Atkins Scholars (2022-23)

The J.H. and Artie Atkins Scholars Research Program, announced in 2021, was launched through a generous grant from the James Graham Brown Foundation. Participating scholars will prepare for a lifetime of active leadership that contributes to an equitable society and a more just, inclusive and diverse world.

A key program goal is to prepare scholars to confidently integrate inclusion and equity practices in future professional and academic endeavors. As part of this initiative, scholars have worked closely with faculty advisors to implement yearlong research projects focused on analyzing or engaging one of the following areas:

  • Underrepresented groups or marginalized identities; or spaces and dynamics of privilege.
  • Systems of inequity, injustice, resistance or empowerment.
  • Theories or practices of inclusion, equity or social justice.
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Uliana Bazavluk

Major: International Studies and French, Class of 2023
Hometown: St. Petersburg, Russia
Advisor: Katrin Bahr, Assistant Professor of German
Project Title: Is Centre Committed to Health and Wellness for its Students: Analyzing Centre’s Institutionalized Mental Health Support for International Students Going through Conflict in their Home Countries. 

Uliana's Project Description

Delving into the Centre International Student Experience;  Evaluation of the Support Systems Offered at Centre College

I am passionate about support and mental health in general — but especially when it affects communities around me. I chose this topic, because it concerns both myself and my closest friends at Centre. For the past four years here, the College has given me incredible resources and opportunities. As I am graduating this year, I want to give back — by supporting my community and focusing my research on the mental health needs of international students at Centre. As I evaluate the mental health resources available, I hope to raise awareness about the needs of international students on campus, as well as to identify the gaps between the resources available and the resources needed on campus. Finally, I will be suggesting an action plan for the College Administration to consider implementing to even better uphold its commitment to health and wellness for all students. I find this project important in contributing to not only diversity but also inclusion and equity efforts on campus.

After conducting a series of interviews, I have identified several key support systems for international students at Centre. Notably, faculty, the international student body, and the family friendship program (organized by our incredible Jessica Leonard) stand out as the most prominent sources of support. However, my research has also highlighted some areas where the existing support systems fall short of meeting student needs. For instance, international students have expressed the need for more tax-advising resources and designated spaces on campus for intercultural learning. Additionally, many students would like to see improved communication channels between international students and the administration, as well as specialized career support, such as international alumni panels.

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Lorena Bonet Velazquez

Major: International Studies, Class of 2023 
Hometown: Louisville, Kentucky
Advisor: Satty Echeverria, Associate Professor of Spanish
Project Title: Decolonial Feminisms in Spanish Speaking Worlds

Lorena's Project Description

My project problematizes and challenges the hegemonic and heteronormative feminist discourses dominating our world by centering and studying the anti-racist, anti-capitalist and anti-colonial/imperial perspectives of Afro/Indigenous women in different parts of the Spanish-speaking world. I focus on decolonial feminisms detached from westernized forms and practices, that center the voices, experiences and contributions of subordinated women from Spanish-speaking territories. Through this project, I’ve been studying the original works of scholar-activists located in different regional/local Spanish-speaking contexts, like Maria Lugones, Ochy Curiel, Yuderkys Espinosa-Miñoso and Aura Cumes, to name a few. Additionally, as part of this project, I organized a convocation featuring Queer Feminist Cuban Hip-Hop band, Krudxs Cubensi. Through their convocation and visit, I sought to address the intellectual genocide committed against Afro- and Indigenous scholar-activists in the so-called Global South as their work continuously goes uncited, untranslated and unrecognized within the larger feminist discourse in the so-called Global North. 

Because, as a fluent Spanish- and English-speaking white woman from a Spanish-speaking territory — Cuba, situated at a western academic institution —  Centre College, I have a responsibility to decolonize my understanding of feminism.

The most important thing I've discovered is that patriarchy cannot be understood as a transnational system of power that oppresses all women equally, because gender as an institutional and governing body did not exist in indigenous societies prior to European colonization. Gender is a colonial construct. Additionally, the advancement of white women has depended on the exploitation of Indigenous and Black women in their local context. Hegemonic feminism fails to address and acknowledge the ways in which white women contribute to the inequality and oppression suffered by non-white women.

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Caroline E. Dahl 

Major: Anthropology/Sociology, Class of 2023
Hometown: Georgetown, Kentucky
Advisor: Kaelyn E. Wiles, Associate Professor of Sociology
Project Title: Examining Relationships Between Gender, LGBTQ+ Identity, and Resource Utilization for Eating Problems in College Students: A Qualitative Case Study 

Caroline's Project Description

I am looking at the how aspects of identity surrounding race, class and gender impact students accessing resources for eating problems on Centre’s campus. In particular, I am looking at the roles of gender and LGBTQ+ identities.

My broader research interest is equitable access to care for eating problems and other mental health conditions. For some time, I have been an advocate for getting help for eating problems, but it was not until my time at Centre that I started to think more critically about barriers to care. This started with seeing how Kentucky has evolved over the years with regards to having in-state resources. For my senior seminar project, I decided to examine student perceptions surrounding this topic, and how Centre supports students with eating problems. At the end of the semester, I knew this was research I wanted to continue through the rest of my time at the College and into graduate school. So, I decided I wanted to look more closely at how identity impacts access. I am beyond thankful for the mentorship of my incredible Centre professors, including Dr. Jamie Shenton and Dr. Kaelyn Wiles. Because of the Centre community, the many other individuals I am grateful to have in my support system, and the Atkins program, I have been able to realize my goal of bringing light to eating problems as a social justice issue.

