Research in the Humanities

What is research?

The word itself is rooted in Old French, recercher, which means to “go about seeking” Research is the answer to the call of curiosity. It is as limitless as the imagination (or, more often, the approved budget). Forward movement, in any field, comes hand in hand with research.

We closely associate our modern notions of research with S.T.E.M fields; the term conjures images of white coats and pipettes, and it’s no surprise. The Scientific Method itself is founded on the basis of researched hypotheses. But research fits in just as organically in the humanities and social sciences as in the hard sciences.

Fellowships belong as much to artists as they do to science researchers.

Photoshop is just as much as workbench as a laminar flow hood.

Autocad, Sketchup, Matlab make scientists of artists and artists of scientists.

Past UVM research in Humanities and Social Sciences:


Queer Nostalgia: Frank Ocean’s Blonde and Contemporary Queer Identity, Edward R. Pomykaj

Women of the North: Defining Heroism in The Lord of the Rings and Medieval Germanic Literature, Briggs M. Heffernan

Art History:

Depictions of Enemies of the Roman State, Celine A. Fraser


Sounds from a Dream Place: Politics, Religion, and Tourism in Kagbeni, Nepal, Abra K. Clawson


Personalities and Perceptions: Churchill, de Gaulle, and British-Free French Relations 1940-1941, Samantha Sullivan

My Fair Lady: Exotic Women on the Midway Plaisance and the Challenges to White Womanhood at the Chicago World’s Fair, Courtney A. Smith


Statistical Analysis of Auction House Prices Through Maya Pottery, Dillon J. Healy 


Can linguistic innovations bridge the gender divide?: Inclusive language in contemporary Spanish social media, Julia Higa, Michael Dunham

Solving the Word’s Problems: Students’ Research Has Real-World Application

By Janet Lynn Essman Franz

Senior nursing students Noah Jarvis, Caroline Ward and Eleni Cawley created a poster highlighting their research findings, which they will present on April 17.
  • Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) who identify as sexual minority orientations are more likely than others to feel ostracized, struggle to form relationships and think about suicide, but screenings and education may reduce those negative feelings.
  • Exposing young people to careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) earlier in their academic journeys helps create a “pipeline” for students to health care careers and break down barriers contributing to lack of cultural diversity in health care.
  • Participating in a single yoga class significantly improves a person’s mood and reduces anxiety, thus providing a healthy option for university students’ psychological health.

These are just a few of the research findings of undergraduate students pursuing health care degrees at the University of Vermont. The researchers will join colleagues from across the campus in presenting their findings at the UVM Student Research Conference on April 17 from 9:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m. in the Davis Center. This annual event showcases the wealth of innovation and creativity among students and their faculty mentors. Students may present orally, in poster sessions or in a creative demonstration.

Tackling Pressing Issues

Caroline Ward, Nursing ’19, Noah Jarvis, Nursing ’19, and Eleni Cawley, Nursing ’19, worked together on a study of adults with ASD and sexual orientation. Nursing Professor Laura Foran Lewis served as faculty mentor. Their research abstract noted that previous studies show as many as 70% of people with ASD identify as sexual minorities, such as gay, lesbian and asexual. The students interviewed 67 participants about identity, relationships and feelings and identified a correlation between ASD, sexual minority orientation and feelings of social isolation. They concluded that future studies should explore interventions to expedite the self-acceptance process, such as counseling, to prevent suicide.

“A majority of participants felt that their autism and their sexual minority identity did affect each other, while also affecting their ability to find and communicate in a fulfilling relationship. Due to their sexuality or ASD diagnosis, participants also reported feeling misunderstood or isolated by the communities around them,” Ward said. 

Caroline Louttit, Health Sciences ’19, Makayla Young, Health Sciences ’19, and Patrick Shepard, Health Sciences ’19, investigated an after-school program designed to spark an interest in STEM and health care at an early age by exposing middle school students to different areas of health care. Biomedical and Health Sciences Professor Deb Hinchey served as faculty mentor. The students focused on a school with a large population of new Americans representing 25 nationalities and 19 languages. They reviewed related literature, built a community asset map, conducted stakeholder interviews and looked at current practices. They intend to make recommendations for combatting the barriers in educational settings, with a goal of culturally diversifying the health care work force. 

“Research shows a greater need to expose students to STEM education earlier. We saw that there are serious discrepancies in interventions, often due to financial barriers in low-income areas, that are traditionally more diverse areas. Additionally, we saw that there is an issue of historical and traditional norms that contribute to the non-diverse health care workforce,” Shepard wrote in an email.

After graduation, Shepard will pursue a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree at UVM. “I wasn’t fully aware of the issue we researched and now I look forward to implementing these aspects into my future as a clinical practitioner.”

Inquiry and Collaboration

The experience of conducting an independent study and presenting findings helps students develop knowledge and skills they will need post-graduation and sparked students’ interest in the art of inquiry.

