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Undergraduate Students Spend Summer Doing Scholarly Research

Posted 07/07/2014
Posted by Meagan Fazio

(L-R) Dorothy Goodwin Summer Scholars Mary Pan, Erin Sniffen, and Colleen McLoughlin; Associate Professor Katharine Owens, McLoughlin's faculty mentor; and Summer Scholar Nicole Coumes.

Four University of Hartford students are spending their summer conducting scholarly research on subjects as diverse as greenhouse gas emissions, traditional crafts, a historic organ composition, and an Irish uprising.

These students are not working on doctoral dissertations or master’s theses. They are undergraduates, and they have been given the opportunity to work one-on-one with a faculty mentor on high-level academic research.

The four students—all women entering their junior or senior years—were selected as Dorothy Goodwin Summer Scholars, a program run by the Women’s Education and Leadership Fund (WELFund). The program provides personal and professional development, as well as a $5,000 scholarship, to a select group of female undergraduates who propose innovative scholarly research or creative summer projects in partnership with a University of Hartford faculty mentor.

Dorothy Goodwin—educator, politician, world traveler, and family member—inspired women and girls to live beyond limitations. She recognized, and modeled, that reaching one’s potential requires challenging opportunities, committed mentors, and financial support.

The 2014–15 Dorothy Goodwin Summer Scholars and their research projects are as follows:

Mary Pan '15 (seated) and her faculty mentor, Renée Anne Louprette, are pictured during an organ lesson at the Church of Notre Dame in New York City.

Mary Pan ‘15

Mary Pan is a student with diverse passions, as she is pursuing a double major in organ performance (The Hartt School) and health science (College of Education, Nursing and Health Professions).

This summer, Pan is studying Mass for the Convents (Messe Propre Pour les Convents de Religieux et Religieuses), a 22-movement work for solo organ by the French Classical composer François Couperin (written c. 1689), from both performance and historic research perspectives. As the culmination of her project, Pan will perform the entire work in September at St. Peter Claver Church in West Hartford, and she will also write two academic essays on the topic.

Each week, Pan has a lesson and advising session with her faculty mentor, Renée Anne Louprette, adjunct professor of organ. Some of the lessons have even taken place in historic churches and other venues in New York and Boston.

“Spending an entire summer learning, interpreting, and reading and writing about this incredible work will certainly prove more rewarding than I can ever imagine,” Pan said. “Not only will it increase my experience with this specific work and time period, it will also enable me to progress significantly in my organ playing in general.

“Working one-on-one for this project has been extremely valuable and highly enjoyable, especially with a performer of such stature as Renée Anne Louprette,” Pan added.

Erin Sniffen '16 meets with her faculty mentor, Robert McLaughlin, to discuss her research on the role of women in the Dublin Easter Rising of 1916.

Erin Sniffen ‘16

Erin Sniffen, a history major in the University's College of Arts and Sciences, is researching the involvement of women in the Dublin Easter Rising of 1916, an uprising by Irish citizens against British rule. An estimated 300 women helped organize and participated in the rebellion, a fact that has only recently come to light.

Sniffen’s faculty mentor is Robert McLaughlin, lecturer in the History Department, who beams with pride when discussing Sniffen’s work. Since historians still have much to learn about the role of women in the Easter Rising, McLaughlin is confident that Sniffen’s research will add to the body of knowledge on the topic. He believes that she ultimately will be able to present her work at a scholarly conference—perhaps even a conference in Ireland marking the 100th anniversary of the uprising.

Sniffen has been studying primary source documents, such as letters and newspaper articles, at the New York Public Library, the American Irish Historical Society, and at institutions that have Irish Studies collections, such as Quinnipiac University and Boston College. She also has been in contact with historians in Ireland.

“So far it's been really great,” Sniffen said. “My research is preparing me for my future career in the history field. Being able to navigate libraries and archives is a necessary and essential skill which I'm happy to be learning so young. Even being able to conduct research or keep organized notes and lists of sources is something most students learn to do in graduate school, so having this opportunity now is exceptional.”

Sniffen, whose grandparents emigrated from Ireland, would like to pursue a career as a museum curator.

Nicole Coumes '16

Nicole Coumes, a visual communication design major in the University's Hartford Art School, is examining the history of craft in the United States and working to renew interest in traditional arts in Hartford across age and gender. The culmination of her work will be a symposium that she will organize to stimulate conversation on the resurgence of traditional crafts.

Associate Professor of Painting Carol Padberg is Coumes's faculty mentor. Coumes got to know Padberg last winter, when she traveled to the African nation of Ghana with Padberg and Associate Professor of Art History Amanda Carlson as part of a course on the relationship between art and the environment.

Coumes’s work so far this summer has included readings and historical research, as well as conducting interviews at local arts institutions such as the Wadsworth Atheneum and the Mark Twain House. She meets regularly with Padberg, who suggests reading materials and guides her on the scope and focus of her project.

“One of my favorite things about the University is the amount of one-on-one interactions it has provided me, and this program is an example of that,” Coumes said. “The interdisciplinary nature of this program and my project specifically has been very artistically and intellectually stimulating so far. Though I am still in the beginning phases of my project, I am starting to already see its effect in my own work and in how I think.”

Colleen McLoughlin ‘15

Colleen McLoughlin is pursuing a double major in rhetoric and professional writing and politics and government in the University's College of Arts and Sciences. This summer she is working with her faculty mentor, Associate Professor of Politics and Government Katharine Owens, to assess Connecticut’s actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by researching which policies have been most effective.

McLoughlin is interviewing Connecticut politicians and representatives of environmental agencies and businesses that are involved in the policymaking process in Connecticut. “I am hoping that my research will shed light on which policies work best, why, and how different sectors feel about government regulation versus free market emissions policies,” McLoughlin said. “Compiling this currently scattered and unrevealed data into a final paper could benefit state policymakers and also policymakers in other states because it will highlight which strategies are most effective, who supports them, and why.

“The Dorothy Goodwin Summer Scholars Program is an incredible opportunity for students to engage in a field they are passionate about,” said McLoughlin, who would like to work in the field of international environmental policy. “I think this experience will improve my interviewing, research, and communication skills, but more importantly I am getting my foot in the door while still being an undergraduate student.

“Working one-on-one with a faculty member is priceless,” McLoughlin added. “Dr. Owens is so excited about my project, and has already given me such excellent advice and guidance. Working one-on-one, you get to really take advantage of everything the professor has to offer.”