Something I learned beginning this work in senior seminar — and something I have had to revisit throughout the term — is that big-picture changes do not happen overnight. It takes ongoing conversations and community work to enact substantial and long-term change. I have also been continuously reminded throughout this process of the importance of recognizing my own positionality as a researcher. I am someone who has been privileged by the healthcare system in a lot of ways, and for the majority of people, this has not been their experience. Recovery from eating problems looks different for everyone, not only in terms of individual experiences but also the ways in which people feel supported and have knowledge of the resources available to them. Finally, I was hesitant to research this topic because I worried about not having anything particularly groundbreaking to contribute. However, hearing the lived experiences of the students I have been interviewing has reminded me that there are always new insights to be discovered, and particularly with regards to research on eating problems.

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Anahit Grigoryan

Major: Biology, Class of 2023
Hometown: Yerevan, Armenia
Advisor: Jamie Shenton, Associate Professor of Anthropology
Project Title: Military Conflict and Health: War on Women’s Bodies

Anahit's Project Description

Military Conflict and Health: War on Women’s Bodies

As an Armenian, I have grown up with constant fear of war and have constantly been exposed to stories of people in areas of conflict having minimal access to healthcare. My ultimate career goal is to tackle the issue of healthcare accessibility and focus on the systemic and institutional policies and practices that deprive some communities of basic human rights. I am specifically interested in learning more about reproductive health accessibility. Given the gendered nature of violence and war, I want to explore how the already limited reproductive healthcare is affected by military conflicts. My project will specifically be focusing on the conflicts in South Caucasus as a case study.

Since the start of the project, I have been researching the existing literature on the role of women in war (women soldiers, war widows, healthcare workers, etc.) specifically in Armenia and Georgia. It has been fascinating to read about the aftermath of the wars in these countries, and how different groups are affected by the conflict based on their social location. Specifically, reading about the women that lost their husbands to wars has been very eye-opening. I did not realize the stigma and struggles associated with war widows, and how the social norms affect the reintegration of these women into society. Moreover, reading about women soldiers and how their existence in the military alters the social norms and expectations of being a woman in society has been absolutely fascinating. So far, my project has been focused on the existing literature and has given me the tools to have a more holistic understanding of military conflicts in general.

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AJ Howell

Major: Computer Science, Class of 2023
Hometown: Boston, Massachusetts 
Advisor: Michelle M. Burdine, Visiting Assistant Professor of Studio Art 
Project Title: Exploration of BIPOC Issues in Higher Education

AJ's Project Description

My project focuses on investigating BIPOC students' experiences and assessing marketing methods that might improve their overall experience at our college. I'm interested in learning about the obstacles and barriers that BIPOC students encounter and finding solutions to these problems.

I picked this issue, because I am genuinely committed to fostering diversity, equity and inclusion at our college. I believe that BIPOC kids should feel respected and supported in our community and that marketing methods may help them achieve this. Through researching this subject, I intend to help create a more inclusive and inviting atmosphere for all students.

My project taught me the value of listening to and centering the voices and experiences of BIPOC students. I've realized that there is a lot of work to be done inside our institution to address systematic disparities and promote fairness.

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Vati Pham

Major: Data Science, Class of 2023
Hometown: Vinh City, Nghe An Province, Vietnam
Advisor: Aaron Godlaski, Associate Professor of Psychology and Behavioral Neuroscience
Project Title: Is Buddhism Inherently Opposed to Queerness

Vati's Project Description

Is Buddhism Inherently Opposed to Queerness?

Born and raised in Vietnam, Buddhism plays a big factor in my identity as it is the largest religion. However, queerness is still culturally considered a taboo topic among Vietnamese society. Examining the intersection of my personal and cultural identities and my growing engagement with Buddhism, I find myself baffled with the hesitancy or silence of the public to tackle the question. Thus, I am curious to know whether Buddhism is opposed to queerness. 
The main reason for my project is my personal journey with being queer and culturally Buddhist. I am very invested in developing my spiritual education. However, as within many religious systems, core aspects of my queer identity in relation to such systems are addressed with ambiguity and sometimes open hostility. I hope to explore the relation between queerness and Buddhism from doctrinal and practical perspectives in order to spread awareness about inclusion within and between these communities. Doing so will provide others with an accessible spiritual path and to build a sense of community. I also hope to build a foundation for practitioners who are lost in their journey and hopefully invite them back to Buddhism.

One of the most important things I've learned is the vast differences in fluidity of how identities are established among individuals. I vividly remember my initial skepticism regarding how vague sometimes Buddhist identity is embraced, especially among American Buddhist communities, which is  contradictory to the prestige such religious institutions hold within Asian communities. However, throughout the interview process, unconditional acceptance and utilizing meditation as trauma work strike me as the two main reasons why Buddhism came into interviewees' life, which already sets apart the differences between my religious backgrounds and American practitioners. Thus, Buddhist identity serves as a sense of community to ground their queer identities. The more empathy I developed for others' interpretation of our "similar" identities, the more love is expressed through our journeys of unapologetically embracing our "othered" identities.