“This experience of conducting my own research has set me up well so that I would be able to tackle a research assistant position,” said Kristen Mackie, Exercise Science ’19, who conducted the study on yoga and anxiety with faculty mentor Karen Westervelt, professor of Rehabilitation and Movement Science. “I did thorough background research, developed my own ideas, applied them to the realities of what was feasible, submitted to the Institutional Review Board, collected data, analyzed data and drew conclusions. I am currently in the process of submitting my research for publication.”

Said Ward, “Our experience has broadened our understanding of nursing research and really demonstrated its utility and importance in nursing. We realized that research is an undervalued part of the nursing field and we hope to promote it in a more positive light. We have also become more interested in public health, specifically regarding health services that support minority groups.”

“Working with English Language Learners has been a huge learning experience for me,” said Louttit. “I definitely have more of an interest healthcare equity.”

Jitters and Pride

The research conference provides a venue for students to share findings, network with other researchers and see how various scientists publicize their discoveries. It’s also a safe space to practice public speaking.

“I feel a little nervous — so I should probably practice yoga right before,” said Mackie. “I’m also very excited about the opportunity to share my research at the Student Research Conference. I want others to recognize the results of my study and the impact that they could have on many university students. I hope that students come by and are able to learn from my research and then apply it to their own lives. Maybe they will try taking a yoga class the morning before an exam.”

Said Young, “I have never done anything like this before. However, I am excited because we have worked hard, and I’m proud of the work we have done.”

The schedule for presentations and research abstracts can be found on the UVM Office of Fellowships, Opportunities & Undergraduate Research website.

2018 Fulbright Recipients

By Emily Press

Congratulations to UVM Alumni and now Fulbright recipients Leah Campbell, Justin Abbott and Lauren Fedowa!

Leah Campbell ’16: Teaching Assistantship, Taiwan

Your classroom looks very different from that of the generation before yours, and barely resembles the classrooms from the preceding generation. These days, elementary school students navigate the internet better than most septuagenarians; middle school teachers have networks of syllabi on chrome-books and the cloud; and social media  connects students from all corners of the globe in real time.

Leah Campbell understands the climate of education is evolving, and she is thrilled to pair her passions for global studies and education as a Fulbright Teaching Assistant in Taiwan. Leah believes the best educators are those who widen their own world views and let their personal experiences flow into the classroom: “as an educator you need new experiences in your early years. If you stay in a bubble you will not grow or be pushed by new ideas and philosophies. Teaching in another country gives you perspective on how different educational systems work. I’m interested in seeing new ways to teach.” In addition to learning about Taiwan educational systems, Leah plans to implement her own physical education and health program at her host school, with an emphasis on Yoga and outdoor activities. Leah hopes these health initiatives – common elements in Vermont schools – will complement traditional Taiwanese education; and she hopes the pedagogical methods she learns in Taiwan will translate back to Vermont education reciprocally.

As a student, Leah started in Global Studies, then switched into the more practically-focused Early Childhood Special Education program. She had always liked the idea of being an educator – inspired in part by her mother’ work, and her own strong desire to make a difference in people’s lives. Outside of coursework, Leah completed two practicums at the UVM Children’s Center and spent her senior spring semester teaching in a South Burlington public high school. She applied for a Fulbright in Thailand as a senior, and was not accepted, but she saw it as a blessing in disguise. For the next two years Leah taught in Swanson, Vermont. Teaching there gave her the confidence to reapply for a Fulbright in Taiwan, to which she was accepted. Pathways to success are rarely linear. Leah’s story is a great example of how, with an open mind, a hitch along the way can turn out to be a push in the right direction.

Justin Abbott ’18: Teaching Assistantship in South Korea

“Korean barbeque, concerts, cultural energy and Soju” were just a few things Justin looked forward to experiencing as a Teaching Assistant in South Korea, when applying for a Fulbright. It was popular culture, namely K-pop, that pulled Justin in to learning Korean as a UVM sophomore and sent him on his way to a Fulbright senior year. Aside from the element of cultural immersion, Justin is giving back: he gets “to be in charge of group of kids and has the opportunity to impact students’ lives during critical periods for language acquisition.”

Justin was passionate about mentoring younger undergraduates through extra-curricular activities at UVM; and as a senior, he took on a more academic mentorship role as a TA in Biochemistry. He was a member of the Boys and Girls ELL club, the East Coast Asian Student Union and a Pharmacy Technician, majoring in Neuroscience and Pharmacology. After his Fulbright, Justin plans to become a neurologist, and perhaps revisit Korea. The cultural competencies and practical understanding of how brains acquire languages he’s gaining in South Korea will serve Justin well as a physician. On a more personal note, Justin is reconnecting with his roots: he was adopted and raised in America, but Justin was born in South Korea. Justin has been interested in Korean culture his whole life (he’s taken Tae Kwon Doe lessons since the age of seven) and hopes to track down his birth parents while he’s abroad. 

