing social unrest fomented by the coronavirus pandemic, the 2020 presidential election, and the burgeoning trend of deglobalization. Modern society tends to emphasize buoyancy and cheerfulness. It is impatient with melancholy states. The project aims to reveal the underlying mental challenges of social distancing, which aggravate the sense of insecurity and the sense of isolation that are prevalent in modern society today. Melancholy should be celebrated as the ideal means of encountering our authentic selves and engaging in a meaningful conversation with the deeper voices that are rarely acknowledged.”

What Was it Like, What is it Like, to be “Asian” at Hamilton College?

Jason Le ’23 with Professor Kyoko Omori (East Asian Studies – Japanese)

“We hoped to answer how film and television shows portray the Asian and Asian American experience, how these mediums of entertainment can tell the stories of Asians, and what can we use to express and portray our own experiences not just at Hamilton, but in general. Nyaari [Kothiya ’23], Anna [Sakamoto ’23], and I reflected on a lot of these films, connecting them back to our lives and also society’s view on Asians and Asian Americans. [We] were extremely surprised and proud to see so many films starring so many Asians and Asian Americans. I haven’t heard a lot of these films until we came up with our list of films and television shows to watch and analyze.”

The Impact of COVID-19 on Poverty-Risk

Avani Pugazhendhi ’22 with Professor Mo Alloush (Economics)

“I am trying to use Google Trends data to better predict U.S. homelessness trends … using search terms related to homelessness-risk, such as eviction or homeless shelter, and seeing how they are correlated with existing homelessness data from 2007-19. I plan on doing an independent study during the spring semester to [further] explore this topic. I [will] develop a homelessness-risk index using Google Trends data and a stronger predictive model. This will hopefully allow me to better understand how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected U.S. homelessness.” 

Schooling Under COVID-19: How Families Navigate School and Care During a Global Pandemic

Jahmali Matthews ’22 with Professor Mahala Stewart (Sociology)

“Some parents who chose to keep their children fully remote in the fall mentioned receiving less than two hour’s worth of curriculum for their child and feeling overlooked by schools. Also, the process of resuming in-person learning was excessively difficult: One parent said that her child would have to switch teachers and classrooms if they wished to return to the school in person — a process that would be jarring for an elementary school student. [The] personal question that I aimed to answer pertained to how white parents’ racial socialization of their children was influenced by the broadcasting of Black Lives Matter protests last summer. I was interested in exploring whether white children were being exposed to the media, and if parents were using the current events to initiate important racial conversations.”

Politics and Policy of COVID

Majestic Terhune ’21 with Government Professor Gbemende Johnson

“Using six states as case studies, our team [including Sajan Palanki ’21] hopes to analyze the effectiveness of certain state COVID policies on reducing COVID case rates, death rates, and ICU occupancy percentages. One of the most surprising things in the research has been the experience of studying a topic that is relatively new and most other researchers are just starting to publish their own findings on. With less than a year of data and information to work with on how states have responded to the pandemic, a lot of the studies that we’ve encountered focus on smaller, more focused aspects of COVID policy and citizen adherence. As such, the analysis on our own findings has involved a lot more of piecing others’ work together than I’ve previously done.”

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