Lauren Fedewa MA ’18: Research Award, Hanover, Germany

Little known fact: The University of Vermont is home to one of the world’s most robust Holocaust Studies programs. It’s what brought Lauren Fedewa to UVM as a graduate student. Lauren graduated from the University of Maryland in 2015 as a double major in German and History. After hearing about the UVM Miller Center for Holocaust Studies (at the Holocaust Museum in D.C.) she emailed her proposal for graduate studies to four of the center’s renowned faculty (history professors Dr. Jonathan Huener, Dr. Alan Steinweis, Dr. Steven Zdatny and Dr. Francis Nicosia). “Don’t be afraid to send a resume and a research proposal” Lauren advises hopeful researchers. She was accepted as a grad student under Huener, and had a great experience: they met “throughout the entire process – the proposal, the bibliography, and several rounds of editing.” Lauren earned her MA at UVM and wrote her thesis on Foreign Child-Care Facilities in Nazi Germany.

Working in labs and as a TA at UVM helped her map out post-graduate goals. She wants “to become a public historian and work at a museum, in programming and outreach.” Lauren applied to the DAAD Program and the Fulbright Scholarship as an undergraduate but was not accepted. Reflecting back, she realized her initial “project scope was too large” and needed a narrower focus. Lauren was much more confident in the specificity and global perspective of her Fulbright proposal the second time around. She recommends future applicants “consider what it means to be an ambassador and the cultural connection aspect of the scholarship. You’re not there for your personal goals, you’re there to interact with the local community.”

As a Fulbright scholar, Lauren is studying the development and management of German foreign child-care facilities during World War II, with the Historisches Seminar at the Leibniz University in Hanover, Germany. The access she has to rare archives is one of the biggest motivations behind her application, alongside the opportunity to teach and tutor undergrads, volunteer at German museums, and be immersed “in a German University and community.”

Program Information:

The Fulbright U.S. Student Program was founded in 1947, on the principles of international cooperation, and has since facilitated over 360,000 opportunities for work and study abroad. Funding comes from U.S. Congress and the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) and is the largest U.S. exchange program providing grants for recent graduates, master and doctoral candidates and young professionals in over 140 countries worldwide.

            The Fulbright Program offers three types of scholarships: Open Study/Research Awards, English Teaching Assistant Awards, and Fully-funded Graduate Degrees.

For help building a resume, see the Career Center in the Hub (100 Davis). Open office hours run from 10 am to 4 pm on Tuesdays. We ask that applicants have their resumes reviewed at the Hub prior to booking an appointment for fellowship advising with FOUR.

For help with application materials for Fulbright Scholarships or DAAD Rise visit FOUR at the Hive (University Heights North on Athletic Campus, Suite 017). Open office hours at the Hive are Thursdays from 1 pm to 4 pm.  

The Importance of Open Access & How to Publish Research

By Bella Brooks

Have you ever been writing a paper and found the perfect source, only to be denied access?

In an event hosted by UVM’s Gund Institute for the Environment, Assistant Professor Meredith Niles explored how open access works, its implications for accelerating academic progress, its intersection with social justice, and its role in the process of publishing research. Although her lecture focused on scientific research, understanding open access is critical and cross-cutting for all researchers and readers of research.

Imagine you’re in the research process. You’ve got a great idea, secured funding, conducted your research, and have results. After writing a manuscript, you submit it for publication (more on that later) and it’s been approved! Next, your manuscript is sent out to be reviewed by your peers in your field of research, they’ve reviewed and edited your work, and the journal you submitted your manuscript to agrees to publication. Once the journal you submitted to agrees to publication, you agree to copyright: no one else gets to publish your work, as its now owned by the journal. This is where the process gets a little tricky. Upon publication, your work is sold back to libraries and institutions that provide access to members who read your work, non-members find your work somewhere for free to read, or simply don’t read it at all.

Niles specifically focused on how publicly funded research is being turned over to for-profit journals that then sell us our own work back, where only certain people have access to it.

Niles argued that people publish their research and results not for payment, but for public good, inquiry, knowledge, and academic connections. Journals buying and selling back research obstructs this process. On the accent gradient, the gold standard is free and immediate online access; however, most research is blocked by paywalls and subscriptions. Having to purchase access to research severely limits one’s audience. When only people who can afford to purchase subscriptions or have institutions granting them access (i.e.: college students), a majority of the population is excluded and denied access. When accessing the work of others, keep the concept of open access in mind, and when publishing your own work consider who will and will not have access to your research and be mindful of who you’re giving the copyrights of your work to.

Resources for Students Accessing and Publishing Research:

  • Being contacted by a publisher offering to publish your work for free? Use Beall’s List to check if the email is from a predatory journal or publisher.
  • Blocked by a paywall and can’t get access? Contact the author for permission. Many authors will provide you with a copy of their work. 

is a great resource to consult before submitting to journals. Sherpa helps you find publishers’ archiving policies and copyright contracts. Sherpa also provides:

Worldwide Directory of Open Access Repositories

Guide to Self-Archiving

List of Publishers’ Archiving and Copyright Policies

  • ArXiv allows you to self-archive pre and post prints of your work.  
  • ScholarWorks preserves and shares scholarly and creative works by UVM students, staff, faculty, and their collaborators.
  • ResearchGate is NOT open access. To self-archive here, you must hold the copyrights. Journals and publications have sued for violations. Good reminder to read the fine text in the terms and conditions before self-archiving!